A shared archive hosted by Rastko Novakovic, which will be mobilised in a series of short movies. You are invited to explore and contribute.

‘Space and Place’ 5


Under the influence of landscape pictures, painted or captured by the camera, we learn to organize visual elements into a dramatic spatio-temporal structure. When we look at a country scene we almost automatically arrange its components so that they are disposed around the road that disappears into the distant horizon. Again, almost automatically we imagine ourselves travelling down that road; its converging borders are like an arrow pointing to the horizon, which is our destination and future. The horizon is a common image of the future. Statues of statesmen are put on high pedestals, and sculptors show the figures gazing farsightedly at the horizon. Open space itself is an image of hopeful time. Open space is cone-shaped: it opens up from the point where one stands, to the broad horizon that separates earth from sky.



Geological antiquity and human ruins contributed to the sense of temporal depth, but other psychological dispositions and impulses seemed to be at work. They can, perhaps, be described in this way. When we look outward we look at the present or future; when we look inward (that is, introspect) we are likely to reminisce the past. “Inland”, “source”, “center”, or “core” – these symbols of the exploration mystique – all convey the idea of beginning and of past time. Gonig up a river to its source is to return, symbolically, to the beginning of one’s own life; and in the case of the Nile, to the birthplace of mankind. “Center” means also “origin” and carries a sense of starting point and beginning.



Space also has temporal meaning at the level of day-to-day personal experiences. Language itself reveals the intimate connectivity among people, space and time. I am (or we are) here; here is now. You (or they) are there; there is then, and then refers to a time which may be either the past or the future. “What happens then?” The “then” is the future. “It was cheaper then.” The “then” here is the past. Einst, a German word, means “once”, “once upon a time”, and “some day (in the future)”. Personal pronouns are tied not only to spatial demonstratives (this, that here, there), but also to the adverbs of the time “now” and “then”. Here implies there, now implies then. “implies”, however, is a weak verb. Here does not entail there, nor now then. As thomas Merton put it, life may be so cool that “here” does not even warm itself up with references to “there” The hermit’s cave is that cool.



Mythis space is commonly arranged around a coordinate system of cardinal points and a central vertical axis. This construct may be called cosmic, for its frame is defined by events in the cosmos. Mythic time is of three principal kinds: cosmogonic, astronomic, and human. Cosmogonic time is the story of origins, including the creation of the universe. Human time is the course of human life. Both are linear and one-directional. Astronomic time is experienced as the sun’s daily round and the parade of seasons; its nature is repetition. Wherever cosmic space is prominently articulated, cosmogonic time tends to be either ignored or weakly symbolized. In North America a cmmon cosmogonic motif among the Indians is that of the earth-diver, who brings up earth from the ocean, creating an island that grows steadily in size. This creation story, unlike cyclical astronomic time, finds no representation in cosmic space.



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