PhD Research

Extending Vision: Mapping Space in Light and Time

Exegesis documentation submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, June, 2007.
Department of Fine Art, Faculty of Art and Design, Monash University.

Each thing we see hides something else we want to see. [1]
— René Magritte

[1] René Magritte in Roger Shattuck, The Innocent Eye, (New York: Farrer Straus Giroux, 1984), p. 278.


This exegesis, written in support of studio-based research, takes the form of a speculation on the way in which cosmic space (remote space as distinct from the earth) can be imagined, represented and understood through processes of mapping. The research has engaged with a range of genealogical linkages and influences in mapping and astronomy in the Western imagination. With new technologies, mapping has the potential to become a more creative or visionary practice, able to generate imaginative links between art and science and, in the case of this research, to reconstruct an experience of the night sky in which otherwise hidden phenomena are revealed. The vast network of information made accessible through computerization, remote sensing and satellite technology, has extended the ability to see beyond the visible, bringing the ‘out there’, in a virtual sense, ‘back here’, at the speed of light. This has changed our understanding of time and space. Cosmic space is most familiar to the earthbound observer as the night sky, a space incomprehensible to the full range of our senses. The night sky is both a disquieting and alluring experience of the ‘natural’ world. This ‘natural’ world however is a construct of civilisation. Our understanding is filtered through cultural attitudes and beliefs that change over time, and an increasing reliance on the complex technologies of image capture and representation is changing our views of what is meant by ‘reality.’ As technology stands in for first-hand sense experience, so mapping stands in for space, giving a form of visible reality (the map), to an invisible reality (the space being mapped). Mapping however is always embedded in the subjective conditions of human thinking. It is in the end the map maker’s version of reality. In the work I create in response to these concerns, I attempt to communicate the way in which a complex network of relationships interact to enable us to have an engagement with ‘out there.’ In this document I attempt to map my explorations of the historic, cultural and technological constructions of this remote space, and my own subjective experience of the mystery of the night sky.


Individual chapters are available for download in Portable Document Format (PDF)