A creative project exploring the nature of specific spaces that philosophers have used in order to think and write



The project Thinking Place has emerged from research work conducted as part of my PhD submission in the spring of 2005 at Goldsmiths College (University of London). In particular, I wrote extensively on the relationship between philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and the unassuming wooden building built for him at Todtanuberg in the Black Forest south of Freiburg.

From here, I began exploring other thinkers and the specific locations (and buildings) that were associated with them. Visiting the site of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (1889-1951) hut at Skjolden in Norway provided the opportunity to develop the project further and this culminated in an exhibition at The Oxford House Gallery in London in April 2016 entitled, Thinking Place – Reimagining Wittgenstein’s Hut.

I am currently undertaking further theoretical and visual research on Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess (1912 – 2009) who had two huts built at Tvergastein (also in Norway).

The creative work involves a number of practices – from the construction of accurate scale models and dioramas to the recording of visits to the sites using photographs and field notes.

In October 1913, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 -1951) left Cambridge and his studies with Bertrand Russell, and retreated to Skjolden; a small village situated at the end of the Lusterfjord in Norway, to spend the winter contemplating logic while walking the paths bordering Lake Eidsvatnet. Wittgenstein had first visited the village in the summer of 1913. He returned later that year to make an extended stay and resided in the village. The following year, he commissioned local builders to begin building a hut overlooking the lake on the north side and about a mile from the village. Wittgenstein’s stays at the hut from 1921 until his death in 1951 were intermittent. It was never a permanent residence for him but operated as a bolt-hole from both his professional and personal lives; teaching in Cambridge and family in Vienna.
German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) wrote extensively on the significance of ‘dwelling’ and ‘place’ in relation to ‘Being’ and the importance of poetic language to philosophical thought. The sense of an understanding of intimacy and proximity through poetic language permeated his writings as did the importance and particularity of place. However, to one particular place Heidegger gave a ‘special legitimacy’. This was a small wooden hut (the footprint measuring approximately 6x7 metres), built for him and situated on the north side of a valley facing south, in the mountains of the Black Forest south of Freiburg and close to the village of Todtnauberg.
In 1937, Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess (1912-2009) began constructing a cabin at Tvergastein in central Norway. The location lies at just over 1500 metres above sea level along the Hallingskarvet Ridge and is almost at the physical limit of where human habitation can take place. Latterly, a second smaller hut was constructed on the very top of Hallingskarvet. From this box-like shed, Naess postulated a symbiosis of humans, animals and plants– what he subsequently referred to as ecosophy.


Mark Riley is an artist, writer, and academic. He is a Senior Lecturer in Photography at University of Roehampton, London. Mark completed a BA (Hons) in Sculpture at Central School of Art and Design in 1985, an MA in Fine Art at Central St Martins in 1997, and a PhD in Philosophy at Goldsmiths College (University of London) in 2005.

Installation projects have been exhibited at Manchester Metropolitan University (2005) and The APT Gallery in London (2007). He has contributed a chapter entitled Disorientation, Duration and Tarkovsky to Schizoanalysis and Cinema (edited by Ian Buchanan and Patricia MacCormack) and published by Continuum in 2008.

Most recently, he has exhibited the installation project, Thinking Place – Reimagining Wittgenstein’s Hut at the Oxford House Gallery, London, in April 2016. He has also contributed a book chapter entitled Place as Palimpsest: Paul Celan and Martin Heidegger and the Haunting of Todtnauberg to the publication Haunted Landscapes: Super-Nature and the Environment (part of the series Place, Memory, Affect), edited by Ruth Heholt and Niamh Downing, and published by Rowman Littlefield International in November 2016.

He is currently exhibiting work in the Machines à Penser exhibition at Fondazione Prada Venice (26 May – 25 Nov 2018) as part of the Architecture Biennale and has written for the gallery publication.


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