SUPERNATURAL NARRATIVES Kathryn Mackrory
Spectral Contact, The Minerva, Halloween, 2011: by Kathryn Mackrory
SUPERNATURAL NARRATIVES Kathryn Mackrory If we consider a building, space or site in it’s simplest and most acceptable form we primarily accept it as a physical entity or material manifestation. We understand a space, through it’s form and given function. When form and function are removed we attempt to seek a new translation and understanding of that space. There may be alternative elements that allow the reality of that space to become defined and subsequently experienced. Structures and architecture that exist outside our everyday value systems, such as ruins or uncalssifiable ancient monuments are often unrecognisable and unfamilar to their audience without the context of inhabitation or material completeness. Lack of reliable understanding of these spaces generates conjecture. Architecture and space without relatable or recognisable context can be considered alien, misunderstood. Without clarity of function and purpose neglected spaces can become new products with unnatural, or unfounded claims generating a new narrative. In the case of sites such as ruined castles and ancient stone circles legends form around the idea of extraterrestrial activity and spectral visions, which are then absorbed into the public conciousness via legend exchange, literature and the media. Recent action by governing heritage bodies has begun to adopt supernatural conjecture as a key tool in re-contextualising and communicating heritage spaces and buildings. This brings to light questions of the worth of form against the value of an inherent human interest in the unknown, spiritual and supernatural. This study explores possible explanations for the inclusion of these supernatural, postphenomenological elements as generators of response to a site or space. Focusing on ideas prevalent in post- structuralism, this study opens up a discussion into the presence of post- phenomenological and metaphysical elements and their effect on our understanding of space. With reference to the policies of English Heritage, this study addresses questions regarding the authenticity of experience and the concept of ‘heritage’.
Block Monolith by Kathryn Mackrory
SUPERNATURAL NARRATIVES: THE PERFORMANCE OF POSTPHENOMENOLOGICAL ELEMENTS IN THE COMMUNICATION AND PERCEPTION OF HERITAGE SPACES A study into the increased presentation of the supernatural as a generator of response to built environments and the subsequent implications of this on our perception of space.
Introduction Our interpretation of a space is not simply rationalised through the perception of the physical body of a building or structure. Alongside the influence of phenomenological elements, it becomes apparent that there are frequently non-physical factors involved in our understanding of space. Imagination, language and social or cultural values seem to impact our evaluation and interpretation of a space in much the same way as the physical form. Presentation of specific spaces and buildings as ‘heritage’, instils significance to those spaces beyond their physicality. Lines between realities can become blurred, between the experience of the building as it presently exists and the experience of the building as it was or as it is implied. Heritage sites begin to exist in an almost parallel reality, between the present and the past. No longer functioning as intended but as vessels for information exchange. If we begin to understand these sites as multi-dimensional spaces how can we comfortably actualise the reality of these spaces? Are we to consider the tangible reality of a space as truth or do we allow for social or cultural histories and supernatural legend to make up a part of that truth? Through the study of the manifestos from UNESCO1 and English Heritage we begin to understand the concept of a ‘heritage’ space as being commonly defined as a space, site or place (or object) preserved due to an intrinsic value beyond its structural form. English Heritage defines it as “All inherited resources which people value for reasons beyond mere utility.”2 A significance of cultural, historical or social standing is often at the core of the reasoning behind its preservation.Heritage sites, by definition, recognise that response to the physical realm makes up only a fraction of our understanding and experience of a space. Fundamentally, heritage refers to a physical article, yet ‘practices of heritage’3 tend to refer to social and cultural systems, such as language, celebration and lore. English Heritage demonstrates an intention to work within both these spheres of heritage definition, and employ each simultaneously in order to communicate site-specific understandings of heritage spaces4.
