The performance-drawing and publication I Hear a New World 01. Orbis Tertius was produced as part of an ongoing body of work investigating ideas around cartography, utopian desire and the geographical imagination.
Literature is often a point of departure — in this instance, Jorge Luis Borges’ story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. It chronicles the invention of an imaginary world by a secret society, so detailed that our own is gradually subsumed by it. The majority of mankind remains oblivious to this, our narrator, a rare exception, describes a kind of personal resistance. I wrote taking his account as fact, thus establishing the rules, the conditions of an alternate universe in which Borges’ story is a true account, and in which the imagined world really had come to be (“Living, as we do, in post-Tlön times, it is easy to forget that some held out against the deluge.”)
In thinking around Borges’ story, I became interested in the idea of creating a drawing on a large-scale that played with the simplest form of an understanding of “world”. It seemed appropriate that erasure should be as much a part of the drawing as line-making. At Camber Sands, a vast stretch of flat beach on the Sussex coast with a suitably large tidal range, we found a site towards the western end of the beach, where the Rother is channeled into the sea. I found a heavy piece of rusted, seemingly petrified, iron and attached it to a ball of string. J acted as the needle point of this giant compass, holding the strings as taut as the wind allowed. Starting about 100m away from him, I proceeded to drag the piece of iron through the sand, starting at the water’s edge and working clockwise. The process took about an hour and much of the drawing had disappeared under the incoming tide by the time I waded back to my starting point, now lost beneath the surf.
My continuing research into ideas around “utopia”, and moreover the multiplicitous permutations of the phrase “new world”, contributed greatly to the appeal of Borges’ story. Although the world imagined within it makes no claims towards the utopian, it is still an act of new world-making and as such mirrors the desires and actions of those seeking utopia. Therefore (inevitably) it became inextricably linked to the threads, paths and tangents I had been pursuing; lines of enquiry that reveal patterns, coincidences and maps. One thing leads to another, things are obliquely alluded to, things recur… the moon, tides, mirrors, the name Thomas, Robert Smithson, Pennsylvania, Newton, Dee, Mars, Saturn, oxygen and Priestly, Bacon, Elizabeth I, Belinda Carlisle, WG Sebald, M&Ms, William Morris, Bob Marley, Melencolia and Melancholia (Dürer and Von Trier), Virginia Wolfe, Edward Bellamy, Baskerville, Lancelot “Capability” Brown, Ebenezer Howard and Garden Cities, The Cure, Wyld’s Great Globe, She Blinded Me With Science by Thomas Dolby, the Ethel M Chocolate Factory in Henderson, Nevada, The Lunar Society of Birmingham, the gardens at Stowe, Leicester Square, Theia, heterotopias, Derek Jarman, The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz etc. etc. etc.
Within the publication, photographic evidence of the process of making the most simple of shapes in the sand shares equal weighting with the rhizomatic text; orbiting each other in a shared cosmology.
The text and images from I Hear a New World 01. Orbis Tertius can also be found online with additional images, video, reflection and annotation:
1. I hear a new world
2. Et in Sussex ego
3. An empty map
4. Cold wind, tide moves in
5. The horizon of our concerns
6. Full circle
I Hear a New World 01. Orbis Tertius was included in David Medalla’s London Biennale 2014, and The Slow Burn, curated by Euan Macdonald at Ditch Projects, Oregon, March/April 2015.