56 WALKING PRACTICES WALKING ART WALKING BODIES Prespa, June 30th to July 7th
Stella Sylaiou / Yannis Ziogas
Topophilia in the physical
and digital space
Department of Fine and Applied Arts,
University of Western Macedonia
There is a long and lasting discussion in several con-
tiguous elds on the moot point of what is a place and
how to dene it. There are consequences of concep-
tualizing space in terms of a measurable objectively
dened element as opposed to a heterogeneous con-
tinuum of experiences, narratives, and emotions. An
array of theorists spanning from the humanistic tradi-
tion in geography as well as in anthropology, to con-
temporary thinkers on the post-modern approaches
on non-places have offered their views on the subject.
A central element of this ongoing discussion is the bi-
nary opposition of place as opposed to space respec-
tively conveying place as a geometrically stratied,
quantiable, given in contradistinction to space as a
term encompassing the cultural, personal, experiential
import that a location may bear. Michael de Certeau,
Deleuze, and Guattari, (in numerous instances and
throughout their publications), have drawn a distinc-
tion respectively between place as a rigid context
and space as lived, experienced, actualized place
which bears the energies, sensibilities and potentialities
of the people who enliven it, whereas the latter, intro-
duced likewise, the notions of stratied as opposed to
smooth space. Yi-Fu Tuan refers to the conundrum of
two diverging conceptualizations of spatial elements:
the subjective and the one that relates to the (perceived
as) objective. He was defending a position according to
which both positions have to be taken into account si-
multaneously to be able to gain a grasp of what a place
is without losing sight of the complexity and the incom-
mensurability of the opposing/diverging approaches
that comprise the essence of space. Narratives, asso-
ciations, feelings, movements, actions, and practices
inextricably linked to places are seen as part of what a
place is about, and all the more what a place becomes.
57WALKING PRACTICES WALKING ART WALKING BODIES Prespa, June 30th to July 7th
previous century.1 Nevertheless, the tension between
actual space and its digital reproduction or (re)presen-
tation opens up new discussions and generates theo-
retical implications to the same extent that it provides
a fertile background for artistic explorations in-between
the ‘actual’ and the ‘articial’.
Place, space and eld
A procedure of locating, delineating and rendering
geographic space in a process of artistic reexivity, per-
haps even more broadly, is neither related to the map
that depicts it, nor to the document does that register
it. Geographical space exists beyond factual, geomet-
rical or other characteristics and is dened mostly by
its mnemonic reconstructions. A village fountain, for
example, may have been registered larger or smaller
or in different colors, in accordance with the mnemonic
projections of the individual who experienced it in the
past.2 More specically, due to the fact that, within the
capabilities as well as in the structure of the internet,
map functions as “an a-topic place of memory”.3
Location can be interpreted through two antithetical
dimensions, the place and space according to the dis-
tinction introduced by Tuan (1979). According to Tuan
“Place is … a reality that can be claried and understood
1. Sylaiou S., Chountasi Μ., Lagoudi Ε. (2018b). Psychogeography and Digital
Age: A New Concept of Urban Landscape and Art. In S. Sylaiou & Y. Ziogas
(Eds.) the Proceedings of the International Conference Landscape: Stories,
political representations, Visual March to Prespa, September 9 and 10, 2015,
State Museum of Contemporary Art, essaloniki, Greece.
2. Here, a reference on a recollection of Yannis Ziogas is made: “A central
element in the life of the village Foustani in the area of Aridea, where his fam-
ily lived, was the village fountain, registered in his memory as exceptionally
large. Almost 40 years aerward, when the writer visited once again Foustani,
he saw that the same fountain was actually far smaller compared to what had
been registered in his memory”.
