The current issue includes “Point, Line, and Plane,” selected works from Lyndl Hall’s project on navigation and cartography.
Point, Line, and Plane are the tools of the draughtsman, the cartographer, and the geometer. Points gather into lines, project into planes, and emanate out of instruments of delineation: pencil, sundial, compass, sextant, etc. These instruments have been used in some form or other for centuries, in the hands of the expert and the amateur — the sextant to cross an ocean, the sundial to pass the hours in contemplation. It is this mix of precision and poeticism that holds my interest. As measuring instruments they collect quantitative information; but they also accumulate metaphoric qualities (this can be seen most clearly in the tradition of inscribing epigraphs on sundials). It is as if these tools emerge equally out of two worlds: the empirically abstract and the physically embodied, neither one having precedence over the other. The information they generate locates and positions a moving self within a network of invisible lines that intersects with geometry projected onto the universe. At the same time these tools are products of a physical engagement with the forces of the world (sun, shadow, clouds, horizon, etc.) and speak to more qualitative notions of the landscape and one’s experience in a specific location. It is my interest in these alternating ways of making sense of the world that produced the following series of works.
As part of this project, the artist book There Are Others Ways of Inhabiting the World (2012) is a reproduction of the Latitude and Longitude tables from the turn of the century compendium, A Complete Set of Nautical Tables, with Explanations of their Use, Rearranged and Considerably Extended by a Committee of Experts. Forming the most complete set of Nautical Tables in Existence by J.W. Norie. Pages are laid out in facsimile with one variation: I have shifted the Prime Meridian from Greenwich, England to Vancouver, Canada, and all subsequent Longitude points are adjusted accordingly. Still accurate as a working manual this version reflects the time when, prior to standardization in 1884, a variety of ‘Prime’ meridians were in use throughout Europe. During this time perimeters and boundaries were being mapped with increasing accuracy, yet stray rocks and reported (but unconfirmed) islands could still be found in the lists of known points. Many of the place names evoke the emotional experience of the sailor at sea for long periods of time; for example, there are five Providences; three Hope Islands; many Danger, Despair, or Desolation points, reefs, or rocks; a Resolution Bay; ruins of note at Port Desire; and a Seldom Come By Harbour. These place names belie the system of measurement that so neatly lays out an empirical world apparently tamed through mapping; they speak to an attempt to come to terms with the physical reality of the world unaccounted for by a conceptual understanding of space. Here a poetry of the Geometer begins to emerge.
For more, see TCR 3.22 (Winter 2014)