The Exchange of Temporary and Permanent Futures
The Exchange of Temporary and Permanent Futures is a series of four map-based images developed in 2002 - 2003, using variations on Lawrence Lee’s Conformal Tetrahedral projection to generate a continuous field of world maps. I have found that using the graticule of latitudes and longitudes derived from this projection, and interpolating other maps to create variations, is a better way to generate new maps than the cumbersome and less accurate method of re-drafting my Gnomonic Tetrahedral projection. I drafted basic coastlines and shapes into the Lee projection graticule, and tessellated the triangular maps. A pattern of sixteen maps was then rearranged with the Polar Coordinate filter in Adobe Photoshop, into a donut form with inner and outer margins. Coastlines, major lakes and river systems were drawn into the map using Corel Draw. The titles of this series, Exchange of Temporary and Permanent Futures, may be abbreviated as XTPF. Production of these digital images as Giclée prints on Canvas was made possible by a grant from the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage in 2003.
Exchange of Temporary and Permanent Futures 1. 2003. 47” x 53”. Giclée on Canvas. The projection used in this instance is based upon Lawrence Lee’s original model, in which a tetrahedron is plotted on the Earth with the North Pole as the common vertex of three faces, and the South Pole as the centre of the fourth. The alignment of the other three vertices is also based on Lee’s map, each at Latitude 19º 28′ 16″.394 S, and Longitudes 20º W (in the South Atlantic Ocean), 140º(in the South Pacific), and 100º E (in the Southeastern Indian Ocean). These points, along with the North Pole, are singularities where the repeated map pattern exhibits a rotated reflection. Thus we see a double Polar region, and similar localized duplications of geographic space in the other mid-ocean locations.
The icons in the four corners correspond to the four classical elements of antiquity (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), in patterns derived from the central motif of M.C. Escher-esque interlocking leaves. The leaf pattern is constructed with a squared symmetry, such that there are 64 leaves, matching the four groups of sixteen that illustrate the visual qualities of the four elements. This is, of course, an unabashed piece of 16th-century style Science Fiction, in which the central leaves, in the guise of a neo-Alchemical diagram, substantiate the Quintessence or “Fifth Element.”
Exchange of Temporary and Permanent Futures 2. 2003. 47” x 53”. Giclée on Canvas.
The projection employed here is oriented with the polar vertex at the South Pole, creating a singularity that results in a double Antarctica. The other three tetrahedral vertices are placed at Latitude 19º 28′ 16″.394 N, and Longitudes 60º W (off the Atlantic side of the Lesser Antilles), 180º W (along the International Date Line in the Pacific), and 60º E (off the Eastern coast of Oman). Thus, this particular orientation (or disorientation) results in rotational symmetries near the West Indies and the Arabian Peninsula, along with the massive Antarctic overgrowth.
The field of maps is quartered, into backgrounds of white, red, brown and blue, corresponding with the iconic colours of the four classical elements. The central motif of sixteen Phoenixes is configured from a similar Escheresque pattern to the leaves in XTPF 1 above. This design is more loosely defined than the leaves (which are also incorporated here as border elements): the wings of each bird also appear as the flames surrounding those next to it. They are also given a legend: the Fractions of the Sixteenth Phoenix. Other elements correspond to the phantasmagoric iconography relating to ideas of tranformation in the alchemical tradition, but in an incomplete and failed characterization. The Crow, Swan, Peacock and Phoenix/Eagle, emblematic of stages in the process of transubstantiation, occupy various chairs, or leave others empty. One of the last great proponents of that tradition within the History of Science, Isaac Newton, is depicted as a skeleton seated in a chair in the lower left corner, attached by chains to these arcane entities. This may indeed reflect the demise of so-called Intelligent Design.
Exchange of Temporary and Permanent Futures 3. 2003. 47” x 53”. Giclée on Canvas.
The map projection in this third print of the series is, like XTPF 1, set up with a North Polar vertex, and the South Pole at the centre of the triangular design. The other singular points are plotted at Latitude 19º 28′ 16″.394 S, and Longitudes 30º E (Near the Limpopo River in Southern Africa), 150º E (East of the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland, Australia), and 90º W (In the Eastern Pacific, off the Chilean coast). With the tessellated extension of this map, we see the familiar shape of the African continent mutated into its grotesque double-form, splitting in Southeastern Mozambique, as if undergoing a genetic mitosis.
The motifs of dragons, in groups of 16 and 64, correspond with the 16 worlds in this map, or 64 in the series of maps. It is a fairly timeworn cliché in the history of early mapmaking, that the edges of the known world were marked with the phrase, “beyond here, there be dragons.” As we know, the world has no edges as such; thus, the dragons are arranged in circular formations, each biting the tail of the dragon in front of it, displayed as an extended version of the Ouroboros snake (which bites its own tail), in the guise of Chinese dragons. The central dragon in each arrangement is singular and holds its own tail, while successive concentric layers comprise odd numbers of dragons, which will collectively add up to square numbers (i.e. 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 = 16 dragons; 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 + 11 + 13 + 15 = 64 dragons). At the base of the print, is the legend, “HEXADECIMAL.” While this is, of course, a term used in digital colour systems (in particular the RGB palette used in web graphics), the literal reference here is again to the number sixteen which recurs constantly in this series of prints. Adjacent to each group of sixteen dragons in the four corners, is an anagram of the word hexadecimal: anag. 1: A MEDICAL HEX; anag 2: A CHILDE EXAM; anag. 3: EXHALED MICA; anag. 4: AX D’ALCHEMIE (sic).
Exchange of Temporary and Permanent Futures 4. 2003. 47” x 53”. Giclée on Canvas.
The projection in XTPF 4 is a direct inverse of that in XTPF 3; the singular points are situated along the same meridians of longitude, but in corresponding Northern or Southern degrees of latitude. The Polar vertex is thus at the South, while the other singular points are placed along the 19º 28′ 16″.394 N parallel: at 30º E (in Sudan), 150º E (in a central region of the Pacific between the Marianas Islands and Polynesia) and 90º W (in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico). The latter point generates the most striking mutation of our familiar geographic space, with the split duplicates of the North and South American continents aligned in a crossed formation.
The icons placed in the four corners have some bearing upon the elemental symbolism of the other prints, although these have been infused with a significant degree of absurdity. There is a point at which the vestiges of cosmic speculation border on parody; given the impossible task of assimilating the scale of the infinite and infinitesimal within the frame of our living experience, we are left with the stuff of comic books, pulp sci-fi, and their historical antecedents. The double-fish icon in the lower left is directly borrowed from a graphic detail illustrated in the alchemical philosopher Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens , whose earlier Lusus Serius, also a summary of the alchemical ethos, describes the entire enterprise as a kind of serious joke. For the contemporary artist to engage in this sort of speculation, it is not a question of becoming some kind of Art Star, but a matter of being more spaced out than everybody else. The specter of Fire, summarized by the defense against UFOs using an arrangement of arms bearing swords in the configuration of a human hand (derived from a diagram used by Paracelsus), deserves no explanation; the submerging, smog-shrouded world centred upon Hollyolde, California, in the opposite corner, requires none. The central motifs are in response to a metaphysical absurdity of Thomas Aquinas, in his argument against the possibility of the infinite, using the example of equal amounts of points that may be plotted on concentric circles regardless of their scale. The playing-card King bears the acronyms, “IOU” and UOI.” The double-forked fork enables us to eat our own words in the manner they are grasped; the language of the mouth consumes the language of the hand.cf2