3. Huyssen, A. (2003). Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of
Memory. Stanford: Stanford University Press
This paper is concerned primarily with artistic
practices pertinent to the exploration, reformulation,
reinterpretation of space through movement, em-
bodiment, experience, walking art being the prime
example. Nevertheless, the approach of this text is
to adopt a strategy or method akin to that of the sci-
entist, theorist, artist even, This strategy oscillates
between a close look on the detail and taking a step
back to see the ‘big picture’ before returning to their
work once again. They initiate a repeated cyclical
process of zooming in and out to make meaning of
the intricate interconnections of the localized to its
wider context. Therefore, a theoretical discussion is
provided on the binary terms surrounding the notions
of place/space, topophilia/topophobia, nostalgia/stig-
ma before venturing to circumnavigate the borders of
contemporary artistic practices. These are ourishing
globally and elaborate on how spaces are felt, lived,
used as the locus and the essence of artistic explo-
rations. Also, they explore what is a place, and by
extension what art is or may be, as well as what expe-
rience, encounter, and nally self is about.
Digital spaces in contradistinction to the physical
or actual spaces offer another layer of complexity to
the abovementioned quests. This is reminiscent of
the advent of photography seen by several artists of
the time as a potential threat or even the death knell
of painting; however, the introduction of photography
and other technologies (re)producing imagery gave
a breath of new life to visual arts by opening up hith-
erto unforeseen, until then, artistic possibilities. Dig-
itally depicted/rendered spaces with the additional
introduction of virtual/mixed reality technologies
can only complicate, enrich and diversify the artis-
tic possibilities as happened during the turn of the
58 WALKING PRACTICES WALKING ART WALKING BODIES Prespa, June 30th to July 7th
Stella Sylaiou / Yannis Ziogas
through the perspectives of people who have given it
meaning”4 while “The study of space, from the human-
istic perspective, is thus the study of a people’s spatial
feelings and ideas in the stream of experience”.5 Tuan,
often uses binary schemes (or oppositions) for under-
standing geography, namely, Segmented Worlds and
Self, Continuity and Discontinuity, Morality and Imag-
ination, Cosmos and Hearth, Dominance and Affec-
tion, and last but not least, Topophilia and Topophobia.
As an outcome of these binary terms, topophilia/ to-
pophobia can help revisit and re-examine terms with
archetypical signicance such as return, nostalgia, en-
Tuan nevertheless goes a step further, as his love
of place, topophilia, described in his words as the
“affective bond between people and place”,6 judging
from his own experience can be something far more
important than a relation of affection: it may well be a
relation of identication. Tuan describes his encounter
with Death Valley in terms of nding the equivalent of
his true essence liberated from the constraints of the
symbolic: “In my very rst encounter with the desert, I
felt as though I had met my geographical double—the
objective correlative of the person I am, absent the so-
cial façade”.7 It is perhaps this exact element that ren-
ders the encounters with inanimate, yet lived space
and landscapes so important: in their archetypical and
often strange presence, confront us with aspects of
who we are that could not be felt and experience with-
out these encounters. Therefore, open spaces can be
4. Tuan, Y.-F., (1979). Space and Place: Humanistic Perspective. In S. Gale and
G. Olsson (Eds.) Philosophy in Geography. 387. Boston: D. Reidel Pub. Co.
5. Ibid 388.
6. Tuan, Y.-F. (1974). Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perceptions, Atti-
tudes, and Values. 4. Englewood Clis: Prentice-Hall.
7. Tuan, Y.-F. (2004). Place, Art, and Self. 19. Santa Fe: Center for
felt as doubles or doppelgangers of an unmediated, by
the symbolic order and essential sense of self.
In this way, the nostalgia is not necessarily pertinent to
a return to a place deeply carved into the soul, but more
importantly a return to, as well as an encounter with
who we essentially are, beyond and above the social
and the symbolic. In other words, topophilia relates to
a nostalgia emanating from a return not to a place lost,
but to a holistic sense of self, sorely missed, that needs
specic places to emerge. This recognition of a place,
a landscape by the inner self, or by what can be called
‘soul’, is akin to the Platonic recognition by the soul of
things that are of a true and timeless essence, a pursuit
that underpins philosophy as well as art. Tuan offers his
conclusion in the book with the telling title ‘Who Am I?
