Embracing of Place
The notion of “embracing place” is compelling to me, opening up many possibilities for teaching, learning, and living. I was particularly struck by the wisdom of “embracing place” relayed by Cynthia Chambers (2006, 2008) as she described her personal journey to this realization and the implications for her curricular practices as a teacher and the common ground to be gained for the curriculum field. It is a wisdom that is only disclosed through embracing. But embracing insists on surrender to place. And surrendering to place demands trust in process. Curricular practices and policies for some time have ensured such wisdom is more likely to go unseen. Thus, as it entails curricular terrain that is apt to be foreign, the wisdom found within place goes undisclosed. Site-specific artists and associated artworks deliberately embrace place. I turn to these works for insights into the wisdom to be found there. These artists share a reverence for what each place offers. Each place has a history with traditions, beliefs, and practices. Each place has unique features, phenomena, and inhabitants. And each place has particular elements characterizing the site/landscape and patterns such as time, uses, and weather that leave their marks. An energy or spirit exudes from every place that site-specific artists value, experience, and respond to caringly. The purposes and expressions take multiple forms, but revering and conversing with place is the necessary starting position for site-specific artists. Entering into a conversation with place entails inherence in the sensible. I am reminded of Yinger’s (1988) attention to the etymology of conversation-conversari, meaning to dwellsuggesting “conversation involves entering into and living with a situation and its participants” (p. 1). It is this willingness to enter and dwell within the relationships already at play that embracing place assumes. It is within the apprehension of these relationships that site-specific artists find and create meanings. These site-specific artworks invite what Risser (1997) terms “poetic dwelling” (p. 199), instilling what Gadamer (1986) terms a “hold upon nearness” (p. 13). But what do these artworks bring us near to? This chapter first explores this question through the imagery of the site-specific artist Andy Goldsworthy, and the documentary (2004) of his sculptural forms in the making, Rivers and Tides: Working with Time. Accompanying this exploration, the educational philosophy of John Dewey (1934, 1938), with his concern for the primacy of experience to living and learning, is introduced throughout to form “crossings,” with each text vivifying the other. Thus, both texts make more tangible Chambers’ (2006, 2008) notion of embracing place as the generative ground integral to entering into conversation with place and bringing readers near to its wisdom for curricular practices. Second, this chapter addresses the question: What does embracing place entail for curricular enactment? The chapter concludes by considering the necessary educator sensibilities for navigating such curricular terrain.