Borrowing Sceneries
: Assembling Inter-medial Narratives through Experiential Walking Encounters

  • Gareth Jones

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Borrowing Sceneries: Assembling Inter-medial Narratives through Experiential Walking Encounters uses inter-medial creative works– image, text and performance– to address, through representational, performative and relational means, the mutually determining nature of subject-space encounters. The project draws upon, and intervenes back into, multiple fields: art practice, philosophical aesthetics, ethnography, design theory, and linguistics. The project emerged from the desire to further my understandings of these spatial encounters, and through creative, reflective, and analytical methods, to situate them within wider cultural discourses. Individual participants, within and beyond the global academic and artistic communities, are drawn into this discourse and praxis from a wide range of disciplines, professions and experiences. Concern for and improvement of individual, social, and environmental well-beings are often cited by these participants as the motivations for their engagement.

This project represents a return to creative practice after a hiatus of some years. During that hiatus, and concurrent to the emergent thoughts on subject-space relations described above, I reflected on my previous creative practice– a practice that had centred on the representational potential of drawing and mark-making– and found a need for that approach to be reconsidered in order to address the multi-faceted and allusive nature of the spatial encounters informing my enquiry. A more interdisciplinary approach was required. In this way, drawing and mark-making became enmeshed within a network of praxes that includes linguistic analysis, writing (creative, academic, and hybrid forms), photography, journal-keeping, and walking.

The project also eschews a purely linear statement in favour of a patchwork of digressive outcomes whose inter-relationships are both allusive and elusive. In this way the project becomes in itself a performative statement, enacting many of the qualities it seeks to address. The outcomes themselves are a group-walking project, a digital journal-archive and a written thesis. The annual group-walking project entangles narratives of place and time by inviting participants to join me in mapping and walking one city in terms of another. What was conceived as a one-off performance in 2016 enjoyed its fifth annual iteration earlier in 2020. I first conceived of my digital journal as a vessel in which to store resources that fed into and out of this group walk and other aspects of my research. Over the course of the project the journal migrated from the periphery of my practice to its centre, becoming a primary vehicle for the development and transfer of ideas.

The theories and discourses with which the project engages are necessarily diverse and are drawn from sources including New Materialist philosophies, contemporary walking discourses, written textual analysis, the Situationists, psychogeography, linguist theory, and Chinese landscape design. The discourses surrounding contemporary walking practices, particularly the Mythogeography of Phil Smith, have provided both a theoretical framework and a practical toolkit for my own spatial encounters. In his writing, Smith discusses his practice in terms of “a dissemination of tactics”, and as being a practice that is “led from its margins”. The reconsiderations of subject, agency, and causality that are implicit in these terms and in his methodology as a whole are similarly made explicit in the writings of New Materialist thinkers such as Karen Barad and Jane Bennett. Bennett’s advocacy of “methodological naiveté”, “a return to discredited philosophies of nature”, and “the deferral of rational judgement” have influenced my understanding of the roles of subject, agency, and causality within encounter in both its spatial and broader terms. Although published in the context of Landscape Design, Stanislaus Fung’s recent reinterpretations of Borrowed Scenery have addressed the interdisciplinary potential of this Chinese concept. Fung’s attempts to align borrowed scenery with Western materialist philosophies have enabled the concept to function as an instrument within my walking practice. Fung’s framing of borrowed scenery as a “readerly drift” have also enabled me to make explicit the relationships between space/ walking, text/ reading, and theory/ practice. In his theory of the Discourse Colony, Linguist Michael Hoey formulates a series of properties to identify a text-type he sees as being neglected within our textual culture. Transplanted from the domain of linguistic analysis to that of creative arts practice, the hive-like properties of Hoey’s text colony have extended my understanding of the ways in which my own texts can be encountered. For many creative practitioner-researchers the necessary movements between practice and theory, and between the academic and the creative have been problematic. Fictocritism’s splicing of academic and creative forms emerged out of the need to address these problems, and the strategies of transgression and experimentation advocated within the discourses surrounding the fictocritical have informed the ways I approach my written outcomes.

Geographies of dis-placement also echo the absurdist transgressions of walking one city’s boundaries inscribed over another in acts that defy and yet create the space for wholly new sense-making. This project’s own creative praxis has parallels in the situation of peoples across the world who are refugees, homeless, immigrants or fleeing catastrophic events, and for whom place-making is an imaginative, determined, creative act.

This work establishes a novel combination of methods and disciplines; it arrives at new interpretations through intentionally disruptive walking encounters which in turn, lead to a process of fragmentary collection, representation, reflection and analysis, siting and (re-) placing modes of being in shifting sites of experiential knowledge.
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMary Modeen (Supervisor) & Dominic Smith (Supervisor)

Cite this