P185 In his book The Architectural Uncanny, Vidler (1992) writes that, in fact, the modern home is an evolution of the catacomb. He retracts life and death back to the mother’s interior. He quotes the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard who pointed out that: …images of rest, of refuge, of rootedness…the house, the stomach, the cave, for example, carry the same overall theme of the return to the mother. In this realm the unconscious commands, the unconscious directs.” He proposes that this birthplace, La Maison Natale stands at the centre of nostalgia. “This house is far away, it is lost, we inhabit it no more: we are, alas, certain of inhabiting it never again. It is, however, more than a memory. It is a house of dreams, our oneiric house.” I think this is one of the reasons that even potentially positive actions such as moving home, renovating a home or building one usually bring up severe anxieties often resulting in breakdown, divorce and aggression. I see the construction of a home, the sense of ‘belonging somewhere,’ as an interplay between these three formerly described elements. Disruptions in these early processes, due to threats to mind and body might perforate our safe boundaries and bring to the fore a flood of intense anxieties which threaten to crash all former developmental achievements, structures and links.
From Across The Land And Water, selected poems, 1964-2001 W.G. Sebald
‘The phrase ‘behind Turkenfield is itself already an indication of ‘how hard it is - in the words of what could almost be read as a programmatic poem opening the present collection - ‘to understand the landscape / as you pass in a train / from here to there / and mutely it / watches you vanish.’ In this metaphorical sense the poem puts the traveller’s gaze itself at the centre of its encounter with a cryptic landscape, exploring the difficulty of inciting a historical topography to return that gaze by divulging its secrets. Many of Sebald’s poems enact the battle of the intellect and senses with the hermetic or repellent face of history’s surface layers. The impression is one of travelling across a land in which the catastrophic events of the twentieth century have left a pattern of shallow graves under an almost pathologically hygienic and tidy upper stratum of civilisation.’
Think about how this could extend to memory, the idea that the body holds hidden stratum, stories locked up within communities. The format of the workshop as archeological in some way, giving participants the tools to dig.
'For how hard it is / to understand the landscape / as you pass in a train / from here to there / and mutely it / watches you vanish.
A colony of allotments uphill into the fall. / Dead leaves swept / into heaps. / Soon - on Saturday - / a man will set them alight.
Smoke will stir / no more, no more / the trees, now / evening closes / on the colours of the village. / An end is come / to the workings of shadow. / The response of the landscape / expects no answer.
The intention is sealed / of preserved signs. / Come through rain / the address has smudged. / Suppose the ‘return’ / at the end of the letter! / Sometimes, held to the light, / it reads: ‘of the soul’.
Our memories are quite similar / but pickled alive in a poison which
accompanies objects too / as a part of this emptiness
The heartening message / that Pythagoras once / would listen to the stars / barely comes down to us now
Then let us hope / our children are learning / to dance in the dark