Julie Louise Bacon | Resurveying Site

Resurveying Site

  • 27 Sep

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Resurveying Site was the name of a three-month residency undertaken in the setting of Waratah Bay, in South Gippsland, Australia. The Bay is defined by the contours of Australia’s southernmost point, Wilsons Promontory. During the residency, I explored the ways in which we measure space and orient place. The methods used to explore the landscape and its history ranged from solar light installation, to (time-lapse) photography, assemblage, and writing. I was invited to participate in the residency by the artist James Geurts, and the project included fieldwork experiments, structured around ‘scores’, in which local artists were invited to collaborate.

The solar light installation Alchemical Dialogues III: Sandy Point Analemma was a key residency work. On the beach at Sandy Point, I used solar orb lights to recreate the pattern of the sun’s movement through the sky over a year-long period, with one sample for each month, always taking the reference point from the same time of day. The twelve positions produced plot what is referred to in astronomy as an ‘analemma’ form. Each planet has its own analemma, depending on its axis and orbit around the sun. Earth’s is a figure of 8 and because each analemma is also distinct to the longitude and latitude of place, in the Southern Hemisphere the lower loop of the 8 is always smaller than the top. Analemma means ‘pedestal of a sundial’. The work involved making visible a phenomenon that it is not normally possible to see, through an artwork that encoded the coordinates of longitude and latitude, the duration of the Sun’s movement and the Earth’s tilt.


The Hole of History, Post Void, 2015. (2 polaroids, telescope lens worn by the sea, custom-made shelf 44cm x 10cm x 4cm). Featuring the lens of a telescope that purportedly belonged to the infamous explorer Captain Voss, who visited the area in the late 19th Century. In the 1970s, a boy and a girl found the lens wedged in the single remaining post of a former jetty that ran out into the ocean at Walkerville South, as they explored the beach at lowtide. They captured the movement they removed the lens from the post in a series of Polaroid images.

Landscape Lexicon, 2015. (Photo Rag print 20cm x 60cm) Language from my fieldwork notebook was assembled to form the outline of Wilson’s Promontory.

Surveying is an age-old action and a modern profession. The techniques involved, past and present, create renderings of the land or cityscapes. The aesthetics of these renderings carry with them something of the spirit of technology. The instruments employed in surveying embody a set of values, relating to the types of attention that we pay to things and the interests that motivate these attentions.

The residency reflected on the fact that just as much as capturing the world, the act of measurement produces the world in the shape of particular ways of imagining, perceiving and documenting. This holds true for the science as much as the arts, and in this sense there is a ‘culture of science’. When forms of measurement become naturalised or habitual, the sense that they are always subjective and abstract disappears and they become ‘real’ and standard. The question arises, what other experiences can be generated when the task of measurement is approached creatively, in other words when we recollect that measurement always begins with the invention of a frame of mind, the creation of an outlook?

This questioning resulted in a series of experimental works permeated by the language of time, water and light. The works evoked the body’s relationship with geography, and reflected an interest in deep time and the long view, experienced in the present, through landscape and the history of place.