An Autobiography of Emotion, Mind, and Spirit’: “Over
time, I was forced to conclude that, for me, beauty has
to be inhuman—even inanimate—to be a balm to the
soul. Thus my love of the desert”. 8 Tuan underlines the
emotional, experiential, existential aspect even of the
encounter with space, which is so important in artistic
interpretations of being-in-space, however, he offers a
theoretical position which not only acknowledges the
equal importance of the place as a physical, measur-
able, actual location but all the more posits that a bal-
ancing act between the two poles, namely, space as
subjective experience and place as an objective given,
has to be adopted in the way the binary terms place/
space have to be addressed.
For the location, according to Tuan, the place can be
8. Tuan, Y.-F. (1999). Who Am I? An Autobiography of Emotion, Mind, and
Spirit. 55. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
59WALKING PRACTICES WALKING ART WALKING BODIES Prespa, June 30th to July 7th
interpreted through the understanding that the logic of
the visual can offer, whereas space is studied through
the analysis of experience. Location is morphed through
the interrelation of space and place. Tuan suggests that
location is a geographic area that is to be approached
with measurable terms (place) and with emotional deter-
minations (space) in equal measure. Tuan revisits and
brings forth again the term topophilia, a term introduced
by John Betjeman and W.H. Auden in 1948 and, in con-
tradistinction, he juxtaposes to it the term topophobia.
Topophobia describes as a term (as well as a phenom-
enon) the instances of places that generate negative
feelings, as Seaman9 puts it, individuals or social/ethnic
groups develop “ties that are distasteful in some way, or
induce anxiety and depression” with specic locations
or areas. According to Seamon (2018) ‘Experientially,
places are multivalent in their constitution and complex
in their dynamics. On one hand, places can be liked,
cherished, and loved; on the other hand, they can be
disliked, distrusted, and feared’.10 Tuan uses two terms
therefore, to describe the human emotions concerning
places; those stirred by a positive experience of a lo-
cation and those generated by a negative association.
The emotion most closely linked with topophilia as dis-
cussed above, is nostalgia, whereas that related to to-
pophobia is the feeling of stigma (-tisation). Topophilia
acts like an emotional magnet that encourages return to
a location. Conversely, stigma functions in a deterrent
way. The stigma of a location is usually associated with
a painful personal experience or a historical event that
9. Seaman, D. (1982). e Phenomenological Contribution to Environmental
Psychology. In Journal of Environmental Psychology, (2) 55.
10. Seamon, D. (2018). Seamon, D. (2018). Life takes place. Phenomenology,
lifeworlds, and place making. Andover: Routledge Ltd.
denes the place and is part of the identity of a particu-
lar place. As Zissi explains, referring to the social depre-
ciation of individuals and groups:
“The origin of the stigma is ideological and as such
presupposes the analysis of representations, dominant
perceptions and predetermined ideas that construct the
social and cultural meanings of normal, the rules and
exemplars of ‘normal’ social behavior”.11
By analogy, a place as well may acquire the charac-
teristic of the stigma, and this stigma constitutes a con-
stant or at least a long-lasting point of negotiation by the
person who feels/regards it as such. The stigma of the
place is transferred to the person itself and individual-
ized thereby creating a “character” that the person who
is stigmatized will have to negotiate.
These ideas of space and place have enriched the
term eld and its rst introduction in the work of the ab-
stract expressionists of the ’40s and ’50s. For painters
like Pollock, Rothko, Still the pictorial eld was a vast
area of projecting emotions and recreating the dynam-
ics of the sublimity of the landscape in a two-dimension-
al surface (the pictorial canvas). This interpretation of
the pictorial surface as a eld has opened new ways
of approaching the visual arts practice that created the
most radical movements of late Modernism. In a con-
temporary approach, visual practice can be developed
in landscapes where place and space (reality vs. feel-
ings) are approached as areas that are elds of cre-
ativity.12 The ‘eld’ of abstract expressionism becomes
again an actual landscape; in that expanded eld the
11. Zissi, A. (2017). Postgraduate Studies Program Dossier for Clinical Psy-
chology and Art for the lesson Applied Clinical Sociology: Social aberration,
excluded groups , and psychic health. 7.
