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Bachelard's Phenomenology of Verticality

Lookup NU author(s): Kati Blom


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Phenomenology of Verticality. In his Book Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard talks about the possibility of his phenomenology to revolve from the felicitous images of day dreams towards the upsetting images of verticality, negativity and horror of modern life. He insists that this is equally interesting as investing on the harmoniously evolving comforting images. Any poetic images, also the negative ones reverberate not only with our memories (bad or good), but more importantly the qualities of the existing spatial invitations in real physical (architectural) realm. Bachelard’s ‘material imagination’ is evoked not only in the comforts of a house with attic, ground level, and basement, but also in modern cities, where vertical walls hover above us in constellations not known to humans before our times. Inspired by this allowance to invest of ‘negativity’ in poetic imagination, this chapter combines the understanding of the phenomenological space, sensorium between the body and the mind, with the notion of negative affordance by perception psychologist James J. Gibson. Negative affordance of rejection to enter a building can be as powerful as an invitation to enter. In the case of relational affordance of positive kind we perceive and appreciate possibility of human inhabitation in shape of openings on walls and glimpses of space beyond vertical partitions. As positive poetic images of inhabitation in architecture, also negative rejecting images of danger guide through the city.Motility of sentient subject becomes a subject of study when we study the relationship of human body in physical context, and become a subject of phenomenology when the experience is strong enough to catch our awareness. Spatial image of ‘negative’ verticality in this theory of phenomenological affordance is redundant unless it is based on our need to live, be sheltered and express freedom of movement in cities, structures and buildings. The unsettling proximity, the ‘vertiginous’ proximity (Merleau-Ponty) of vertical rejection has phenomenological interest, not as a philosophical notion, but as a precise concept of particularity of human condition in search for prime horizontal ground, ‘ground affordance’ (Gibson). Depth, which in case of the rejection by the vertical, is radically reduced, returns to the sentient subject, thus compressing the potential of the human topos, our location of activity (Merleau-Ponty). (Horizon by David Leatherbarrow)Gaston Bachelard (1969), The Poetics of Space.Shaun Gallagher (2005), How the Boby Shapes the Mind.James J. Gibson (1986), The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception.Edmund Husserl (1898-1925), Phantasy, Image Consciousness, and Memory.Maurice Merleau-Ponty (2002), Phenomenology of Perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty (2004), The World of Perception.Jean-Paul Sartre (2008), The Imaginary.Jean-Paul Sartre (2004) The Imagination.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Blom K

Editor(s): Beattie, M; Kakalis, C; Ozga-Lawn, M

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Mountains and Megastructures: Neo-Geologic Landscapes of Human Endeavour.

Year: 2021

Pages: 71-95

Print publication date: 01/01/2021

Online publication date: 22/12/2020

Acceptance date: 30/10/2020

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Place Published: Singapore


DOI: 10.1007/978-981-15-7110-7_5

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9789811571091