Apparent Positions Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

“The territory in question must be able to exist in any region on the surface of the globe; therefore we must study under what conditions it remains inaccessible, not only to ships, airplanes or other vehicles, but even to the eye. I mean that it might be possible, theoretically, for it to exist in the middle of this table without our having the slightest inkling.”
—René Daumal, Mount Analogue


Though by diverse means, the four artists whose work is part of the series Apparent Positions explore the notion of  transfigured space. Complicating and subverting, variously, the construct of landscape and the Romantic tradition; the institution of the map; and the relationship of the built to the unbuilt, their films summon the notion of the plurality of place, of a meta-landscape; and beyond that, of the active site, loaded, both defining and defined by interaction with its occupants and would-be occupiers.

The title of the series invokes the phenomenon of parallax, wherein objects assume differing positions relative to that of the eye. Though a problem for astronomers and mathematicians, travellers and photographers alike, a parallax error could perhaps present, as the French writer René Daumal demonstrates in Mount Analogue, a margin of freedom; a zone of uncertainty in which change can be effected and coordinates altered unseen.

A number of artists and writers have stalked this territory. The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges’ fictions revolve  around worlds imagined, particularly those that exist as a synthesis of concept and object, that are conjured entirely by  thought or word, or in time rather than space. In Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, the planet Tlön, a literary invention which is discussed bythe author himself both inside and outside of the fiction in a dizzying mise-en-abîme, takes the place, gradually, of the real world; in The Garden of Forking Paths, an apocryphal labyrinth exists in time, rather than space, and the characters’ journeys crosses terrain both literal and literary.

Borges’ sometime collaborator and friend Adolfo Bioy Casares explores simultaneity, memory and memorialisation, and the notion of a terrain which encompasses both the physical and metaphysical in a similar way in the novella The Invention of Morel. The two suns, withered vegetation and rehearsed, repetitious behaviour of the inhabitants of Morel’s remote island speak not only of the troubled relationship between object and subject, observer and observed, but of the image itself — and though a digression from the theme here, the premise of the triumph of the copy pre-dates Jean Baudrillard’s treatise Simulacra and Simulation, which explores similar territory, by some forty years.

Beyond the image, this invokes representation, particularly that of space; and the disquieting sense of parallaxis which haunts not only the works of Borges, Bioy Casares and Daumal but the works in Apparent Positions is that of the disjuncture between map and mapped — geographic, linguistic or political. Borges’ On Exactitude in Science proposes a 1:1 map, an absurdity which exposes the ambition of the cartographic to influence, if not conquer, that which it  represents: if the map becomes all, there are no longer any apparent positions, only absolute ones. The process of objectivisation or empiricisation needed to force the world to conform to the geometry of the map arguably alters the terrain itself (in the Occupied Territories, literally so, with a drawn line become a concrete wall), yet space is mutable, slippery, layered, and, as Mount Analogue, and famously Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker suggest, able to evade even the objective, vanquishing command of Man.


‘Apparent Positions’ a series of four shows I curated for the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. More information at >