1 2 3 4
http://whc.unesco.org/archive/gloss96.htm Conservation Principles, English Heritage, 2011 http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/heritage/what-heritage Conservation Principles, English Heritage, 2011, foreward 5
Within the presentation of heritage sites there is increasing evidence to show that the use of supernatural phenomenon is being utilised as a device through which to encourage interest in a site. Whereas past emphasis may have been on the value of the site as one of architectural, structural merit, focus is increasingly attuned to that which suggests a space of supernatural or mythical significance. This divergence from promoting the accepted reality of a site presents the opportunity to discuss the non-physical factors, which affect the audience experience and perception of that space. It seem possible that these factors are being implemented as a response to changing cultural values. The initial section of this study aims to consider factors, which could have lead to the prominence of the supernatural as an intrinsic part of heritage presentation. Utilising post-structuralist theory as a tool with which to discuss and begin to understand the implications of and reasons for the use of post-phenomenological elements as a generator of spatial responses and addressing why, there has been resurgence in the supernatural’s presentation within the heritage field. On a cultural level the changes in allegiance from the promotion of architectural or structural, tangible significance in favour of the supernatural and otherworldly could be indicative of an awareness of possible changes in expected audiences. The promotion of ‘legend-tripping’5, in which pilgrimages are made to sites with supernatural affiliations, and ghost experiences at heritage sites, could signify the subversion of cultural/architectural heritage sites into products suitable for the consumption of a changing audience. Within the media we are subject to news articles, which describe haunted spaces6, there are television programs dedicated to the exploration of alleged haunted buildings and within the spectrum of technological smart devices we are also now seeing the development of ‘apps’ which provide an augmented layer of supernatural information about buildings and landmarks7. These changes could also be evidential of a widening disconnection to historical architectural sites and design styles, replacing the design merit, structural and physical touristic worth with one of mythological, spiritual or supernatural value. The relationship between these two apparently conflicting paradigms; technological advancements and the ancient sites of supernatural significance, offer a point of intrigue from which questions can be asked, again regarding changes to the collective consciousness. Are applications such as ghost maps and ghost finders exemplary of technology being manipulated back into something less contained within fact and science? The second part of this study continues this line of enquiry, a case study of these secondary, post-phenomenological layers of information in operation at an English heritage site. A study of the presentation of Berry Pomeroy Castle, a ‘haunted’ English Heritage site, alongside research into the English Heritage’s Conservation Principles should begin to build up a sense of the reasoning behind the use of the supernatural within the heritage spectrum. The final research chapter of this study addresses another concept to be considered within the realm of experiential validity and the cultivated presentation of space - the imported 5 6 7
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legend_tripping http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/oct/31/most-haunted-places-britain https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/haunted-uk-map/id569280886?ls=1&mt=8
image. Have the presented site-specific supernatural elements been gathered from ancient local lore, based on supported histories with some basis in fact or have they been imported and projected onto the site via fictions that have become known within the public media forum, and consequently is there now a fictitious impression of this site ingrained in popularised culture. On occasion an image and condition has been projected onto a building or space from an outside source, there is no historical suggestion of a connection with the supernatural or surrounding mythologies grounds aside from what has been shown or discussed through popular fiction. Exploration into this manipulation of our preconceived ideas in relation to a space or site opens a dialogue into the worth we place upon the spiritual and ethereal. These elements can begin to radiate further into our conceived understanding of a space, and can modify our experiences and preconceptions.
Post-structuralism, Post-phenomenology and the validity of experience under the influence of information. Focusing on ideas prevalent in post-structuralism this discussion aims to explore how, through the added layers of supernatural phenomena and local mythologies, our experience of reality in relation to a particular built space, is altered. Moreover, the study aims at establishing to what extent the evidence of ideas within this spectrum is being utilised in tourism as well as in the wider context of media, in order to entice an explorative experience of heritage sites. Post-structuralism thinking addresses a kind of instability within verified scientific thought and these ideas resonate with the concept of these metaphysical realities being presented alongside the tangible8. In relation to scientific facts and thinking ‘Poststructuralism denies that stability is possible’9 allowing a freedom to discuss and expand on ideas, which exist beyond the physical or proven domain. Post-structuralism also encourages the discussion of what is present beyond the physical, scientific and structural. Derrida’s lecture ‘Structure sign and play in the discourse of the human science’ discusses a ‘de-centring’ of the former intellectual spectrum10 the idea of ‘de-centring’ creates an avenue through which we can be begin to accept and discuss things which exist outside of our accepted reality… In this instance the presence of the supernatural and metaphysical. Post-structuralism explores the value of conversation, language, interpretation and authorship11. Post-phenomenology and post-structuralism both allow for the re-evaluation of established and considered ideas. When we consider these ideas in relation to the physical manifestation of a building or space we are able to question the make-up of that space beyond its form12. 8 9 10 11 12
