Redrawing the lines

By Jesse DhurGilles Kayser

Geography, the study of places and spaces, has recently experienced a creative return. Initiatives to promote an artistic sensibility towards the earth we are walking upon are popping up increasingly. Two Minett-bound scientists bridge research and creative work and share their views on a renewed understanding of surroundings.

"It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see." Originally penned by 19th century US-American novelist and poet David Henry Thoreau, this aphorism is, according to Robert Weis, the best attempt to capture the essence of the project of geopoetics. "Thoreau’s famous words highlight the subtle yet significant difference between senses and perception, or experience, which is key to understanding the geopoetic approach. While sensory input provides us with data about the outer world, it often doesn’t allow us to holistically experience an object or a landscape our eyes view", says Weis. "Geopoetics means going beyond this limited use of our senses and our rationality and invites us to move into feeling and intuition."

Geopoetics – international movement, approach, and practice in one label

Even though Weis’ account may seem somewhat mystified or intangible for some Western-trained minds, his enthusiasm for geopoetics is actually rooted in the scientific exploration of the natural world in the first place. A geoscientist himself, and manager of the paleontological collections at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) since 2002, Weis has dedicated most of his life to uncovering the hidden or buried parts that make up our natural landscapes. "Rather than trying to oppose to or eradicate objective empiricism, geopoetics attempts to reconcile intellectual knowledge with sensitively experienced knowledge", explains the researcher. "Accordingly, it seeks an integral, renewed sense of the earth we walk upon, the places we dwell in, and the natural ecosystem we are all part of."

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