Notes on an Atlas of Remote Possibilities Out There

Felicity Spear Artist

An Atlas of Remote Possibilities - Astronomica - Light and Dust

The imaginative and speculative maps in this book reflect a process of mapping cosmic space beyond the visible. They exploit a series of visual associations between nature and culture, art and science, light and space. I have researched technologies associated with mapping that include observation and image capture using remote sensing, telescopic imaging and analogue and digital photography. Initially finding and editing the material for these works, I then constructed them digitally through the manipulation and layering of fragments of historical and contemporary maps, photographs, diagrams and computer images or models, sometimes several layers revealing themselves simultaneously in the final work.

The layering process references the processes involved with the long tradition of printmaking, but it also proposes other more creative acts for the mapping of space. It enables different spaces to appear at the same time, interacting with each other to reveal synthetic or newly imagined maps, as well as hidden phenomena beyond our vision. Beyond the visible it is now understood that space-time warps in response to matter and energy, and when and where things happen is purely relative to the observer. The function of the map is to give a form of visible reality to this invisible reality. Mapping however, is always embedded in the subjective conditions of human thinking.

The quotation below, inserted at the beginning of the Atlas, comes from James Cowan’s 1997 book The Mapmaker’s Dream – The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice.

Gazing at the map, I begin to see a portrait of myself. All the diversity of the world is intimated within me. An aura of remoteness hovers about its contours, as it does about my head, clarifying what I see. Both the map and myself cling to the invisibility of what we represent. Nor is the tension between us that of myself and it, but of the merging of these. The map and myself are the same.