See Annexe - Post strucuralism and post-phenomenolgy diagram – p40 Steve Padley, ‘Key Concepts in Contemporary Literature”, Palgrave MacMilan, 2006, p. 181 Derida Jacques “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” Annexe - Post strucuralism and post-phenomenolgy diagram, p.. 40 Harrison, Paul; 2006; “Post-structuralist Theories”; pp122-135 in Aitken, S. and Valentine, G. (eds); 2006; 7
The study of post-structuralist ideas and post-phenomenology should provide clarity into some of the reasons behind the significance of these ideas and elements within a heritage context and why they have become prevalent within this field. What has been the impact of post-phenomenology and post-structuralism on cultural and social values? Historically, renewed focus upon ideas grounded within post-structuralist though have stemmed from changing cultural allegiances, such as interest in spirituality and dissatisfaction with scientific or physical values. Bachelard suggests that boundaries of a building can provide a departure point for the imagination, becoming ‘the theater’13. Within the mind the physical realm adopts the role of a ‘stage’, and manipulations of this space can take place within the mind. Imagined realities and layers of information, gathered both consciously and subconsciously, can be relayed onto this ‘stage’ generating an experience of that space. This creates our own metaphysical construct of what that space is like, and what exists there. The variables are our own knowledge, imagination, expectation and beliefs. Referring again to Derrida’s lecture ‘Structure sign and play in the discourse of the human science’ and the discussion of this ‘de-centring’ of the former intellectual spectrum. If we are to infer that the ‘centre’ relates to a more scientific truth it becomes clear that the divergence from this ‘centre’14 implies a move toward ideas with perhaps a more spiritual, not scientific agenda. What Post-phenomenology and post-structuralism both allow for is the re-evaluation of established and considered ideas. Scientific thought is discussed, but with the intention of theorising non-physical alternatives. When we consider these ideas in relation to the physical manifestation of a building or space we are able to question the make-up of that space beyond its form. Questions begin to arise relating to science and spirituality and how these conflicting elements have been unified to exist as part of one definite space. What could have ignited this desire to experience realities and phenomena that exist beyond our own realm? In Carl Sagan’s ‘The Demon Haunted World’ there is suggestion of an overwhelming dissatisfaction within many societies, the result of violence and disillusionment with what exists within the sphere of accepted reality and society. The tiring of the scientific analysis of the conscious, post-phenomenological thinking gave rise to the discussion of spiritual alternatives, outside the realm of the Western acceptance of scientific values in the 1960s, are we now seeing this pattern repeating? Alternatives to science are evident and popular within contemporary culture. This could be a move toward a more spiritual connection, a need to re-humanise ourselves following an overwhelming exposure Approaches to Human Geography; Sage, London 13 Bachelard, Gaston, The Poetics of Space, translated by Jolas, Maria, 1958 (1964 translation, 1994 edition), p. 44 14 Derida Jacques “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”
to the explanations that scientific study has decreed as truth. Acceptance of scientific truths confines us to one rationalised existence and there is an to accept our own mortality. “For me, the first fact of human existence is the human body. But if you embrace the reality of the human body, you embrace mortality, and that is a very difficult thing for anything to do because the self-conscious mind cannot imagine non-existence. It’s impossible to do”15– David Cronenberg Nobody wants to ‘embrace’ his or her mortality so higher thinking is required in order to justify our existence beyond the physical realm, where we are mortal and fleeting. The film-maker David Cronenberg has used the physicality of what it means to exist and distorted it with expanded thought on what could happen if we go beyond accepted physical capabilities. Consider his film, ‘The Brood’ (1979) in which psychic, telekinetic energies become physical, living manifestations16. This idea, communicated through film, demonstrates how this kind of thinking has penetrated the public forum. A coalition of physical and metaphysical conventions united within one medium. The fact that these themes have been presented through various mediums, such as film, serves to emphasise their presence within society through the media. The American psychologist and parapsychologist Charles Tart suggests that he popularity of this type of thinking is due in part to the ‘dehumanising, de-spiritualising effects of ‘scientism’’17. The background of the heritage site becomes a vessel through which we can imagine a sustained existence, the idea of the ghostly presences