02/02/2023 Laurent Châtel “Writing the ‘picturesque’: the politics of lanscape in 18th and 19th Century British discourses.”

Laurent Châtel is a professor of cultural history and history of landscapes and gardens in the University of Lille. He has contributed to the collective work Jardins en Images, strategies de representation au fil des siècles directed by Jacques Berchtold and Michael Jakob published in January 2021. In this work, which focuses on gardens hermeneutics, Laurent Châtel focuses on « la question du visuel dans les jardins en Angleterre au XVIII°  et XIX° siècles »

During this session, Laurent Châtel questions the politics of landscapes as an unequal distribution of the sensible.

Laurent Châtel comments on Rancière’s Le partage du sensible (2000) and Le temps du paysage (2020) to showcase partition in landscapes. To introduce his contribution, a return to the roots of the word “landscape” seems important. “Landscape” comes from the Dutch “lantskaap”, a word that appeared in 1462, which means “the act of seeing”. Therefore, it constitutes the division of something private.

Not only is landscape an experience of “le partage du sensible”, but it is objectified too. In fact, it is made to be single, solitary, it is a unique place to enjoy solitude. Landscapes are considered private places because in British Culture creating a garden is connected to the idea of property.

Then, Laurent Châtel dwells on enclosed landscapes in terms of social science and economics. Enclosures are essential in the consideration of landscapes as possessions. Quoting Oliver Goldsmith, Laurent Châtel explains how landscapes became “deserted village” due to enclosures, which created more productivity and capitalism. Therefore, the poor people could not access what used to be common.

The option found by the British to get rid of fences in gardens was the ha ha. The ha ha, also called in French “le saut du loup”, is a design element, which creates a vertical barrier while preserving an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond from the other side. It unites the garden and the countryside. Getting rid of fences by using the ha ha is the first opening out according to Laurent Châtel. It is a sort of frontier where there is a pleasure of viewing.

Therefore, the ha ha is an invisible limit, it is the first instance of “le partage du sensible” in landscapes.

This revolution is called the science of landscape, it is the union of poetry, gardening, and painting. It is the creation of a new discourse of the sensible.

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