The Idea of North: The Topography of Thought in Ludwig Wittgenstein's Retreat to Norway

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    Ludwig Wittgenstein’s solitary walks in the landscape surrounding his pastoral retreat – a simple cottage or hytte – in Skjolden, on the north-west coast of Norway allowed him to ‘do philosophy’, through what he described as denkbewegungen ¬– thinking through walking – ¬whilst making observations of the mountainous fjord landscape that would, eventually, give him the space he needed to complete extensive and important manuscripts on logic and language. Wittgenstein’s desire for a simple life, defined through an ascetic rigour that, away from Cambridge and settled in his house built on a rocky outcrop with a view over Lake Eidsvatnet at the inner end of the Sognefjord – allowed him to devote himself entirely to his work. My own walks in Skjolden, made in collaboration with the artist and poet Alec Finlay attempted to uncover something of the extraordinary character of the landscape in Skjolden, and in doing so, reveal the contemplative side of Wittgenstein. The house no longer exists; instead the ruins of the rock foundations where the house stood – stand for the possibility and the place of thought. My photographs of these pastoral landscapes (published in Ludwig Wittgenstein There Where You Are Not, Black Dog London) attempt to ‘bring forth’ connections posed by questions about our relationship to place, and what effect places might have on us. Robert Macfarlane asks two poignant questions in his essay ‘Unrecounted’ (Guy Moreton, Unrecounted, 2012): ‘firstly, what do I know when I am in this place that I can know nowhere else? And then, vainly, what does this place know of me that I cannot know of myself?’ Perhaps the answers to these questions lie in that dialogical space where language might offer up an alternative meaning, where the visual and photographic space act as an enabler and a platform for thought and image – images in Denkbewegungen that ‘have been brought into being by means of motion along a path’. (Macfarlane).
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2016
    EventNorthern Light: Landscape, Photography and Evocations of the North - Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield
    Duration: 1 Jul 20161 Jul 2016


    ConferenceNorthern Light


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