that remain within these spaces long after their death, is perhaps restorative of hope in a post-mortem existence. “…He rejects difficult things from impatience of research…sober things because they narrow hope…” 18 - Francis Bacon The increasing exclusion of scientific thought creates questions ascertaining to the truth and the validity of what is being understood and experience as a result. It can be argued that ‘if an experience seems real, it is real’19, without an understanding of scientific reason, or thoughts on the tangibility of reality. Gravitation toward these un-proven ideas surrounding mysticism or the supernatural could perhaps be indicative of a refusal to accept enlightenment via scientific truth. Leon Trotsky describes his disbelief at the refusal 15 http://splicedwire.com/features/cronenberg.html 16 See Appendix – Notes on The Brood (1979), David Cronenberg p. 40 17 Charles Tart ‘The science of Spiriuality’ from Ted Shulz edition of the Fringes of Reason p.61 18 Francis Bacon, Novum Organon 1620 19 Theodore Schich jr, Lewis Vaugn ‘How to think about weird things: critical thinking for a new age’ (mountain view CA Mayfield publishing co, 1995) 9
Manipulated Screen Capture Image ‘The Brood’ Cronenberg: by Kathryn Mackrory
to accept science within society ‘a hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of symbols and exorcisms… aviators who pilot miraculous mechanical machines wear amulets on their sleeves’20. It could be argued that this idea indicates that there is a mass audience for the questionable and theorised thinking that surrounds the discussion of the supernatural. Its implementation as tool to reach a vast array of people and garner interest in a space is logical. Trotsky’s statement applies, as much today as then, the undeniable proof and advances of science within current society exist in duality with ghost hunters and disproven supernatural theory. As with post-modernism, which was spawned of a post-war disillusionment with science and technology, this could again be evident of society wide dissatisfaction with encouraged, scientific thought and the continued idea of the human need for permanence and a post-mortem existence. If combined with the reliance on technology and the speed with which it is developing so ‘rapidly’21 the fear of extreme scientific advances is perhaps being replaced by forays into a more humanistic and acceptable, ancient fear – the supernatural. An article in Time Magazine addresses this issue suggesting that ‘Change that is too rapid can be deeply divisive; if only an elite can keep up, the rest of us will grow increasingly mystified about how the world works…’. This type of technological ‘elitism’ could perhaps be a trigger factor in the return, of some, to interest in the supernatural and alternative spiritualism. The almost universal accessibility to ideas rooted within human nature, and detached from science, logic and technical complexity. When looking into the parallels that exist between what we logically believe and what we understand as illogical yet still invest interest and thought in, we encounter anomalies. The mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. operated within the spectrum of reason and the realms of the ‘unreal’. As a parallel to his logical thought processes there existed a belief in the supernatural. Nash’s contemplated post-structuralist and structuralist thinking simultaneously, both processed by his brain as of equal worth. Nash’s approach to thought on these matters allowed equal consideration to both the allowed truth and the unfounded, we begin to see this consideration emerging within the heritage field. There is an equal portrayal of the tangible, physical elements and the post-phenomenological. Could this approach in any way reduce the integrity of the site, or does this inclusion of almost conflicting points of interest simply allow an all round understanding of the site?
20 Leon trotsky, the history of the Russian revolution 1933 21 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,997268,00.html 11
Berry Pomeroy Castle Ruins: by Kathryn Mackrory
“How could you,” began Mackey, “how could you, a mathematician, a man devoted to reason and logical proof . . . how could you believe that extraterrestrials are sending you messages? How could you believe that you are being recruited by aliens from outer space to save the world? How could you?” Nash looked up at last and fixed Mackay with an unblinking stare as cool and dispassionate as that of any bird or snake. “Because,” Nash said slowly in his soft, reasonable southern drawl,
as if talking to himself, “the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously”22 David Lowenthall, who writes analytically on the current state of heritage tourism, suggests that ‘every aspect of our heritage seems more dramatically altered and threatened today than ever before’23. The advances toward selective, supernatural presentation of space are arguably not one of these threats to heritage. Heritage structures viewed in their original form, without the inclusion of super-imposed layers of supernatural tales and theatrical ghostly tours, whilst truthful on a purely physical level, perhaps do not allow the spaces to be humanised. Consequently with minimal allowance for human connections and the mythical layer there is a reduced overall interest in the space. Again, gravitation toward this type of information and experience at a heritage site create a generator of increased footfall and ultimately finances. This creates a blanketing opportunity to attract those in search of a ‘legend trip’ or educational, factual experience alike, increasing the chances of the site’s continued self-sustainability whilst retaining its original form. Self-sustainability is a key goal of heritage sites, allowing the assurance of continued funding and the growth of heritage organisations.
