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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blog Assignment #1, 2012

Please post a paragraph-long question in response to the reading for Wednesday's class (Normative Dimensions of Landscape by Rich Schein). Post your question by noon on Wednesday.

12 comments:

  1. This question references the discussion of Cheapside and the Courthouse lawn on page 211. Schein states that "this is undoubtedly a racialized landscape, one that captures in its historical form the Confederate sympathies of central Kentucky," and suggests that these sympathies "resurfaced only toward the end of the nineteenth century, when the statuary was erected." What caused them to resurface? Are there images of the previous courthouses (there were several others before the one that is currently on this location) to provide evidence for a belief that this landscape was less racialized prior to the current design and the current collection of statuary?

    How does the Isaac Scott Hathaway museum, and its location within the courthouse, address the normative power within the landscape of Cheapside and the Courthouse square? Can this kind of civic space do anything to impact the "alternative mental map of the city" carried by African American Lexingtonians or does it simply create a more powerful masking of "the full story of the square's (and the region's) past?"

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  2. It seems from the explanation of the origin of the term "Cheapside" that much of Lexington (and, to extrapolate, much of the world community, or at least contemporary privilege-holders) is unaware of the unfortunate historical implications of many aspects of the world around us. My question is: is there anything to be gained from awareness? Will it help the disenfranchised if the rest of us acknowledge their disenfranchisement?

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  3. To answer your second question, Kurt, I cannot say that I believe the ISH museum within the courthouse even remotely addresses the normative power of the surrounding landscape - I for one was not even aware that there was a museum dedicated to an African American within the courthouse (I have also never been inside). Even so, it speaks volumes that homages to African Americans hide behind closed doors while Confederate leaders sit high on the horses outside.

    Mindy, I think awareness would definitely help. How can we address the needs and wants of the disenfranchised if we do not truly understand the extent of their disenfranchisement? Places like Cheapside and Two Keys have historically significant names that most of the general public are not aware of. How do we undo the damage caused by these places if we do not fully understand it?

    And my own question, how does this normative power play out in places away from downtown? I am specifically asking the first-year students here: have you noticed the ways in which our campus landscape holds normative power? And what it says about us?

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  4. There is so much about Lexington that most Lexingtonians don't know! I am from Knoxville, Tennessee, and reading about some of the racial components of Lexington prompts me to wonder about the perhaps hidden racial aspects of other large cities such as Knoxville. I would think that in this day and age, such racial tensions are disappearing, however, in this essay, it seems that such tensions are not disappearing, they are just being hidden. Would it not be easier to just equally represent all people in a city that seems to be so dependent on a sense of community?

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  5. Having not known about the issue of racialiized landscaping myself, the majority of people living in such dimensions must be similarly uninformed. So if this fact were made more public, would the places we've deemed "praiseworthy" like the Thoroughbred Park be viewed in a different light? Like Mindy, I was wondering if awareness would make some sort of difference.

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  6. The portion of the essay that highlights the Thoroughbred Park's racial implications really spoke to me. After seeing several examples of cultural landscaping that were not-so obvious to me, I assumed that there must be other creators of these landscapes in other places. This brings me to my question: What, in your opinion, is the biggest threat to racial equality (landscape-wise)? Is there a trend between cities?

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  7. At the end of his essay, Schein returns to the question of aesthetics with which he begins. Schein writes: "The real danger lies in the claim to an apolitical aesthetic serving to mask or hide or normalize potentially racist social and cultural ideals and practice." Schein's challenge to the American mainstream's tendency not to notice the ways in which the built landscape reflects and reinforces ideas of race and race relations resonated with my feelings about the mural on the side of Al's Bar (Schein would likely correct my use of the word "feelings" here and suggest that my response to the mural is much less personal and idiosyncratic than how I present it). Created in response to a call for artists to reflect and celebrate the neighborhood's history, the mural normalizes race relations by presenting black people as entertainers (most of the foreground figures in the mural are of black entertainers), readily available for the white gaze. Moreover, by casting the neighborhood's past as one of black music and art (which, the mural suggests, enjoyed popularity even at the time), this mural obscures a history of racial inequality still visible in the neighborhood's architecture.
    My question, which which I struggle whenever I see murals like this one (most murals are like this one), is how to use the genre of murals in order to thoughtfully comment on a history of inequalities (for American history is one of inequalities, not of artistic celebrations of each other). How can we encourage public tolerance for socially sanctioned public art that does not smooth but plays on the edges of our national history?

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  8. While reading the article, I was struck by the line which states, "the concept of race becomes a matter of 'both social structure and cultural representation.'" I am curious as to how the location of a person's home contributes to his or her own racial identity. Because I grew up in a fairly diverse neighborhood, I am only now realizing the extent to which American culture has been (and continues to be) divided along racial lines, especially within the context of normative landscapes. If the neighborhood in which a person is raised helps to identify his or her race, is it due in part to the "structural imperatives of racism" that are apparent to those who specifically seek them out?

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  9. My question is in regards of the construction of Thoroughbred Park. The construction of this park was highly publicized throughout the Lexington community. How did our African American community react to their under-representation in the art work displayed? Did they respond as a community in order to get proper representation in the piece? Why hasn’t there been a movement in general in order to incorporate their history? Also, are there any current movements to try and solve this racialized landscape problem in Lexington? It blows my mind that such important historical figures such as Isaac Murphy were not initially incorporated into Thoroughbred Park

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  10. In response to Katie’s question, I believe that our campus landscape does hold normative power. Actually, while I was reading the article one of the things that I kept thinking about was how our campus landscape imposes a lot of norms on its students. For example, since we have arrived on campus we are told that we “ought” to stay within the borders of campus and that we “should not” go north of 4th street. There is an obvious distinction between the landscape on campus and the landscape beyond 4th street and we automatically notice these differences and have this normative tendency (that we may not even notice) to stay within the bounds of campus. Relating to this, Schein talks about how the landscape is not only a reflection of values, tastes, or fears, but also that the landscape is a part of the equation and plays a role in shaping culture. I learned that the fence around the 4th street parking lot was recently removed in order to make Transy appear less closed off from the surrounding community. It seems by building this fencing in the first place it reflected that there was some desire to keep these surroundings from negatively influencing campus landscape. By removing it, it appears as if Transy is trying to show that it wants to be apart of its surroundings. I think that our school is such a physical part of the surroundings that it seems appropriate to bring down these walls as they could alter our campus landscape to reflect a better sense of openness and inclusiveness. However, I can’t help but wonder if this change in landscape is a true reflection of the intentions of Transy to be more open if we are still told as first-year students to steer clear of the same areas we were previously fencing ourselves?

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  11. In reading this article, I was struck by J.B. Jackson’s opinion that “We are not spectators; the human landscape is not a work of art.” I fully agree with this statement in that I believe that neither the physical landscape nor the lives of the people that live in it are static. However, I’m curious to see what the rest of you think of his denying “art” a place in the human landscape. It seems there’s intention and beauty all around us, and there’s certainly an “art” to fostering a sense of community within a larger group of people. As a class centered on both cultural landscapes and creativity, how do respond to Jackson’s denial of the human landscape as “a work of art?”

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  12. Like many, I too was unaware of the issue of racialized landscaping. I am surprised that sites like Thoroughbred Park are being built without a backlash from the public or at least those that leave in the East End of Lexington. Like Kristina, I am wondering if there are currently any movements to rectify the lack of African American heritage in Thoroughbred Park. With Thoroughbred Park already built, would doing something like adding a statue of Isaac Murphy really make a significant difference? How are we to really make a difference now knowing what we know?

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