12. Ziogas, Y. (2015). e eld of Prespa or la originalité of the eld. In Y.
Ziogas (Ed.) the catalog of the exhibition: Visual March to Prespa 2007-2014,
A process of experiencing the landscape. 13-17. essaloniki: State Museum
of Contemporary Art.
60 WALKING PRACTICES WALKING ART WALKING BODIES Prespa, June 30th to July 7th
Stella Sylaiou / Yannis Ziogas
practicing artist is shaping his/her work conceptualizing
the ideas of place and space.
Space and place in the digital age
The terms and denitions mentioned above, place,
topophilia-nostalgia, topophobia-stigma, return, can
also be transferred to the era of modern digitality, at
the time when a place is not only a true three-dimen-
sional space, even if they exist through their memory
reconstruction, but also the space characterized by the
digital analogousness. The site, in a modern version,
becomes a digital archive where an intangible image
is recorded to form the image of a new part. This very
intangible nature of a digital tour is often an antinomy,
or a contradiction to the actuality of a movement in a
landscape or a room.
In this new area of non-senses one cannot be trans-
ferred with their body, but with their ability to magnify
specic areas and especially in case of high deni-
tion les, to discover versions not visible with the initial
approach/ with the rst look. Blow up (as in the mov-
ie bearing the same title), as depicted by Antonioni, is
an everyday tool, available for use to anyone. Modern
forms of technology allow us to navigate through the lo-
cations depicted in digital images/les or archives, and
to discover details, objects or even events in them.
Pauline McKenzie Aucoin13 foregrounds a model
based on zooming in and out of a spatial context re-
spectively, focusing alternately, on the local detail and
13. McKenzie Aucoin P. (2017). Toward an Anthropological Understanding of
Space and Place. In Bruce B.-J. (Ed.), Place, Space and Hermeneutics, 395-412.
then on the ‘big picture’ trying to nd connections be-
tween the specicity of the local and the surrounding
parameters which may inuence and condition it as
such. She stipulates that:
“Interpretation in any cross-cultural study of space
and place is a dialogical process, requiring that the ob-
servation, recording, and accumulation of information
are acquired through a “continuous dialectical tacking
between the most local of the local detail and the most
global of global structure … back and forth between the
whole conceived through the parts that actualize it and
the parts conceived through the whole which motivated
them”,14 this whole/part method (modeled after Dilthey)
comprising the hermeneutic circle. The acquiring of
knowledge concerning space and place proceeds until
the whole of a culture’s experience and sense of the
world is understood; so that both its Topophilia […],15 as
w e l l a s i t s To p o p h o b i a [ … ] c a n b e a p p r e c i a t e d ” .
Respectively with navigation programs, such as the
google map, the digital nomad can discover any, at
least the urban, areas of the planet, through a move-
ment in even the farthest countries. In place of the lo-
cus, an intangible image is formed where each location
has incorporated a story or stories that are sometimes
recorded and sometimes not. Every depiction/render-
ing creates a new recording of a story in the place of
space; the emotional recall of the place, in a digital
version becomes the matrix space itself to create new
14. Geertz C. (1983). Local Knowledge. Further Essays in Interpretive An-
thropology. 69. New York: Basic Books.
15. Tuan, Y.-F. (1974). Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perceptions, At-
titudes, and Values. 4. Englewood Clis: Prentice-Hall.
61WALKING PRACTICES WALKING ART WALKING BODIES Prespa, June 30th to July 7th
Rodman20 provides a discussion on Tuan21 who
points to the neglect of speech as a “curious gap
in the extensive and growing literature on place”.
