Humbled, excited: episodes, mobilities, places and traces

T3

I have been watching a documentary series about Capability Brown.

In it, Alan Titchmarsh is realising a Capability Brown plan at Belvoir Castle, 250 years after the original plan was drawn.

Episode 2 stopped me in my tracks.

In it, Alan visits Wotton House. This video segment (2 minutes) shares Alan’s sense of wonder and humility in finding one of Capability Brown’s most wonderful achievements.

In the video, Alan becomes speechless. What he has seen has put into context his lifetime’s commitment to garden design and creation.

I am writing this post as a placeholder for my own excitement and humility.

I want to record the impact Alan’s response on seeing Wotton had on me. My own reading and exploration (after a career in sport as long as Alan’s in gardens) is taking a Wotton turn too.

I have discovered Christopher Alexander’s writings on architecture and his discussion of episodes in The Timeless Way. He suggests that “a character of a place, then, is given to it by the episodes which happen there” (1979:62). He adds “All the life and soul of a place, all of our experiences there, depend not simply on the physical environment, but on the patterns of events which we experience there” (1979:62).

By coincidence, I have been following up on John Urry’s discussion of mobilities in my attempt to provide some epistemological and ontological foundations for what I see to be a qualitative turn in the observation and analysis of performance. In a 2006 paper he and Mimi Sheller argue:

Social life thus seems full of multiple and extended connections often across long distances, but these are organised through certain nodes. Mobilities thus entail distinct social spaces that orchestrate new forms of social life around such nodes (p.213).

These ideas led me to Jon Anderson and his discussion of place and trace. He suggests “Places are taken and made by intersections of culture and context. Places are constituted by imbroglios of traces.” (2015:6)

This combination of ideas has left me feeling like Alan at Wotton. I am left with traces to contemplate. Jon Anderson puts it this way:

Traces can be durable in places both in a material sense (they have longevity) but may also last due to their non-material substance (they leave indelible marks on our memory or mind).

I am hopeful that these indelible marks help me understand performance in a qualitatively and quantitatively different way.

I will be back to explore these ideas … the embedded video embodies why this is important to me.

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