Text Review: Im Raume Lesen Wir die Zeit by Karl Schlegel

History is not only the understanding of an event that took place at a certain time, but also the subject connected to a certain space.  It is this question that forms the corner stone of Karl Schlegel’s book Im Raume lesen wir die Zeit.

We refer to certain spaces as crime scenes, historical battlefields, highlands of power or as spaces remenicent of suffering, however this is only an abstract metaphysical understanding within a social and historical context and goes often without recognition. Schlegel goes as far as to describe this phenomena where space gets lost within the metaphorical political landscape. The reason  being that history is controlled by time and the chronology documenting it. This results in an almost customary law that leaves the spatial dimension unnoticed.

Schlegel concentrates on creating an understanding for the unity of space, time and the actions that takes place within a space, creating an awareness of what Americans would refer to as spacing history. To an extend the readability of the world is not the only important aspect important in understanding the world as an  historical document, but rather the physical engagement and movement within the world that becomes the paradigmatic understanding of spatial history. Space is a suitable arena and frame of reference to represent an entire epoch with all its complexity.

Space itself establishes complexity and owns an official right against the parcelling and segmenting that is favored by researchers, contextualizing  and enforcing perceptional reproduction. Schegel draws a focus in his book on historical prospects and reflections that describes history and space as a unity.  What can be gained from historical perception and insight when we start to take the space that forms the centre of the historical event serious? Schegel describes in fifty studies the basis for his findings as stages, influxes, approaches and exercises.  The return of space forms a central understanding of the book, one is taken through the different facets of space as a part of history. The point where space lost its importance until the point where it became prominent again e.g. 11. September 2001 is best described as a spatial turn which forms part of the spatial genealogy.  The thought of complex spatial environments and coherent political revisions come only after time and space have been detached from older geographical determinism. The spatial re-positioning of human history brings us to a point of re-organizing, thus new-configuring older disciplines: from geography to semiotics, from history to arts, from literature to politics. Cartography in Schlegels approach does not describe the history of map reading but depicts a series of studies and exercises concentrating on the various formats of spatial representation within maps. Maps are described as static indicators of space not as descriptors of space. Visuality is best understood in Schlegels context as visual descriptions that suggests an overflow of images rather then a lack thereof.

Our eyes have become equipment in differentiating as well of reading, however the functionality of the senses take on a different role and becomes hypersensitive in understanding our perception of history. The last collection of studies in Schlegel’s book concentrates on  European Transparency describing Europe not only as a concept or a collection of morals but finally and most important as space.  Schlegel does not provide one with a compact theory or study guide to history and suggests it also not. Its not a summary of historical cartography nor is it an introduction to cultural semiotics but is best described as approaches and exercises in re-training the senses and how to systematically sharpen our perception of space.

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar