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Dark Writing

Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design

Paul Carter
Copyright Date: 2009
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  • Book Info
    Dark Writing
    Book Description:

    We do not see empty figures and outlines; we do not move in straight lines. Everywhere we are surrounded by dapple; the geometry of our embodied lives is curviform, meandering, bi-pedal. Our personal worlds are timed, inter-positional, and contingent. But nowhere in the language of cartography and design do these ordinary experiences appear. This, Dark Writing argues, is a serious omission because they are designs on the world: architects and colonizers use their lines to construct the places where we will live. But the rectilinear streets, squares, and public spaces produced in this way leave out people and the entire environmental history of their coming together. How, this book asks, can we explain the omission of bodies from maps and plans? And how can we redraw the lines maps and plans use so that the qualitative world of shadows, footprints, comings and goings, and occasions—all essential qualities of places that incubate sociality—can be registered? In short, Dark Writing asks why we represent the world as static when our experience of it is mobile. It traces this bias in Enlightenment cartography, in inductive logic, and in contemporary place design. This is the negative critique. Its positive argument is that, when we look closely at these designs on the world, we find traces of a repressed movement form. Even the ideal lines of geometrical figures turn out to contain traces of earlier passages; and there are many forms of graphic design that do engage with the dark environment that surrounds the light of reason. How can this "dark writing"—so important to reconfiguring our world as a place of meeting, of co-existence and sustaining diversity—be represented? And how, therefore, can our representations of the world embody more sensuously the mobile histories that have produced it? Dark Writing answers these questions using case studies: the exemplary case of the beginnings of the now world-famous Papunya Tula Painting Movement (Central Australia) and three high-profile public place-making initiatives in which the author was involved as artist and thinker. These case studies are nested inside historical chapters and philosophical discussions of the line and linear thinking that make Dark Writing both a highly personal book and a narrative with wide general appeal.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6214-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. INTRODUCTION: Outlines
    (pp. 1-15)

    When the dark writing that informs our environments is perceived, it can be discerned in everything. The pied beauty of clouds, foliage, and limestone walls comes into view not as a background to important events but offering an alternative focus of its own. The mackerel shimmer of offshore waves, transposed downtown, is crystalized in a hive of windows, while down below the crowds flow cinematically to and fro. Dark writing indicates the swarm of possibilities that had to be left out when this line was taken. It notates reflections, warping the grids of harborside façades into tremulous concentricities. The assembly...

  8. CHAPTER 1 Step-by-Step: Geography’s Myth
    (pp. 16-48)

    As imperial designs on the world expanded their scope in the latter half of the eighteenth century, and more of the earth’s surface was subjected to scientific description, so geographical knowledge also spread. This enlarged field of facts did not, though, exercise any great influence over the way geographers conceived of the foundations of their discipline. Their aim remained much the same: to use the tools of inductive reasoning to reduce the variety of the earth’s natural features to certain universal principles. Movement was a prerequisite of geographical knowledge. But it formed no part of geography’s representation of the world....

  9. CHAPTER 2 Dark with Excess of Bright: Mapping the Coastlines of Knowledge
    (pp. 49-78)

    If you were to tell an oceangoing yachtsman that coastlines were a construction of the mind, he would take you for a madman. The aim may be to keep a safe distance from the shore, but the slow film of low cliffs sliding aft is surely evidence enough of an empirically verifiable boundary between water and land. Common sense tells us that coasts have existed as long as shipwrecks, and to argue otherwise is, one would have thought, perverse. It’s true, if amazing, that up until the seventeenth century cartographers regularly depicted islands and continental edges using only symbols for...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Drawing the Line: Putting Spatial History into Practice
    (pp. 79-102)

    The lines that the artist Paul Klee was drawing in 1906–1907 were “my most personal possession,” yet he lamented, “The trouble was that I just couldn’t make them come out. And I could not see them around me, the accord between inside and outside was so hard to achieve.”¹ As the history of coastlines showed, scientists as well as artists have found it hard to connect the ideal lines they carry around in their heads with the actual appearance of the world. In geography this discrepancy has practical, real-world consequences: in the gap opened up by reason’s detachment from...

