Shuttlings Between: Deploying Borrowed Scenery in a Contemporary Walking Practice

Gareth Morris Jones
University of Dundee

My creative urban-walking practice entangles Eastern and Western notions of space and contemporary cultural theory in order to disrupt habituated understandings of place and power, and instil social, cultural, and environmental well-beings. This paper discusses the deployment within my practice, of techniques appropriated from Yuanye, a 17th century Chinese treatise on garden design. This deployment involves engagements with both the original Yuanye text as well as with current scholarly reconsiderations of its meanings.

Yuanye represents the first attempt to formalise the theories of garden design within China and is understood to have been written with the aim of elevating the cultural status of the practice to that of painting. In poetic and allusive language Yuanye addresses such elements as the use of water, the placement of rocks, and the orientation of trees and shrubs. The final chapter discusses borrowed scenery whereby features that lie outside the garden’s perimeter, such as mountains, are framed by those within. During my group city-walks, performed readings and other interactions with the text transform this notion of borrowed scenery into a lens through which the city is read. Meanwhile, new research that challenges conventional understandings of Yuanye reinforces the theoretical framework I use to harness my practice to broader cultural concerns. In this way, Yuanye enriches both practical and theoretical aspects of my work.

This paper opens with a brief survey of creative walking practices, making reference to the Situationists and Phil Smith’s persona-method, Mythogeography. I next discuss my own practice in general terms before discussing the language, propositions, and current discourses associated with the Yuanye text. The paper closes with discussion of the evolving ways Borrowed Scenery informs the group-walk I conduct every February in my home city, Osaka.

KEYWORDS: Borrowed scenery; yuanye; shakkei; creative walking; relational aesthetics; psychogeography.

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