Harvard University

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Mountains and the Rise of Landscape

Tue, Jan 22 '196 PM  –  Fri, Mar 15 '198 PM
Cambridge, MA, US | Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD)

Throughout recorded history, mountains have risen from the land and exerted influence on human life. As their physical forms have shifted over time, so too have the narratives defining their cultural significance. Now a source of fascination and wonder, mountains were once considered threats to humanity, sites of catastrophe, and a means of divine punishment. They have always occupied the cultural imagination, but their history has been complex. 

Mountains and the Rise of Landscape reveals our common understanding of mountains as a human, discursive construction, one that has been shaped and redefined over millennia. The exhibition engages landscape theory to distill the cultural narratives of mountains, putting on view their world-defining history through a variety of media and research. 

Positioning the perception of mountains as foundational to the perception of landscape more broadly, Mountains and the Rise of Landscape shows how our contemporary understanding of these land formations is the product of a variety of intermingled cultural strata. The exhibition looks first to Europe‚Äôs 16th and 17th-century scientific fascination with mountains as a sort of large-scale laboratory, inspired by the so-called aesthetics of the Sublime. Mountains had developed a historical reputation as unknown and dangerous—wild, undomesticated places—but as the aesthetics of the Sublime inspired a reinterpretation of nature, the wilderness became trendy and drew curiosity.  

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