Prof. John Wylie (University of Exeter)
‘Eye-opener: Drawing Landscape, Near and Far.’
What can the practice of en plein air landscape drawing bring to cross-disciplinary understandings of spatiality, materiality and self-world relations? To address this question, this presentation will draw upon a year-long visual arts-based collaboration between myself and a contemporary fine artist (Catrin Webster). Our collaboration has involved a primary learning process (for me), ongoing professional practice (for Catrin), and extended conceptual conversation. After setting the scene for this collaboration, I will talk about the embodied skills and habits of visual and spatial apprehension which the incorporation of painterly practice affords. And speaking to this conference’s interest in spatial tropes such as liminality, intimacy and exposure, I will use the exemplar of painting and drawing to elucidate my developing sense that distance and dislocation are the distinctive elements of landscape as a mode of spatial experience, imagination and presentation.
John Wylie is a cultural geographer who writes on landscape theory, corporeality, affectivity and spectrality among other topics. In addition to numerous articles and chapters, he is the author of Landscape (Routledge, 2007), is Head of Geography at the University of Exeter, and, from 2013, is a managing editor of the international journal Cultural Geographies (Sage).
Dr. Bernice M. Murphy (Trinity College Dublin)
‘Cities of the Insane: The Asylum as Ruin in Recent American Horror Narratives.’
In recent years, the depiction of the ‘insane asylum’ as a dilapidated ruin that is both metaphorically and literally haunted by the ghosts of the past is one that has become an ever more frequent trope in American horror narratives. In this paper I will outline the factors which gave rise to the development of these so-called “Cities of the Insane” – some of which housed many thousands of patients and staff members, and which essentially functioned as entirely self-sufficient communities in and of themselves – and the changes in both public policy and in the treatment and perception of mental health disorders which meant that almost all of these institutions had been closed down by the mid-1980s. With reference to recent films and TV shows such as Session 9 (2009), Hannibal (2001), Grave Encounters (2011) and, in particular, the television series American Horror Story: Asylum (FX 2012-13) I will argue that the ruined asylum functions in these narratives as an archetypal ‘Landscape of Fear’ dramatising profound unease about both the controversial legacy of these institutions and evolving perceptions of the mentally ill in American society more generally. I will also be briefly discussing the work of photographer Christopher Payne, whose book Asylum (2009) serves as an eerily compelling testament to the remarkable visual power of these abandoned sites and of our continuing fascination with the stories of the people who once inhabited them.
Bernice M. Murphy is Assistant Professor/Lecturer in Popular Literature at the School of English, Trinity College Dublin. Her recent publications include: The Highway Horror Film (2014) and The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness (2013). She has also published The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (2009) and (with Darryl Jones and Elizabeth McCarthy) It Came From the 1950s: Popular Culture, Popular Anxieties (2011) and Shirley Jackson: Essays on the Literary Legacy (2005). Her research to date has mainly focused on the significance of place and space in American horror and gothic narratives.