this is how the earth must see itself

The Ordnance Survey’s (OS) mapping of Great Britain in the late eighteenth century was a landmark in human attempts to know the land. Seeking defence against a feared French invasion, the priority was to survey the South Coast of England, and anything that could be hidden behind. Walking up to 40 miles a day, the field surveyors were tasked with categorising the landscape they passed through according to a list of predefined rules.

From the earliest map sheets, the ‘rock features’ were treated as ornament. Formations observed on the surface of the earth are not simply decorative surface features but represent the intersection of the earth’s surface with the body of the earth. The processes of weathering and erosion, coupled with the human hand, shape the visibility of rocks on the surface and can move the rocks from one category to another.

Using a combination of archival material, open source data and photographs, the project follows these rock features as a guide. Following in the footsteps of the surveyor I oscillate between seeking to know and name the land, and melting into aimless wandering, loosing sense of time and scale. The process of ordering the images into these pre-defined categories throws up questions as pebbles become boulders, flowing water becomes outcrop. As with all classification systems, the rules are subjective, leading to their own telling of the story.

The work was made on the South Coast of England where I have been walking for more than 20 years. I return again and again, spending time with the path; walking, pausing, sleeping. The South Coast is the edge of our contact with the nearest continent, a border of particular significance with the contraction of boundaries we have all been experiencing.

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