Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Howling Wind - A Dead Galaxy Mirrored in an Ice Mirage


The Howling Wind
"Antarctica’s dynamic ice processes are always working to erode the possibilities of a seemingly stable form of accounting for geographical space. Wråkberg argues, ‘The slow pace of Antarctic exploration as a whole also indicated that there might be more to this than just adjusting field practices developed elsewhere to extreme polar conditions. The grand geographic project of the nineteenth-century Western culture seemed to have struck difficulties of a more profound nature in its encounter with the vast ice mass in the far south’. What this Antarctic excess suggests is that there are entropic forces at work within the making of all maps. The hallucinatory capacity of landscape phenomena, such as the mirage, works to re-inscribe the very notions of geographical fact within these processes of accounting for spaces. As vision sagged under the weight of ‘snow’, this formlessness demanded a new order of knowing and observation, and a new order of knower that could contend with how the landscape was realised through speculation . . . Antarctica constitutes a privileged site for critical thinking about vision and its relationship to the establishment of geographical truths. Wilkes did not know how to map the mirage because his predisposition to novel forms of unknowing precluded that possibility. This did not make the mirage any less ‘real,’ but it did make the possibility of its understanding that much more distant. The mirage, while seemingly illusory, emerges from real conditions and real contradictions within vision. It is illusory only to the extent that it did not fit within the
way Wilkes delineated and mapped territory, but it did open up new climates of sight that eventually expanded the visual knowledge of the Antarctic region. The mirage is dialectically linked to our perception of the real, to a geographical form from which we establish normalising strategies. This dialectic suggests that these phantom displacements are not opposed to perception, but an extended quality of the state of perception, of an altered perception specific to place. This suggests that investigating the conditions of unknowing holds potential for geographical thought. As Antarctica provided an awkward terminus to a trajectory of nineteenth-century geography, it also suggested most clearly ‘openings’ to other kinds of geographical knowledges that acknowledge the dialectic relationship of vision to blindness and unknowing." (Kathryn Yusoff, "Climates of Sight Mistaken Visibilities, Mirages and ‘Seeing Beyond’ in Antarctica," in High Places).

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