Enhancing spatial perceptions through the manipulation of preconception (English Heritage principals and the presentation of Berry Pomeroy Castle) “Place is not only a fact to be explained it is also a reality to be obtained and understood from the perspectives of those who have given it meaning…” 24 - Yi Fu Tuan When we begin to question the values and possible perceptions or experiences of a space we must consider the intentions of the controllers of the space. Through the study of the guidelines and agenda set out in the English Heritage’s manifesto ‘Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance for the management of the historic environment’ and the implementa tion of these principles at a heritage site, which is commonly presented with the supernatu ral as a focal point an impression should clarify an understanding of the dialogue between the supernatural and physical realms. The tactical decisions implemented by the operators of heritage sites appear to be attempting to enhance spatial perceptions through the manipulation of preconceived ideas relating to their sites. Frequently, a substantial impression of a space has been dictated before any visit, based on the existing knowledge of the audience. Elevated levels of information access (Smartphone apps, mapping technology, internet etc…) in recent years 22 Nasar, Sylvia, A Beautiful Mind, New York Simon and Schuster p. 323 23 Lowenthall, David, Our Past before us: Why do we save it p.213 24 Yi Fu Tuan, Space and Place, Chapter Humanistic Perspective., p. 387 13
have created a situation in which a high percentage of people will have researched a heritage site or spent time looking at relevant online resources in order to understand the place they intend to experience. In the case of Berry Pomeroy castle an Internet search reveals immediately the ghost connections and lists examples of supernatural encounters experienced at the site. Possible visitor experiences are considered that go beyond the physical realm. Whilst grounded in an extensive history of supernatural folklore and legend, the decision to allow this element prominence within the presentation of Berry Pomeroy Castle could perhaps be attributed to the sheer amount of internet information surrounding the resident ghosts. Analysis conducted revealed that within the English Heritage’s ‘Conservation Princples’ appear to have categorised the key elements they wish to communicate within their sites into four main ‘values’25. Evidential Value, ‘The physical remains of past activity’. Historical Value, ‘The perception of a place as a link between past and present people’ Aesthetic Value, ‘The conscious design of a place…or the seemingly fortuitous outcome of the way in which a place has evolved over time’ Communal Value, ‘The commemorative and symbolic values that reflect the meaning of a place for those who draw meaning from it’26 Berry Pomeroy Castle as a tangible space has been devalued due to damages and the general deterioration of the physical make-up of the building. Physically the building is a ruin, and the spaces within building only gain significance with the additional contextual layers of information, which are offered throughout the site. The implementation of the chosen supernatural narrative of Berry Pomeroy in accordance to the four ‘values’ suggests that there is a system in place, which allows one ‘value’ to become more active in the place of others, which may be lacking. Berry Pomeroy Castle has a reduced ‘Evidential Value’ as a result of physical damage and deterioration and consequently there is a lower ‘Aesthetic Value’. Consequently, emphasis is placed upon the remaining ‘values’. Berry Pomeroy Castle is almost entirely reliant on written descriptions and audio guides as devices as the primary context delivery system through which the space is understood. There are few recognisable physical reference points remaining within the building and structure, so there is a dependence on additional descriptions of past functions and histories. Should we consider these values as components in an almost formulaic structure that combined equate to one whole ‘Heritage site’ it seems clear that when the value of one value is low, other values must be increased to compensate. As Berry Pomeroy Castle demonstrates, the lower physical attributes have been countered by an increased emphasis on historical and supernatural story telling.
Conservation Principles, English Heritage, 2011, pp 27 - 32 Ibid
Practically, the presentation and discussion of a site in terms of its ‘supernatural’ value creates a simple, non-physical tool with which to explore a more sensory spatial experience. Utilising the human mind and imagination could remove the need to enhance the space using additional lighting, props or altering the framework of the building. The effectiveness of this imagined or supernatural layer offers site operators an avenue through which to cut costs and retain existing characteristics instead of moving toward the presentation of an augmented and improved physical version of the space. Retaining the authenticity of the site, which could counter an escalation of touristic development, as seen at Alton Towers27 theme park, which once existed as a preserved, historic Iron Age fort and Gothic stately home. Whilst extreme changes to the site strive to increase finances, architectural values and in some cases factual historical elements are lost. The value of the site as heritage space becomes secondary to the activity and attraction of the additions and new elements, which are now in residence. ‘The decision as to which value should prevail requires a comprehensive understanding of the range and relative importance of the heritage values involved’28 In the case of Berry Pomeroy Castle, English Heritage has introduced the presentation of supernatural elements to its public presence through a series of promotional media devices. There are references to ghost tours and supernatural experiences on the English Heritage site. Berry Pomeroy is featured in small publications and websites about ghosts and was the setting for an episode of Living TV’s Most Haunted29. Playing on the rumours of spectral apparitions experienced at the site30, English Heritage has chosen to include these legends as a key representative element of the site and using them to the generate interest in the site. ‘People value this historic environment as part of their cultural and natural heritage. It reflects the knowledge, beliefs and traditions of diverse communities. It gives distinctiveness, meaning and quality to the places in which we live, providing a sense of continuity and a source of identity. It is a social and economic asset and a resource for learning and enjoyment.’31 The Berry Pomeroy tour experience relies upon a series of information boards, a guidebook and audio guide to impress a layer of information onto the site, allowing the castle ruins a contextual value.
