Axe Imaginaires - Art that creates places: exploring the spatial value of images in the Maya built environment

Axe Imaginaires - Art that creates places: exploring the spatial value of images in the Maya built environment

Première conférence organisée dans le cadre de l’axe scientifique « Imaginaires » de la MSH Mondes.

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Daniel Salazar (chercheur post-doctorant Conacyt- Mexique / ArchAm) nous présentera ses travaux en cours autour des thématiques qui ont trait à l’axe « Imaginaires ».

A place can be defined as an environment locus differentiated from the others and distinguished by the fusion of physical elements, historical aspects, memories, experiences, meanings, and foundational or meaning-generating actions. According to various researchers (Relph 2008, Seamon 2014), a place's materiality creates or models a notion about its meaning and function and creates patterns of behavior, action, and perception codes. In archaeological terms, we can be close to understanding the sense of a place by studying its built form (Swenson 2015).

In pre-Hispanic Maya culture (ca. 800 BC - 1500 AD), one of the strategies used to create meanings in the environment was integrating images in architecture, which constitutes a structuring and generative principle that transforms physical locations into specific places embedded in the built space. In these places, the images do not operate as independent objects but as elements that, when interconnected with others, generate a complete, physical, and experiential context.

In Maya studies, one of the avenues of analysis that opens with these postulates is the participation of images in the generation of specific places and the level of complementation that they have with other features and stimuli of the environment. A kind of ecology of images focused on the themes represented and the messages transmitted visually, but also on the spatial value of the images, or the multiple ways they have to function in specific environments, connecting with the materiality and the circumstances of perception (Mitchel 2015). In other words, when speaking of a contextual analysis of images, it should be considered that they participate in a web of meanings that goes beyond the mere sum of parts.

The proposed seminar will seek to explore, discuss, and demonstrate the spatial value of images in the Maya built environment and their ability to create a notion of place with a social role. The Substructure II C of Calakmul will be our case study for being one of the earliest examples of the Maya area (ca. 400 - 300 BC) in which there is a complement between art and architecture. The study will allow us to understand some specific categories of spaces used by the Maya of later periods. This analysis will enable us to know the formulas used to create and connote places in a broader comparative framework.