On the suggested reading list provided by my tutor in his Formative Feedback for IAP Assignment 1 was ‘Place’ by Tacita Dean and Jeremy Millar. I can’t say that this subject is of great interest to me. It’s a bit dry. I’m more of a humanist. Also, the size of the typeface was so small! Described by the authors as an ‘exhibition in a book’ it features the work of 61 artists addressing the ‘function of place in the contemporary world’. I briefly summarise a couple of the more interesting parts below.

Paul Noble

Nobson Newtown is a series of large scale pencil drawings depicting a strange fictional city. The work resonated with me in the context of the pandemic world we all now inhabit. The fictional city has one inhabitant, the artist Paul Noble himself. Very lockdown. But it’s the city’s motto that really caught my attention:

No style, no technique, no accidents, only mistakes


Very prescient.

Simon Schama

The book finishes with a ‘talk’ between Dean, Millar, Joseph Koerner and Simon Schama (1:184). When discussing the question of whether place is fixed or whether it changes over time, the artwork of Robert Smithson known as ‘Spiral Jetty’ is mentioned. It is an intriguing earthwork sculpture created in 1970 and located in the Great Salt Lake, Utah.

When considering if place is fixed, Schama suggests that the remote location of Spiral Jetty puts it into the category of a transient marker. Also throughout its lifetime the work has spent time covered with water and then revealed again as the drought conditions change. He says:

Very often the power or the impotence of a place in the public and historical imagination is defined by access.

It’s interesting to me to consider the changeable nature of place in the context of the pandemic lockdown. Like everybody, (or at least those of us shielding the vulnerable) I have no access to anywhere. My world is my home so to that extent everywhere else is impotent to me these days.


Dean, T. and Millar, J., 2005. Place. 1st ed. London: Thames & Hudson.

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