27 http://publicaccess.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/upload/PublicAccess/ART%20Cultural%20Heritage%20 DBA%20111012%20(49475).pdf 28 Conservation Principles, English Heritage, 2011, p. 45 29 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0362355/ (Most Haunted information and episodes guide) 30 http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/devon/featured-sites/berry-pomeroy-castle.html 31 English Heritage, Conservation Principles Policies and Guidelines, 2011 15
Examination of English Heritage’s policies and literature on their methodology and policies addresses how they are creating new avenues of enquiry into site through the promotion of the supernatural and non-physical factors. Architecture and physical value is in some ways being overlooked, in favour of this additional non-physical narrative? The form becomes secondary to an historical narrative or an implemented, supernatural and imagined reality. The English Heritage guide justifies the use of the supernatural at Berry Pomeroy castle through categorising this type of information as part of the sites social history. Whilst this is justifiable due to the documented fact, that the castle has been associated with haunting since at least the 1800s, as we are shown by the inclusion of the castles’ ghost ‘Lady Elinor’ in the work of the writer Edward Montague in his 1806 work, ‘The Castle of Berry Pomeroy’ ‘Condemned forever to wander on the Earth restless and miserable stalks the shade of the guilty lady Elinor’32 The implementation of audio guides as a key communication device at Berry Pomeroy cast an augmented layer of reality over the castle ruins. In this instance the augmentation is aural and not visual, yet serves in the same manner that augmented reality operates within visual mediums. In addition to the use of audio guides, new Smartphone apps are being developed which generate a wider layer of information relating to histories and the supernatural via mapping technology. One example, the ‘Haunted Essex Ghost Map’33, attaches information relating to ghost sightings to GPS software, which then creates a new layer of supernatural information, which is viewed alongside the physical location. This example demonstrates how the ‘values’ as identified by the English Heritage, are utilised outside of the heritage spectrum to create similar preconceptions of space. This is also exemplary of the wider renewal of cultural interest in post-phenomenological elements. English Heritage justify the more extreme elements of supernatural presentation, such as the castle’s appearance on ‘Most Haunted’, as entertainment but remain clear in their use of the supernatural as an inherent part of the ‘history’. Relayed tales of ghostly visions have been commonplace, historically, within discussion of Berry Pomeroy Castle and consequently this type of social interaction fall under the veil of the site’s ‘practices of heritage’34 and as such become far more valid a focus point.
32 Edward Montague, The castle of Berry Pomeroy, 1806, republication 2007 33 https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=appinventor.ai_cheekymrp.GHOST_MAP_HAUNTED_ESSEX_PLACES&hl=en 34 http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/heritage/what-heritage
The Imported and Projected Image “The spectacle is not a collection of images rather it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images reference” Guy Debord35 Berry Pomeroy castle, having featured on television ghost hunts and local ghost websites is now considered a ‘haunted’ space. A media image has been projected onto the site, which has in turn influenced public opinion. Many sites of heritage value have been used as the setting for fantastical and supernatural fiction. Consequently the sites in question become synonymous with a certain film, legend or story. Through wider research into the projected image of a site, an impression of the changing cultural value of these heritage spaces becomes apparent. Many sites and structures which have featured in literature, film etc… are now very publicly connected with their respective stories. Through the examination of media examples, such as the Avebury stones which featured in the television series ‘Children of the Stones’36 demonstrate the re-contextualising of spaces through their imported media image should provide insight into whether these changes in values are re-informing, cyclically from a smaller to wider scale. Is the over-promotion of these postphenomenological elements reducing the significance of form, architecture and design? Are coercive media devices removing the authenticity of our perception of heritage spaces in favour of theatrics? This chapter opens up discussion on the process of the cross-informing and imported media images and the impact on the validity of our spatial perceptions. If we consider the Megalithic era stone circle at Avebury in Willtshire has been preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Whilst existing in its physical and preserved state as an ancient monument there is an additional layer of supernatural significance, which has been projected onto the site via a variety of media outlet, primarily its appearance in the 1976 television series ‘The Children of the Stones’. The series presented the stones as part of a sinister, pagan and alien ritualistic practice and cultivated an unsettling impression of the site, symbolic of values and experiences not commonplace within small rural towns such as Avebury. Further still, Avebury was described by the former poet laureate, John Betjemen, who described the ‘sinister atmosphere’ in his series ‘Discovering Britain with John Betjemen’37. This projection of Avebury plays upon the mysteries, which surround ancient customs, and our limited understanding of forgotten religious practice. Stemming from the stone circle and it’s prominence within Bronze Age spirituality, of which we have little knowledge, an image of the sinister and unfamiliar has been manipulated to encompass the entire town, fed by media portrayal and fiction. An imported, fictional impression of the Avebury stones has overtaken the historical and physical in the typical presentation of this site.