Tuan, as Rodman explains, advocates an expan-
sion of human geography to include speech and
writing as integral to both place-making and geo-
graphic inquiry. Rodman after discussing in-depth
Tuan’s approach which favors the inclusion of nar-
rative, spoken or written to realize place22 offers an
important aphorism: “But places come into being
through praxis, not just through narratives”. Import-
ant as the narratives written/spoken/multimodal
may be in their analog or digital forms, it is praxis
that effectively actualizes spaces and renders them
worthy of what is described as “lived space”.
Praxis, which turns a place into lived, experienced
and meaningful space, can well be artistic, emo-
tionally charged and conceptually dense processes
which comprising some kind of narrative form im-
plicit, explicit or allegorical, as well as (inter)actions,
movements, trajectories that leave traces in the
form of artworks. Such forms of art such as walking
art practices do not merely transcribe or convey the
experience of the space, all the more they inscribe
themselves in what the locations are, they re-write
their stories, they become part of them, they change
them in the perception of the viewers/participants
into another landscape, one that incorporates the
sensibilities of the artists vis-à-vis the locus which
engendered them. Walking art in this sense as well
as pertinent practices, do not address the space;
they become the space in human consciousness,
20. Rodman 1992, Ibid.
21, Tuan 1991, Ibid 684.
22. Ibid 695.
spaces of consciousness and everyday life. Rodman16
comments on the humanistic approach of geography,
which is ‘attentive to the environment as experienced
by people’, positing that in a sense, places not only
feature in inhabitants’ (and geographers’) narratives,
they are narratives in their own right: “a place comes
explicitly into being in the discourse of its inhabitants,
and particularly in the rhetoric it promotes”.17 Rodman
quotes Entrikin’s book, The Betweenness of Place,18 to
highlight the importance of adopting, as Tuan posits as
well, an in-between position to the subjectivist concept
of the space as one hinged on narratives and personal
experience on the one hand, and the objectivist percep-
tion of place on the other.
“This divide between the existential and naturalis-
tic conceptions of place appears to be a un-bridgeable
one, and one that is only made wider in adopting a de-
centered [objective] view. The closest that we can come
to address both sides of this divide is from a point in be-
tween, a point that leads us into the vast realm of narra-
tive forms. From this position, we gain a view from both
sides of the divide. We gain a sense both of being “in
a place” and “at a location”, of being at the center and
being at a point in a centerless world. To ignore either
aspect of this dualism is to misunderstand the modern
experience of place”.19
16. Rodman, M.-C. (1992). Empowering Place: Multilocality and Mul-
tivocality. In American Anthropologist, New Series, (Vol. 94, 3), 640-656.
Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological
Association. In http://www.jstor.org/stable/680566 (Accessed: 10 November
17. Berdoulay, V. (1989). Place, Meaning, and Discourse. In French Language
Geography. Agnew J.-A., and Duncan J.-S. (Eds.) in e Power of Place, 135.
London: Unwin Hyman, see also Tuan 1991, Ibid.
18. Entrikin, J.-N. (1991). e Betweenness of Place: Toward a Geography of
Modernity. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
19. Tuan, Y.-F. (1991). Language and the Making of Place: A Narrative-Descrip-
tive Approach. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 81(4), 134.
62 WALKING PRACTICES WALKING ART WALKING BODIES Prespa, June 30th to July 7th
Stella Sylaiou / Yannis Ziogas
which, after all, is the nal advocate of what a space
is. Through the examples of digital approaches, the
instances from the development of Visual March to
Prespa23 are examined and the way in which these
23. Ziogas, Y. (2018). Visual March to Prespa. Walking as a contemplative pro-
cess In Journal Interartive https://walkingart.interartive.org/2018/12/ziogas
(Accessed: 10 November 2019).
Berdoulay, V. (1989) Place, Meaning, and Discourse.
