L'expérience de la largesse : le paysage de l'Europe

Responsables scientifiques : Anne-Christine Habbard

Début du projet : 01/02/2021

Fin du projet : 31/12/2022

Durée du projet : 23 mois


Financeur : Isite-ULNE (14.619€)




I. General Theme and Context:

The construction of post-war Europe was not just a political experiment; it was simultaneously a visual, spatial, cultural and memorial experience – as well as a fundamentally open and generous project: it was about creating a common landscape, in every sense of the term. The concept of landscape, at the crossroads of geography, philosophy, art, architecture, history, politics and sociology, appears an important nexus to explore the various dimensions of the European experiment, and its fundamental openness. Our project is decidedly and deliberately interdisciplinary in nature.

Today, the meaning of landscape is used, almost exclusively, to describe a natural scenery and its pictorial representation, “a cultural image, a pictorial way of representing or symbolising surroundings” (Cosgrove, 1988). Yet this aesthetic representation of our natural surroundings, which we usually see mainly tied to the artistic realm, is and actually always was, just as much, a political tool. Indeed, in early modernity, in Northern Germany, “landschaft” (later to become ‘landscape’) referred to the political experience of a community gathering together to decide the collective norms of their land. Originally, a landscape was thus a polity, an assembled group of citizens united by a common law, common history and common mores (Olwig, 2002): a self-governing group of citizens, open and united. Similarly, the Swedish “landskap” referred simultaneously to the aesthetic viewpoint, as well as to the province which was being administered. Later, the landscape as we have come to know it was used with great efficacy by the French king Louis XIV to shape the land as the territorial unity he himself wanted to embody: the landscape, with its centralised perspective, became the aesthetic form of the ideal national image he aimed at creating (Mukerji, 1997). In the same vein, the invention of the famous English landscape and garden, with its effort at imitating a prolific and unruly nature, arose in direct contradistinction with the hyper geometric French and Dutch versions of landscapes: Britishness, in its cultural and political allegiance to liberty and liberalism, made itself manifest in the landscape.

Since then, a rich corpus of studies on landscape which draw from different social theories and social philosophies has been constituted. Our conference will build on this body of studies, but with the added focus of the European construction. We are also adopting the stance that, while historically the landscape could be used to enclose or frame a particular political viewpoint (e.g. nationalism), thus directing the gaze of observers and citizens towards a given and pre-determined understanding of what is to be seen, we interpret landscape (with all its myriad dimensions) in contradistinction as a fundamentally open gesture, a gesture of “opening up” spaces, time, and horizons.

Our project is both retrospective and prospective. We are interested in exploring how Europe too had to invent its own landscape to shape and manifest its new political space. We envision landscape in the broad sense of the term, encompassing a visual, spatial, patrimonial and geographic reality, but, just as much, a linguistic, aural, cultural, social and political reality. Importantly, we aim to reclaim the political dimension of generosity, of largesse, in Europe’s landscape. This is all the more important at a time where authoritarian and xenophobic voices and regimes, whose essence is narrowness and exclusion, the opposite of largesse and inclusion, are raising their head again across the continent. Our project aims at recovering the largesse of Europe, in the double dimensions of the word: the spatial openness, and the political and moral generosity behind the European project.


II. Axes of Reflection

Our research network comprises several broad, and interconnecting, axes:

i) Landscape as an Aesthetic and Geographic Reality. Visualising Europe.

The notion of landscape belongs prima facie to the world of geography and art: it is about creating a particular, and aesthetically pleasing, view of a natural scene. This will be the focus of the first session. What is the European history of landscape, and why has it become such a sustained object of study in social sciences in recent decades? What does it say about our relationship to nature, the Anthropocene, the living world in general? Why has the landscape received a renewed attention from artists?

ii) Mindscapes: Spaces of Memory

This session is led by the Polish team of the Research group, which has long been working on the spatialisation of memory as a means of creating a common landscape. Creating a common history is paramount to any political community, as we have abundantly witnessed with the invention of nationalism. How does such history rely on the construction of memory, as well as the spatialisation of such memory? Are alternative forms of memory eradicated from public space, or perhaps transactionally included? How are memory sites constructed or neglected in order to create a landscape shaped according to a specific political vision?

