An animation of the topographic and Bathymetric data of the surface of the Earth with the Z axis (height) exaggerated by 100 times. The presence of a directional light source creating a sense of day and night as the sphere spins.
Terra Forming: Engineering the Sublime has been conceived by Adam Lowe and Jerry Brotton. This project aims to change the way we think about the globe as a subject and an object, especially through the various cartographic projections we use to imagine it. A new projection has been generated that focusses attention on the dynamic relationship between the land and the sea and Factum Arte has made a cluster of five projections of the three-dimensional surface of the world without water. Each projection is based on high-resolution topographic and bathymetric data that is available in the public domain. These projections are a way of engaging with the Earth from different points of view, and reflect historical ways of mapping the world from the Greeks to Google Earth.
The data was prepared and routed in three dimensions into tonally gradated blocks of plaster each approximately 50 x 100 cm. The highest points are white, the lowest one black; in-between are a wide range of tones of grey. The Z axis (vertical dimension) has been exaggerated by 100 times in order to reveal an unfamiliar spiky terrain. This Z axis distortion was used because without it the globe’s surface would appear almost totally flat. The installation will mimic the passage of time as well as space by flooding the world with water over several days, until we reach current sea levels; the world will then be flooded completely, leaving us with a drowned world, a prescient image for those parts of the world facing rising sea levels, as well as those such as parts of the Arabian Peninsula which is trying to reclaim land from the sea. Each projection shows how, over time, the choices of particular worldviews were defined by specific social, cultural, political and ideological interests and beliefs. The ‘terra-centric’ projection is of its time with the Arabian Gulf near the centre as it was on maps from the Middle Ages. The North Pole is no longer stretched to infinity at the top not is Antarctica distorted at the bottom. The tradition of placing north at the top is a fairly recent invention: in many examples of early Arabic cartography south is at the top, in early Christian maps east is at the top. West is rarely at the top of the map because of its association with the setting sun and the onset of darkness—and death.
These projections will form part of an exhibition curated by Adam Lowe and Jerry Brotton. Terra Forming: Engineering the Sublime presents a journey through time and space to see how our world has been imagined and built by artists and scientists, saints and cartographers. Terra-Forming will provide a creative response to the problem that has bedeviled creative minds for centuries: when faced with the staggering size and scale of the earth, how do we present a comprehensive view of the world without distorting it?
The Azimuthal Projection
This model evokes the medieval mappa-mundi dated c.1300 and which still hangs in Hereford Cathedral. It shows Jerusalem at the centre, the east at the top, and the Day of Judgment taking place beyond earthly time and space outside the map’s frame. During the routing of this object, the CNC device lost its bearings and cut through the bed of the machine. Our ability to control any intervention always has to take into account the tolerance in the system, system malfunction, unforeseen consequences and unpredictable events.
The Cordiform or “heart-shaped” Projection
Popular in the sixteenth century, it enabled those who drew on its design to incorporate the latest new discoveries by stretching the classical world map east and west. Martin Waldseemüller used elements of it on his 1507 map, the first to name America as a separate continent.