  11. CHAPTER 4 The Interpretation of Dreams: Mobilizing the Papunya Tula Painting Movement, 1971–1972
    (pp. 103-139)

    The art of the Papunya Tula painting movement has stimulated dozens of exhibitions both locally and internationally in the past twenty-five years. It has inspired many catalogue essays and anthropologically inflected studies. TV documentaries and films have been dedicated to it. Thoroughly researched monographs have been devoted to individual artists involved in the movement’s beginnings. The exhibition cataloguePapunya Tula: Genesis and Genius(2000) revealed many aspects of the movement’s complex cultural, social, and political significance.¹ There remains, though, an important gap in our understanding—one the millennial exhibition’s name serves to highlight. Much has been written about the Western...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Making Tracks: Interpreting a Ground Plan
    (pp. 140-172)

    In 1839, surveyor-general William Light laid out the city of Adelaide, capital of South Australia, on either side of the River Torrens. InThe Lie of the LandI argued that Light’s plan departed from the conventional colonial grid. His four incomplete and irregular grids showed an awareness of the lie of the land (Figure 20). They also uncannily recalled the character of archaeological sites he had visited and sketched in Italy.¹ The ground plan of Adelaide was not a “self-evident production” in Husserl’s sense—an ideal form created and imposedex nihilo.In its awareness of a heritage of...

  13. CHAPTER 6 Solutions: Storyboarding a Humid Zone
    (pp. 173-202)

    Shortly after working onTracks,the opportunity arose to advise on the design of a new public space at Victoria Harbour in Melbourne’s Docklands. The emergence of the Docklands precinct had been a side effect of the advent of containerization in the 1980s. The Port of Melbourne Authority had made the decision to develop other docks to accommodate the new scale of cargo vessel, and the fate of Victoria Dock as a major commercial wharf was sealed when, as part of the City Link Project, the Bolte Bridge was built just downstream at the junction of the Yarra and Maribyrnong...

  14. CHAPTER 7 Trace: A Running Commentary on Relay
    (pp. 203-227)

    BothTracksandSolutiontried to reintegrate the two elements ofplace making.Instead of separating the design of public space from the activities of the public, they identified public space design with the choreography of everyday life. Place making, they argued, was an art of placing and timing. Coherence and stability arise in this situation because public spaces are constitutionally discursive, sites incubating a primary sociality characterized by a desire to meet. The relationship of the movement form (De Quincey’s “undistinguishable blot”) to design is the same one occupied by rhythmic geography in the field of cartography. Notating what...

  15. CHAPTER 8 Dark Writing: The Body’s Inscription in History’s Light
    (pp. 228-259)

    What is “dark writing”? In the first three chapters it referred to the trace of movement that is arrested in spatial representations. A history of journeys, encounters, inclinations, and leaps of faith can be shown to survive in maps and plans once their symbolic character is recognized, and it is these supplementary inscriptions that constitute dark writing. Dark writing alludes to the bodies that go missing in the action of representation. But it does not seek to replace them—to represent them. Aligned to their passage, it registers their passage graphically, as a pattern of traces. In the last three...

  16. CONCLUSION: Linings
    (pp. 260-282)

    In hisArcheticture,David Krell argues that the paradoxes of Husserl’s account of the origins of geometry are tied up with an architectonic conception of geometry. It is the identification of geometry with foundations that produces what Krell calls Husserl’s “impossible passion for the chain”¹—that notion of tradition as an endless repetition of the ideal, discussed in chapter 3. To escape this “dictatorship of fundaments, foundations, technologies of measurement, universalities, and idealities,”² Krell proposes that architecture needs to revisit Husserl’s genealogy of geometry, resuscitating his notions of the pregeometric and protogeometric: “It must learn, for example, to dally with...

    (pp. 283-300)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 301-306)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-310)