Cusp – Phillip Watkins

There are moments when objects move in and out of recognition, to and from each other. Moments when identity dissipates the more you try to focus on and isolate it. Cusp is a project that exploits these space time uncertainties, creating intriguing parallels between a specific sense of place and the process required to translate it. The defining edge of each becomes lost in a process of sound mapping with the intimacy and spontaneity of drawing.

Cusp began with a series of ambient sound recordings taken at various sites around Return Point, Maria Island. This initial phase was part of the work Larissa Linnell did during her Wilderness Residency. These sound samples were then proessed by the use of spectral analysis programs, the results of this process produce ‘image frequencies that offer a remapping of the space originally measured with sound’.

During the Ten Days On The Island Festival in Hobart, cusp took the form of a visual-sound installation, with sonic composition by James Gordan-Anderson. This work of Anderson’s is based on the same series of samples from Return Point.

It seems somewhat absurd to choose sound to locate place, after all, who would recognise Maria Island by sound? But it’s precisely this juxtaposition of the specific and abstract that makes this work compelling. The ‘when’ and ‘how’ a trace is intimately attached to a specific place, can lose this connection (like a shadow from its object).

Alternatively, at what point can a generic means of measuring something become intrinsic to the thing measured. The name ‘Return Point’ itself, now becomes an integral part of cusp. It becomes not so much a name as a direction. It becomes a warning of the danger of losing your bearings if you rely too heavily on merely visual recognition. Rather than a visual reminder based on a desire to return to somewhere else; it’s as if the person who named this place is insisting that you make some kind of literal mark from which arriving and leaving can be measured. A physical as well as physical need prior to the will to be reassured that you have actually left.

Making literal marks, Linnell’s drawing is the last phase in a multi-layered telescopic system of metaphor. The image frequencies are enlarged through projection and obsessively mapped onto paper by hand. The patience required for this can be likened to attempting a jigsaw puzzle of sky comprising of 1000′s of pieces, all the same but with only one correct place for each. There are critical limits to this ‘tracing’ process with add another layer to the system. If the image projected is too small the ‘dots’ combine, if too large they become practically indistinguishable from the ‘background.’

For Linnell these boundaries must be marked not masked, for it’s the space between a conscious trail back to Return Point and its potential loss to arbitrary design that’s at stake.

Phillip Watkins
Cusp catalogue
2001