Memo from the Sudden Epiphany Dept.: All this year we’ve been writing, here, about places, and the concept of placeness, and placeness as art, and, deeper within our analyses and explorations, what placeness means, and what art is, or can be, or should be. Heady stuff, indeed, for mere mortals.
But, looking over our eight-month-long string of essays, we noticed a common thread that we hadn’t noticed before; and that is, that every location that we have discussed as being imbued with placeness has been someplace peaceful, quiet, a place of near-silent reflection. No Niagaras, but rural fields and empty lots and vacated rooms. No bustling city corners, but rather the oases that are respites from the surrounding urban hubbub. No shouts, just echoes.
So, what does this mean? Is this just our personal preferences coloring our intellectualizing? It’s too consistent to be coincidence. It can’t mean that art is a quiet thing; after all, “Guernica” screams, and Shakespeare was, often, no shrinking violet.
But, it is possible that, objectively, what gives a place placeness is its whispering heart touching our receptive and reflective soul? Is it conceivable that what placeness possesses when it is art, and especially when it is great art, is its soft soundless touch, even if it comes after a loud slap? Is artful placeness the ripple in the pond, not the thrown stone and splash that caused the ripple, and which we did not have to be there to observe?
Or, again, is it just us, and your mileage may vary? Some want the unspoken apartness of a monastery; others want to handle snakes and cry out in tongues. Both consider their actions as tapping into the holy. Is placeness only in the hushed chapel and not the rollicking evangelical tent? Is art to be found only in the former, or is it just a question of different art?
Lots of questions.
Ultimately, here, it’s our ride and our dime, and what we determine has placeness is what has placeness … in our determination. But, as with waves of energy and subatomic particles, there may be more things out there, Horatio, than we can see and know and be informed by … and changed by.
For now, our work-in-progress definition of placeness and the art-ness of it feels right to us, and thinks right to us. We seem to be on the right track … it seems. But, like places and people, and everything there is, change is possible, maybe even inevitable, over time and experience. That’s the wonder and wonderfulness of this trip we – and, by extension, you – are on. To paraphrase the slogan of that annoying credit-card commercial, “What’s in your placeness?”