Fiona Lee, The Board (detail), 2009, CAST, North Hobart, Tasmania

06 January 2011


Maps both topographic and cadastral have always held a fascination for their layering of representations of physical forms with the immateriality of social and political experience. Rather than stemming the flow of memory, or correcting its creative excesses, maps open up longer histories, alternative narratives, secret files.  Parish maps and first grants, road alienations, accretions and erosions, rights of way, subdivisions that existed only on paper, streets that ignored the boggy or precipitous nature of the landscape they appeared to cross, were the things of cadastre. Combined with aerial photography, the satellite data from SPOT and Landsat, and now the voyeuristic probing of Google, mapping generates pasts and futures for otherwise familiar –and sometimes familial – places. As Jay Arthur has written:
A map marks a relationship between the cartographic and a landscape that includes intention, memory, experience, imagination, emotion and the influence of other relationships. To map a place is to be able to hold the place in the mind.

Here naming commemorates past ownerships, formalises old relationships, signifies influence and community standing. Cadastre - the overlaying law of word, line and symbol provides ' intersection of language and place'.

It is, of course, possible to read the landscape itself (or, as happens here, the landscape as imaged) - in which case each reader extracts the communicating language of their own discourse from what stretches in front of them or lies beneath them: the body of the land: 

Arthur, Jay 2003, The default country: a lexical cartography of twentieth century Australia, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2

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