‘Data depleted darkness’ : Anaesthetic undergrounds?

Authors: Harriet Hawkins*, Royal Holloway, University of London
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: underground, aesthetics, caving,
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded




Writing in advance of a caving trip, nature writer Robert McFarlane (2013) worried over whether the ‘data depleted darkness’ would resist representation. As it transpired, his accounts of going underground are as fulsomely rich and descriptive as any of his scribings of surfaces and peaks. His embodied encounters with rocks and rivers, with deep time and alternative earth futures, are characterised – as many subterranean accountings are – by a ‘coming to the body’ (Cant, 2005). This is a sensory fulsomeness that whilst often de-privileging sight, tends to heighten awareness of other senses and to attune us to materiality - to go underground is to brought to one’s multi-sensory, thoroughly material body (Perez, 2013, Hawkins 2018).

This paper explores the possibilities of an anaesthetic underground, in the face of the drive to render the underground a sensory ‘full’ and materiality force-full and agentive space. A series of modern art works that encounter the underground through voids and holes will be explored in the context of recent geographical attention to the negative, disorientation and questions of the void. It will ask, what might an attention to anaesthetic geographies do for our geographical thinking on the underground, and conversely what might such anaesthetic undergrounds offer to these wider discussions of anaesthetic geographies?

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