35 Guy Debord, Society of the spectacle, 1968 (point 4) 36 Jeremy Burnham, Trevor Ray, Children of the Stones HTV, 1976 37 John Betjemen, Peter Mills, Discovering Britain with John Betjemen, Documentary short, 1964 17
Sites that exist as landmarks, or sites of high popularity on occasion have allowed their history and significance to become distorted both as a result of, and to influence mass appeal. The Pyramids, theme parks like Alton Towers, a castle which is now a theme park that utilises the referencing of ancient site-specific folklore to create themed rides etc… distorting the image further to create a mass appeal attraction which depends on creating an atmosphere based upon the supernatural and inherent human fears and imaged realities. Alton Towers is an extreme example of tourism overwhelming a space of both architectural and heritage value and illustrates the point that over cultivating the supernatural histories and legend of a place begins to devalue it’s significance. Disney’s haunted mansion, feeds the spectacle of a haunted house, the house is structurally not dissimilar to the building style synonymous with American colonial architecture, in outward appearance and design. The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyworld, as discussed in Umberto Eco in his book ‘Travels in Hyper Reality’38 is a hyper-real construct of a house, a simulation of an actual dwelling. These dramatisations of spaces created solely for the purpose of creating an uncomfortable, spooky environment, in turn generate a reaction to the buildings and sites that exist in real life and have matching physical attribute. Possible sub-conscious exposure to these hyper-real constructs through media, visits to theme parks, fairs, books, films etc… could impart an underlying sense of fear when confronted with a real life resemblance. The hyper-reality begins to dictate our understanding of form and truth and alters the experience of space. This imports an understanding and an imparted supernatural, creepy element onto similar structures that exist within reality. In accordance with the ideas that a dissatisfaction with scientific thought is prevalent, as outlined in chapter three, we see examples of the adoption of ancient, eastern medicines and lifestyle choices have become commonplace within our culture. An almost unwitting exposure to these ideas is common in the everyday. A drone of constant celebrity news invades our sub-conscious, news articles, which document the latest figure to adopt a mystical craving, convert to an obscure religion or recuperate in some kind of monastery. The idea that there is more than what we are taught through science radiates through the media, so the assumption of promoters of heritage spaces that there is an audience for this alternative supernatural experience is entirely rational. There is a wider awareness and interest in the supernatural than there is in the intricacies and details of ancient architectural constructs. In time the influence of this repetitive imagery combined with the exposure to augmented visions of the site enhanced by the media and technology we are presented with an almost hyper-real construct of what exists on the site already. Atmospheric compositions that harbour the intent of depicting a space that is, at the same time its true and projected image. Real and hyper-real, existing in one place. These concepts further enforce the idea that imagination and altered, supernatural realities are becoming ever present in our understanding of space. 38
Umberto Eco, Travels In Hyperreality, 1986, p. 43
Conclusion. Research and discussion has addressed how the defined physicality of a space is perhaps becoming secondary to the non-physical factors within our perception and experience of that space. Analysis of the methods and reasons behind the implementation of the supernatural as a device to manipulate the tourist experience, the conclusions of the study seek to explain the implications of these manipulations on the validity and reality of the space. The examination of the research and using post-structuralism in context has allowed some predictions for future heritage action and create an impression of the changing cultural responses to heritage architecture. What we are ultimately seeing is the transformation of cultural resources into products for consumption. As Carl Sagan, rightly suggests ‘possible motives for accepting such stories are not hard to find… jobs for priests and other boosts to the original economy...’39 Research has shown the reasoning behind the decisions and the ways in which the use of the post-phenomenological elements could begin generate renewed interest in sites, which are potentially becoming less relevant when purely as architecture or a structural, physical form and widen appeal to a larger audience. Educating beyond the tangible for example the inclusion of a supernatural narrative within the boundaries of social histories. This renewed interest in the past has perhaps stemmed from an increasing dissatisfaction with the rapid influence of technology on our lives. The desire for insight into past habituation systems, our social histories and past lives so far removed from current modern life seems unlikely to disappear. What the English Heritage and similar organisations are allowing is for spaces, which may have lost their physical relevance over time to act as a vessel of information, creating connections between the past and present. In terms of the purpose of a heritage space it has become clear that role is not ultimately to preserve the structure and foundations of a physical realm. Providing education and awareness of the past histories and existence of people and cultures remains