Immaterial Topographies

As a register of discovery, maps offer an opportunity to record discrete fields of understanding that can be added to over time. The act of describing territory, zones, edges and patches is inherently subjective, being limited to the knowledge and perspective of those who undertake the task. Abstraction of information, speculation on gaps in knowledge, and the imposition of bias is unavoidable.

The evolution of cartographic material relating to the Australian continent reveals a process of discovery, both of the material world which it aims to describe, and of the technique of translating phenomena such as matter, energy, process and culture to a graphic language. A departure from ‘real’ or ‘tangible’ is but a starting point for any map - the question is, to what degree?

In the context of describing our environment instruments of measurement, interpretation and representation have all shaped the way we understand what we are reading, and how we communicate that to others. Through this transmission, knowledge is given its own agency as a generative tool for further understanding.

As technology advances at an exponential rate, the capabilities in the tools we conjure up begins to uncover relationships and qualities which we can never hope to truly perceive directly and sensually. We begin the march into intellectual and spatial territories of understanding, wholly rooted in the physical environment, which describe a reality that we can only understand in the abstract. These are immaterial and imperceptible without being non-existent.

The communication of information, regardless of its context or application, is a communication of relationships and difference. This communication, then, is relevant for its technique of distillation and arrangement, and for the language it develops. These dialects, as abstract forms of reading, become a transferrable set of parameters which can simultaneously report knowledge gained and suggest a lens through which one can approach a deeper reading of the unknown.

Regardless of the time spent on preparation and research, a prediction of the conditions of experience at Lake Eyre, Australia is frivolous. The typical delineation of space that one experiences in most environmental contexts is stretched over vast distances. Edges become fields, horizons shimmer into obscurity, and expressions of change in the landscape are dramatised to a distortion of scalar reference. At the scale of human experience the immediate impression is one of absolute uneventfulness. How does one find difference in a landscape of sameness?

A map aims to chart relationships, energies, qualities, and dynamics with a spatial reference. The maps presented here aim to create a new spatial reference; one that acknowledges that the hierarchy of perception needs rearranging and that the immediately perceptible territories are not the only ones that exert influence over spatial realities.

Cartographic Method: With a variety of data types to be measured, a spatial positioning of points of measure is the key decision to make. Selection of a spatial reference i.e. cardinal alignment or topographical alignment, locks the data to a field of existing understanding. Expectations form the basis for the research, and findings inevitably generate a field of difference that can then be reflected upon.

Other parameters tested included relative distance between points, vertical position above or below surface, and geometric frameworks of the network of measurements in three dimensions.

A) An 80m primary line of measure, consisting of 5 equidistant points of measure, was established. 2 auxiliary points of measure on the horizontal plane (surface) were marked for each primary point of measure.

B) At each point of measure along the primary line, soil was removed to a depth of 500mm. 5 points of measure were established in the vertical plane - 3 below surface and 2 above.

C) At each of the 35 points of measure moisture, pH and temperature readings were taken where applicable.

D) Soil Samples were taken at each of the 3 depths at each primary point of measure.

Three dimensional mapping of values measured in two different sites at Lake Eyre. Qualities measured include moisture content, Ph and temperature. Direct translation of data to graphic plus speculation about the nature of qualities in between points of measurement.

Extrapolation of relationships and patterns identified at ‘site scale’ (fig. 02.) applied to the scale of Lake Eyre as a whole. The typical spatial definition of Lake Eyre is not registered here, only the field of spatial data that begins to challenge the notion of a linear edge or territorial boundary.

Extrapolation of relationships and patterns identified at both ‘site scale’ and ‘lake scale’ (fig. 01 + fig. 02) applied to the scale of Lake Eyre Basin. Inference is made from various primary cartographic sources to determine geological structure of the basin, and thus the parameters within which speculation about seasonal and annual fluctuations in moisture content can be made.

Extrapolation of relationships and patterns identified at ‘site scale’, ‘lake scale’ and ‘basin scale’ (fig. 01 + fig. 02 + fig. 03) applied to the scale of the Australian continent. Inference is made from various primary cartographic sources to determine geological structure of the continent and dynamic atmospheric systems. Speculation about moisture content, dynamic flow, accumulation and dispersion of moisture, and the resultant atmospheric and hydrological pressures is mapped at a continental scale.