figurations of ground

... research & travel funded by the John K. Branner Traveling Fellowship ... 2017-18 ...

This research began as an effort to seek out and document sites of “constructed ground” – landscapes and buildings whose very presence acknowledges the prevalence of ground as a construction rather than untouched “nature.” Specifically, sites of coastal land reclamation were chosen as dramatic illustrations of ground becoming refigured over time as shorelines are given new definition. In contexts where man has become a geomorphic agent, the traditional binary of building / landscape [figure / ground] seems increasingly irrelevant, if not unproductive, as everything from the soil to the building itself blurs into a collection of figures with fluid identity.

On the ground, however, the distinction between “historic” and redrawn coastline becomes turbid. Tracing or even discerning the figure of the land reclaimed is often impossible, sometimes distracting, and occasionally gratifying - lines in the sand are fugitive. Vignettes from this search are presented as photos to be examined in no particular sequence.

Ultimately, the ground conditions observed form five figurations: Elevated Eden, Historic Datum, Secured Territory, Bodenschätze, and Anticipatory Performance. The accompanying illustrations refigure, or reconstruct, objects and landscapes in a sand tray where ground (sand) can span geographic and temporal distances. In our current epoch (i.e. the Anthropocene), the increasingly duplicitous boundary between the artificial and natural is perhaps better discussed via the alternate realism of representational and associative space.

fig. 1 / elevated eden

fig. 2 / historic datum

fig. 3 / secured territory

fig. 4 / bodenschätze

fig. 5 / anticipatory performance

Copyright © 2018 Jonah Merris