iii) The Linguistic Landscape: Spaces of Language. The narrative construction of national languages and of national language histories is also central in the construction of spatialised national communities – and linguistics as a discipline played an important role in supporting and co-constructing these narratives, as it does in upholding these national memories. How do languages contribute to the creation of common spaces?

iv) The Landscape as Political Object. In Europe, which historically has been so racked by conflicts, the representational dimension of conflict is a particularly salient issue. How do we go from conflicts and representations of conflicts to a cohesive linguistic, discursive and narrative frame to represent a common political endeavor? How do we create a common visual culture? What role does cartography play in this regard? In other words, how did Europe create a unified landscape? What roles do we assign to borders and margins?

v) The European Landscape: Representations of Conflicts and Conflicts of Representation. In Europe, historically such a zone of conflicts, the representational dimension of conflict is a major issue. What is the role of such history of conflict in the creation of a common institutional, visual and cultural framework and identity?


III. Planned Activities

Several activities are planned and/or underway:

i) A Monthly Seminar, held online.

ii) An International Academic Conference in Poland, U of Wroclaw, in October 2021

iii) One or Several Publications – one of which will be more centred on the aesthetic and artistic dimension of the landscape.

iv) A Joint Masters Seminar, ideally extended beyond Europe to universities war-affected countries.

v) Art Exhibitions:

a. If possible, a small-sized art exhibition of contemporary Polish artists or art collectives, to be held during the Conference in Wroclaw in October.

b. A Virtual Exhibition, probably centred on the landscape in art history, hosted on our website

c. A Real Exhibition of contemporary artists. 

vi) The Lockdown Landscape Project  

“Another Form of Togetherness: Land- and Soundscapes During Lockdown” 

The European-wide successive lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 have had, as we have all witnessed, a dramatically deleterious effect on student life, and on student mental health. Students were and often still are isolated from their peers and professors, either locked down on campus or sent home. Online classes via the omnipresent Zoom have become the norm. 

In other words, with the virus, students’ outlook, life and studies have dramatically changed, in a very material, physical way. In a short span of time, their surroundings – spatial, visual, aural – got substantially modified; this held true for almost all of them, all over Europe. Very abruptly, student life in Europe came to mean something totally different, and very new. 

Our project is a three-tiered project aimed at making and understanding the European “Lockdown Landscape”. (Other tiers to follow)

The first tier aims at gathering representations of the lockdown landscape and soundscape for students, throughout Europe. What images, sounds, music, videos, have come to embody and represent the lockdown for students? As their work environment ceased to be a shared campus, what new landscape, both spatial, visual and aural, has been created? Our project thus wants to understand what “other form of togetherness” has been created – or not – during these troubled pandemic times. What is/was campus life under lockdown?

We are asking students to share their land- and soundscapes of lockdown via one (or several) of the following means:

- Images; this may include photos of course, but also drawings, paintings, etc.

- Soundtracks, be it music or recorded sounds. Max 1 min

- Videos – max 1 min.

- Texts may be included only as captions.

The students will send their posts on a dedicated Instagram account.


- Participants have to be or have been full-time students during the times of Covid lockdown at their university. 

- Multiples posts are accepted.

- Any post containing discriminatory, racist, sexist, defamatory, pornographic or illegal content, or including any incitement to violence, will be taken down without notice.

The participating universities may present a selection of posts publicly through a public exhibition on the premises of the university.


IV. List of Members

(in alphabetical order):

Povilas Aleksandravičius, Mykolas Romeris University (LT)

Pawel Cjakowski, University of Wroclaw (PL)

Denis Delbaere, Architecture and Landscape Institute, Lille (FR)

Michael Disqué (DE) 

Benedicte Grosjean, Architecture and Landscape Institute, Lille (FR)

Anne-Christine Habbard, Lille University (FR)

Antje Kemp, U. of Greifswald (DE)

Eric Masson, Lille University (FR)

Sergiu Miscoiu, University of Cluj (RO)

Sami Moisio, Helsinki University (FI)

Lukasz Posluszny, University of Wroclaw (PL)

Britta Schneider, Viadrina University (DE)

Lora Tamosiuniene, Mykolas Romeris University (LT)

Giedre Valunaite-Oleskeviciene, Mykolas Romeris University (LT)

Marcelina Zuber, University of Wroclaw (PL)


Technical team:

Florian Grundmueller, Website manager

Miguel Hernandez, Instagram account manager 

Andrea Ruhland, Designer