Gaston Bachelard, in The Dialectics of Outside and Inside (1994: 211), explores a poetics of ‘being.’ Countenancing philosophical and linguistic determinations in relation to space, he proposes that language itself is dialectically structured by appearing to be either open or closed: “through meaning it encloses, while through poetic expression, it opens up” (Bachelard,1994: 222, italics in original). Following Bachelard, I suggest there is a dialectical relationship between the materiality of the industrial clay mining landscape and its apparent fictional representation – the Cornish Alps as fantasy. Suggesting ‘inside’ and ‘outside,’ appear to represent the “sharpness of the dialectics of yes and no” (Bachelard, 1994: 211) Bachelard uses poetics to reconcile the two terms. He claims some hyphenated words may blend both spaces, exampling ‘being-there’ as a term requiring a stress on either ‘being’ or ‘there.’ De Certeau develops a similar position with the ‘here’ and ‘there’ of walking claiming it introduces the notion of near and far (1988: 99). The terms ‘reality’ and ‘fantasy,’ also have a similar, sharp dialectic. They also clearly operate as binaries: a reality vs. a fantasy. However, it is difficult to see how this binary account of space functions. There is no doubting how the clay area came to look like it currently looks – as a result of industrial labour, of mining. It became what we see today because of the mechanisms of capital and economics of employment. In this sense, the landscape has been shaped by a day-to-day, year-on-year reality of clay mining. How then, is it possible to simultaneously consider the landscape as a fictional space of fantasy and as the real consequence of industry?
Like similar parts of the United Kingdom, the clay area seems out of synchronisation with life in the Twenty-first Century and its largely immaterial and service economy. There is a peculiar coexistence of old industry and inactivity, of work without work or place out of time. As one participant in my research observed: “This part of Cornwall would be very, very, different if it wasn’t for the clay industry” (Anonymous Research Participant) but his words reflect not only on the physical appearance of the area, they were also a commentary on the social-economics of living there. As they suggested: “People dislike working in the clay industry. They get up in the morning not wanting to go to work. They also feel rather insecure about their jobs” (Anonymous Research Participant). While another noted the devastation when the industry laid off thousands of people.
Largely because of their scale the open cast mines appear as vast sites in which little is taking place. The area feels isolated and cut off from the reality of Cornwall and the rest of the United Kingdom. As a local resident describes: “When we first moved here, which was about 30 years ago, we had a choice between moving into the clay area and outside of the clay area. It was interesting to note there was a marked difference in pricing. And the estate agent’s business was divided into clay area and non-clay area. We ended up living on the edge!” (Anonymous Research Participant). Bachelard identifies a particular “geometrical fixation” (1994: 213) suggesting the world is constantly organised and marked out. Boundaries and borders form and create the shapes of space. This delineation arranges the world we experience into a series of places and ‘other places’. The demarcation of place by boundaries requires the acknowledgement of the authority and justifications of boundaries and the institutions creating and supporting them – the land registry, the council, the police, private surveillance etc. These apparatus (or to use Foucault’s term) the ‘dispositif,’ contain place through their various discourses of ownership and access as well as by means of their physical barriers and marked out divisions between one area and the next. It is not a significant divergence to connect the notion of the geometrical organisation of real space with that of the perspectival arrangement of space in representational painting. Brunelleschi’s ‘cone of vision’ situates a subject at the point of its triangle, facing toward the flattened plane of the painting. Representational space is thus organised around an observer, the horizon and its points of infinity – its vanishing points. Nevertheless, this single and reductive account of space is “inappropriate to the description of psychological functions” (Burgin, 1996: 40) of the subject. Space is never just a physical interaction it is inevitably also a psychical interaction, too.
We might conclude, from this partial social sketch, that reality in the clay area is clearly distinguishable from any fantasy implied by the name the ‘Cornish Alps.’ However, I argue the reality of the clay area constitutively requires a fantasy of the Cornish Alps. In expressing an unconscious desire in defining something such as the Cornish Alps we come up against a paradox. (It should be stressed, I take the description of the Cornish Alps to be more than a matter of verisimilitude between two places.) Instead, I conclude the Cornish Alps is the expression of unconscious desires, wishes and conflicts of the people who live in the area. In this case, this is their way of being able to or managing to ‘be-there,’ as Bachelard might have put it. But this is not an act of resistance toward a clay industry as some oppressive force. This is a manifestation of how reality needs a “fantasy in order to retain its consistency: if we subtract fantasy, the fantasmatic frame, from reality, reality itself loses its consistency” (Žižek 2014: 324). The fantasmatic frame, so much like the photographic frame, imposes a set of relations. It operates through a particular logic of inclusion and exclusion. It, therefore, requires logical thinking in order to understand it. We might begin by asking, in the specific context of the Cornish Alps, what conditions need to be satisfied in order for there to be this fantasy? I suggest, firstly, there is a direct metonymic association, this emanates from the verisimilitude of one landscape with another landscape. This, of course, is also part of the logic of representation – it requires a judgement in order to decide that one place resembles another. But how does fantasy enter into the relations of space, place and landscape? Psychoanalysis offers the account of transference to describe the way in which a patient relates to their analyst. It is seen as an unconscious use of the analyst. Similar to the way Freud described transference the research showed the Cornish Alps represents a facsimile of impulses and fantasies (Freud, 1905: 157) for the local population.