In French Language Geography. Agnew J.-A., &
Duncan J.-S. (Eds.) in The Power of Place, 124-139.
London: Unwin Hyman.
Huyssen, A. (2003). Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests
and the Politics of Memory. Stanford: Stanford Uni-
Entrikin, J.-N. (1991). The Betweenness of Place: To-
ward a Geography of Modernity. Baltimore, MD:
Johns Hopkins University Press.
Geertz, C. (1983). Local Knowledge. Further Essays in
Interpretive Anthropology. New York: Basic Books.
McKenzie Aucoin P. (2017), Toward an Anthropological
Understanding of Space and Place. In B.-J. Bruce
(Ed.), Place, Space and Hermeneutics, 395-412.
Rodman, M.-C. (1992). Empowering Place: Multilocality
and Multivocality, American Anthropologist, New Se-
ries, 94 (3), 640-656.
Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Ameri-
can Anthropological Association, in http://www.jstor.
org/stable/680566 (Accessed: 10 November 2019).
Seaman, D. (1982) The Phenomenological Contribution
to Environmental Psychology. Journal of Environmen-
tal Psychology 2: 119–140.
examples develop the conceptual implications of
topophilia and topophobia, and the way that these
phenomena form the intervention processes in a
community dened as the place of return.
Seamon, D. (2018). Seamon, D. (2018). Life takes place.
Phenomenology, lifeworlds, and place making. Ando-
ver: Routledge Ltd.
Sylaiou, S., Lagoudi, Ε., Chountasi Μ. (2018a). Situa-
tionism and creation of situations in digital art environ-
ments, In the proceedings of the International Con-
ference Landscape: Stories, political representations,
Visual March to Prespa, 9 and 10 September 2015.
Thessaloniki: State Museum of Contemporary Art.
Sylaiou, S., Chountasi Μ., Lagoudi, Ε. (2018b). Psy-
chogeography and Digital Age: A New Concept of
Urban Landscape and Art. In the proceedings of the
International Conference Landscape: Stories, politi-
cal representations, Visual March to Prespa, 9 and 10
September 2015. Thessaloniki: State Museum of Con-
Sylaiou, S., Chountasi, M., Lagoudi, E. (2018c). Towards
the Digital Age Psychogeography and the hybrid ân-
neur. In Journal Interartive https://walkingart.interar-
(Accessed:10 November 2019).
Sylaiou, S., Kasapakis, V., Gavalas, D., Dzardanova, E.
(2018d). Leveraging Mixed Reality Technologies to
Enhance Museum Visitor Experiences. In 9th IEEE In-
63WALKING PRACTICES WALKING ART WALKING BODIES Prespa, June 30th to July 7th
ternational Conference on Intelligent Systems, Madeira
Island, Portugal 25-27 September 2018, 595-601.
Tuan, Y.-F. (1974). Topophilia: A Study of Environmental
Perceptions, Attitudes, and Values. Englewood Cliffs:
Tuan, Y.-F. (1979). Space and Place: Humanistic Per-
spective. In S. Gale and G. Olsson (Eds.), Philosophy
in Geography. Boston: D. Reidel Pub. Co.
Tuan, Y.-F. (1991). Language and the Making of Place: A
Narrative-Descriptive Approach. In Annals of the Asso-
ciation of American Geographers. 81(4): 684-696.
Tuan, Y.-F. (1999). Who Am I? An Autobiography of Emotion,
Mind, and Spirit. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Tuan, Y.-F. (2004). Place, Art, and Self. Santa Fe: Center
for American Places.
Tuan (2004). Place, Art, and Self. Santa Fe: Center for
Ziogas, Y. (2015). The eld of Prespa or la originalité
of the eld, catalog of the exhibition: Visual March
to Prespa 2007-2014, A process of experiencing the
landscape. Thessaloniki: State Museum of Contem-
Ziogas, Y. (2018). Visual March to Prespa. Walking as a
contemplative process. In Interartive https://walking-
(Accessed: 10 November 2019).