Landscape syncope: desire, power and the presence–absence of landscape

Efrat Hildesheim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article conceptualises the notion of the landscape syncope: a political landscape performance generated by desire, which affects landscape perception. The syncopal mode involves a core of absence that pertains to a topographical gap mediated by suspension, movement and revelation. The article explores three case studies that address designed and seemingly natural landscapes–the ‘ha-ha’ in the English landscape garden, the Baroque gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte, and the landscape of Israel’s eastern border. These case studies point to the scope of the landscape syncope, which operates as a counterpoint in the landscape. The analysis builds on an interdisciplinary inquiry that addresses the critical discourse on landscape, garden and art history, as well as critical psychoanalysis and cultural discourse. The discussion links the Lacanian notion of objet (petit) a and the structure of (partially satisfied) desire with the ambiguity and elusiveness of landscape, and its ontology of lack and absence. The article suggests the syncopal mode as an interpretation of landscape, as a manifestation of power and a political performance of desire.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-423
Number of pages20
JournalCulture, Theory and Critique
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Shlomo Glass & Phany Balaban-Glass Foundation
Tel Aviv University


    • Landscape syncope
    • desire
    • objet (petit) a
    • political landscape
    • power
    • present-absent


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