one of the primary concerns of the heritage committees. English heritage suggest that their agenda is to protect ‘the elements of the historic environment that we value for more than their money’s worth’40. As my research shows the humanisation of these spaces, through the knowledge of local supernatural legend, lore and what happened to the people who existed in these space before, is what ultimately forges a connection and interest in a site. It is the past human interaction with the space, which has allowed this ‘historic environment’ to exist, English Heritage have begun to merge the considered, factual histories with local lore and ghostly rumour as a part of the presented site-specific information. Whether this approach to the presentation of spaces is complimentary or detrimental to the value of a site’s architectural merit is somewhat less significant when we consider that in order for continued maintenance of sites there must to be guaranteed revenue. An 39 Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World, 1996, p135 40 http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/advice/hpg/generalintro/heritageconservationdefined/ 19
influx of visitors who perhaps are not concerned about whether a space was a piece of pioneering design at one point in time, are as of much financial value as a visitor with more academic intentions. The ultimate agenda of all heritage spaces must be to provide a site of interest that will generate revenue in order to support the ongoing conservation work of the organisation. It has become apparent through the course of my research, that this human fascination with the supernatural is by no means a recent phenomenon, so it can be argued that in fact, the process of regaling tales of local ghosts is a part of the embedded history of the site, and therefore, a fact of the site. The use of the supernatural as narrative for the communication of a space humanises the experience by drawing on our inherent interests and questions that surround the unknown, spirituality and ultimately out own mortality. Alongside this there is also the underlying factor that it provides distraction and a touristic space needs to be enjoyed and delighted in, in order to continue being a place of reverence and cultural value. The physical environment may decay and lose its original function but within the spectrum of heritage these spaces undertake alternative, informative agendas. The supernatural narrative is emblematic of the wider, now inherent and imperative, projection of postphenomenological elements in the communication of Heritage spaces.
Bibliography Anger, Kenneth. Hollywood Babylon, San Francisco StraightArrow Books,1975 Bachelard, Gaston, The Poetics of Space, translated by Jolas, Maria, 1958 (1964 translation, 1994 edition), Beacon Press Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice London:’Sage,’2008. Barthes, Roland, Mythologies, 1968 Bell, Duncan, Mythscapes, memory, mythology and national identity, The British Journal of Sociology, Volume 54 No 1 March 2003 Brown, D (1996) ‘Genuine Fakes’, in Selwyn, T (ed) The Tourist Image: Myths andMyth Making in Tourism, Chichester: John Wiley Burton, Dan and David Grandy. Magic Mystery and Science. Bloomington Indiana University Press, 2004 Cohen, E (1988) ‘Authenticity and Commodification in Tourism’ Debord, G, Society of the Spectacle, 1968 Eco, U Travels In Hyperreality, New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986, Ellis, Bill Aliens Ghosts and Cults, Legends we Live. 2001 Edwards, Emily. Metaphysical Media: The occult experience in Popular Culture. Carbondale, Souther Illinois university press, 2004 Harrison, Paul; 2006; “Post-structuralist Theories”; pp122-135 in Aitken, S. and Valentine, G. (eds); 2006; Approaches to Human Geography; Sage, London Jansson A, Lagerkvist A (Eds), 2009 Strange Spaces: Explorations into Mediated Obscurity (Ashgate, Farnham, Surrey) Kracauer, Siegfried. Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. New York Oxford University Press, 1960 Lasansky M, Brian McLaren Architecture and Tourism: Perception, performance and place Lowenthal D, Binney. M Our Past Before Us: Why do we save it? 1981 London: Temple Smith 21
Lowenthal, David The Past is a Foreign Country, Cambridge, 1985 MacCannell, D (1973) ‘Staged Authenticity: Arrangements of Social Space in Tourist Settings’ American Journal of Sociology Marcuse, Herbert (1991). “Introduction to the Second Edition”. One-dimensional Man: studies in ideology of advanced industrial society. London: Routledge Matthews, E. Twentieth-Century French Philosophy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996 Michael Kinsella. Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat. (2011) Rojek, C. and Urry, J. (eds) (1997) Touring Cultures. London: Routledge Sagan, Carl, The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Random House, 1996 Sontag, Susan 1966 Against Interpretation. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux Tuan Yi-Fu, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience , University of Minnesota Press, 197 Urry, J. (1995) Consuming Places. London: Routledge . Urry, J (2002) The Tourist Gaze, London: Sage
Images All by Author
Appendix - Summary of Theoretical background
For general enquiries about the School please contact us directly: School of Architecture, Design and Environment Faculty of Arts University of Plymouth Drake Circus Plymouth PL4 8AA Telephone: email:
+44(0)1752 585150 email@example.com
ARCO: Journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License
Published on Jul 16, 2013
SUPERNATURAL NARRATIVES If we consider a building, space or site in it’s simplest and most acceptable form we primarily accept it as a phys...