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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

Space, Place and Belonging

Discussion Brief

For over 20,000 years we have used art as a language to explore how we belong to the place and space where we live.

What does it mean to be of this place?

Why is belonging so important?

Is the theme of ‘space, place and belonging’ still relevant today?

How can we reimagine it in our art practice?

Cueva de las Manos, Argentina, South America. 7,300BC-700AD. Wikipedia.

What does it mean to be of this place?

Before Stonehenge and the Pyramids, Stone age farmers in the mid East region of Ireland built a megalithic burial tomb and astrological site in Boyne Valley.

Newgrange, Brú na Bóinne ('Womb of the Moon'). Image source.

For over 5,200 years the winter solstice sun has illuminated its inner passage and burial chamber for precisely 17 minutes.

There are several engraved kerbstones that ring the mound. This is the kerbstone marking the entrance to the burial passage. The quartz stone is carved with a complex triple spiral pattern called the Triskele – the 3 legs.

Triple spiral patterns are rare. The earliest example is found in Malta nearly 7000 years ago, but simpler double and single spiral patterns have been found dating back over 20,000 years ago.

The meaning of the Triskelion revolves around movement, energy, and cycles in life. Stone age people understood this motion moves through all living things, connecting us all to a world beyond and reaffirming our existence.

As bands of people migrated over land and sea, they carried these symbols with them to mark their new homeland and the burial places of those they loved. Pattern recognition was not only a tool for survival but also a way of expressing meaning and connection.

Nuku Tewhatewha. Dowse Art Gallery's pātaka. Image source.

Earthrise. Bill Anders, 1968. NASA

This light is from the most distant individual star humanity has ever seen. It is 12.9 billion years old... within 1 billion years of the great Big Bang event.

NASA / ESA / B. Welch (JHU) / D. Coe (STScI) / A. Pagan (STScI)

What does it mean to be of this place?

Why is belonging so important?

"What moves us, what makes us feel, is also that which holds us in place, or gives us a dwelling place. Hence movement does not cut the body off from the “where” of its inhabitance, but connects bodies to other bodies: attachment takes place through movement, through being moved by the proximity of others. (Ahmed, 2004, p.11)

"Woven like a tapestry from the lives of its inhabitants, the land is not so much a stage for the enactment of history, or a surface on which it is inscribed, as history congealed. And just as kinship is geography, so the lives of persons and their histories of relationships can be traced in the textures of the land" (Ingold, 2000, p.150).

Is the theme of ‘space, place and belonging’ still relevant today?

How can we reimagine our space, our place and our belonging in our art practice?

"The foraging system is a gift and commodity exchange which creates a feeling-bond between people and their surroundings; a formal give-and-take that acknowledges our participation in, and dependence upon, natural increase. We tend to respond to nature as a part of ourselves, not a stranger or an alien available for exploitation" (Kimmerer 30).

"New materialisms is relational, plural, open, complex, uneven and contingent; cuts across dualistic boundaries between natural and social worlds; and for some new materialist scholars is invested with a vitality or liveliness. By rejecting a distinction between the physical world and the social constructs of human thoughts, meanings and desires, such perspectives open up the possibility to explore how each affects the other, and the agency of things other than humans (for instance, a tool, a technology or a building). These ontological shifts not only emancipate the affective capacities of the non-human, but also establish an ethics that can engage productively with human culture, with other living things, and with the wider environment of inanimate matter" (Global Social Theory).

"My skirts in your f***ing room". Jacqueline Fahey, 1979. Image

Burying the whenua, Robin Kahukiwa, 1987

Fall of Icarus, Bill Hammond. 1994. Image

Kaiwhakatere, Brett Graham. 2019- Image

Respiratory Whale, Dane Mitchell. 2020. Images 1-3

Post Hoc, Dane Mitchell. 2019. Images 1-3


Adams, Matthew. “Between the whale and the kāuri tree: Multi-species encounters, indigenous knowledge

and ethical relationality in the Anthropocene.” Anthropocene Psychology : Being Human in a More-than-

Human World, Routledge, 1st edition 2020, pp. 147-170.

Ahmed, Sara. “Collective Feelings, or, the Impressions Left by Others.” Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 21, no.

2, Apr. 2004, pp. 25–42.

Albert. Trees. Experiencing the world by Emanuele Coccia. 2019

by The Institute of Koorie Education, Deakin University, Geelong Waurn Ponds, Geelong, Victoria, 3220

Australia Arts 2015, 4(2), 68-74;

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass. First edition, Milkweed Editions, 2013.

Massey, 2013.


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