The Endless Landscape – Observations on the River Hudson

‘We are still in Eden; the wall that shuts us out of the garden is our own ignorance and folly’
Thomas Cole, \”Essay on American Scenery\” (1836)

‘So all this really does exist…’
Freud, ‘A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis’ (1936)

In recent years our studio explored the iconography and scenography of the American landscape by studies of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park, New York and Henry Thoreau’s Walden, Concord. This year we will extend our research further into the dark hinterland and travel upstream along the River Hudson searching for the origin of the American Landscape Psyche. The ‘endless landscape’ studio will explore notions of a new radicalized picturesque as stimulus and provocation to compose visionary and cinematic landscapes.

Departing from two stories by Edgar Allan Poe -“The Domain of Arnheim” (1846) and its pendant ‘Landor’s Cottage’ (1848) which reveal an exquisite discourse into landscape aesthetics inspired by the ‘picturesque’ movement(s) in both Britain and America – and informed by paintings by artist from the River Hudson School – such as Thomas Cole, Frederick Church, and Asher Durand – our outdoor laboratory and field of experiment for our studio will be the a series of distinctive sites along the River Hudson, each selected for their evocative nature such as a former power station, abandoned quarry, dismantled car factory and the exquisite surreal ruins of Bannerman Island; a former munitions’ facility built as mock baronial castle.

The first studio assignment will be the production of a card game based on the 19th century card game Myriorama; a set of illustrated cards – or myriad of pictures – which can be arranged and endlessly re-arranged forming different panoramic landscapes. As part of our fieldwork we will record the cinematic experience of a continuous Hudson River as seen from the train going up from Manhattan to Albany-Rensselaer; the train follows the river’s course like an inexorable tracking shot with the windows the proportions of film screens. Finally, each student will work on a site specific manifesto design project of choice.

The intent of the “Endless Landscape – Observation on the Hudson” Studio is to reanimate landscape as cultural manifestation and visual experimentation. The dialectics between the natural and artificial are no longer seen as mere opposites, rather the manifestation of a new hybrid ‘second nature.’ The Hudson River could once again become the umbilical cord of Manhattan, linking nature’s rugged wildness of Catskills with the synthetic Arcadian Carpet of Central Park.

Irregular Schedule:
Eelco Hooftman and Bridget Baines will hold studio the following dates: August 29, September 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26, October 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 18, 30, 31, November 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21. In addition they will be available for desk crits on December 4 and 5.