Single point perspective

This is an animated model of the way I was thinking through the problems of representation in landscape, single point perspective, composition etc. When we view 'landscape' from a moving vehicle, as we often do in a modern city and its periphery, the path is fixed but perspective constantly shifts.

I'm particularly interested in on/off ramps on the city periphery as points of engagement in the highway landscape, an intersection of narrative, driving as embodiment, the shifting perspective vertically as well as horizontally and layering interweaving of elements and trajectories.


Castlemaine Arts Festival

The journey;

A second journey along the highway with a camera started to reveal some things for me. On/off ramps and the islands of land caught in the middle where particularly interesting. These are sometimes used as gateway monuments to towns and sometimes contain fragment of history like a few remaining exotic plantings from an old farmhouse or a convict stone wall. Maybe they function as a drainage or retention area. Mostly they are 'empty'.

Castlemaine has a 'ye olde worlde' thing going on, roots music, 'natural' products, antiques etc. This is continued in the festival aesthetic with pennyfarthings, town cryers, historic buildings as festival hubs. There is a strange sentimentality for the old and decaying but also a timelessness that urbanites especially enjoy.

The different spatial and temporal scales of a country town work in much the same way as a large urban park. The town offers most of the amenities of the city but without as structured social, spatial and temporal hierarchies. In that way the town itself acts as a liminal space for city dwellers and there is much potential in layering and reframing country towns to include a metropolitan population and programme.

Camp models revisited

I've uploaded a bunch of animations to Vimeo. Still not sure about the settings so titles didn't come up for some reason and I ran out of 'daily' upload cred although I still can't upload today. And I just realised that Blogger only does youtube so maybe I ditch Vimeo anyway.

I went back over camp models to see how I was looking at liminal space and how that may have changed. I mapped out the area that I was working in;

The field

While the animations explored the movement through a threshold space these stills looked at the focal point of a fixed point perspective. The target became the undeniable centre of the photo and everything else the periphery. Did this make that area liminal space? Not really.

I tended to put the target points at 'places' or points of interest anyway. When the target was placed in a transitional space it made it a fixed point. The last image is interesting. When there is repetition, the absence of something can become the focal point.

With my current understanding of liminal space I would have taken the central area as the liminal. It is unprogrammed, indeterminate, allows for multiple connections and congregation: "promiscuous intermingling".

Central congregation space


Tip Highway

One of the things that struck me on the way back from camp was how meditative a car ride can be especially when you're a passenger and when you've taken the road many times. On a bypass (we were driving the Geelong bypass at the time) a lot of effort is made to erase the views between the suburbs and the highway. You are always looking at that same middle ground; grass, a fence, the occassional planting of shrubs as habitat for animals that will get run over on the highway eventually.

There's a lot you can read into that view but I started to think about how it could be used differently. Passengers are a captive audience and these more enclosed bypass areas set up a kind of animation space. As you don't want anything too disrupting for the driver, I thought of a repetitive image that the passenger could contemplate on their journey.

The Rubbish Highway

Utilising the accessibility of the highway (and the fact that it is already often used as a dumping ground) the highway edge could become a linnear rubbish tip, giving users the opportunity to contemplate their waste and the drawing links to the car as a polluter, albeit an invisible one.

I found this idea expanded on by Lee Rozelle in this article
 Rozelle, L. RESURVEYING DELILLO'S "WHITE SPACE ON MAP": LIMINALITY AND COMMUNITAS IN UNDERWORLD Studies in the NovelWinter2010, Vol. 42 Issue 4, p443-452

In our desire to distance ourselves from our waste, Nick and Brian suggest, we project our landfills and toxic sites to the margins of perceptibility, urgently seeking to affirm fixed categories of environment, home, community, and body. But the refuse out there was once a part of us. The landfill, like the test site, is a locus where a culture's incomplete and misspent past is interred, to be fortes that "it's the kind of human junk that deepens the landscape...the soul of wilderness signed by men and women passing through" (460).

Place is always being born

I finally found a text that really captures the intention of my project.

Place is always being born. A landfill or an abandoned nuclear test site may appear to be at the ecological end of the line, but both are filled with latent possibilities for sustainability and transcendent function. 
 Rozelle, L. RESURVEYING DELILLO'S "WHITE SPACE ON MAP": LIMINALITY AND COMMUNITAS IN UNDERWORLD Studies in the NovelWinter2010, Vol. 42 Issue 4, p443-452

In the Don DeLillo book Underworld, the protagonist comes at one point upon a scene of B52 bombers reworked by an artist as part of an installation. Rozelle describes this in terms of landscape as a liminal space.

'Standing on a ledge to see a landscape art instillation(sic), Nick Shay is astonished by the mass of abandoned military aircraft "arranged in eight staggered ranks" and painted in "[s]weeps of color, bands and spatters, airy washes, the force of saturated light" (83). In this landscape painting that uses "the landscape itself" (70), colors "did not simply draw down power from the sky or lift it from the landforms around us....They pushed and pulled" (83). This seminal moment when vision of terrain, sky, and artwork becomes unfixed is fundamental to my study of liminality because it enables Nick "to see a thing as something else" (64).What was once military waste is now art, and what once had the capacity to drop atomic bombs now offers aesthetic catharsis...Liminality in this instance enables place to defy designation as it rejects normalization and colonization narratives.'
Rozelle, L. RESURVEYING DELILLO'S "WHITE SPACE ON MAP": LIMINALITY AND COMMUNITAS IN UNDERWORLD Studies in the NovelWinter2010, Vol. 42 Issue 4, p443-452

Research Question

My research question was reviewed at camp and ended up like this;

Question: What are the learning/teaching potentials of liminal space with a focus on peak-oil?

Title: Liminal Spaces

Subtitle: Designing space through investigating types of transition

I had to answer the question What am I interested in and how am I using that to adress a problem?

My answer: Investigating the liminal qualities of transport infrastructure in order to redesign transport patterns/modes in response to a condition of peak oil.

This was not really honest as I was struggling to communicate what it was that I was hoping to achieve through a study of liminality. I don't want to design another reconfiguration of the city and it's transport systems. What I want to explore is the experience of travelling through the city, it's disused or vague spaces and the potential they have as a narrative and pedagogical device. Story telling through the landscape essentially.

This doesn't really change the title, subtitle or question. It just helps to focus the intention.



"To Whom It May Concern:
The white paintings came first;
my silent piece came later."
- John Cage


How - Highway collages

A few ideas that I've been throwing around in relation to the highway as a canvas for artists and using the liminal qualities to contrast place and non-place.

Malevich's Black Square across the highway

In a similar way to Christo and Jean-Claude use fabric to conceal and emphasise landscape elements this collage is about rendering the highway void, removing context in order to reveal the way we currently look at the highway.

White Highway
Another way to create a  highway tabula rasa by building sections in reversed colouring with a white surface and black markings. We would quickly see the tracings of our travels left on the highway surface. Hoons would love it.

Cow barriers
Commuters are often related to herding animals. There are multiple connections between cars and cows. They are a large part of the view from a car when travelling and this is as close as many people get to a real cow. Car are derided as being incredibly polluting but cows are a major source of greenhouse gases;
A gallon of gasoline turns into 20 pounds of CO2 (source)Average car drives 15,000 miles a year and gets 30 mpg (my estimates, might be a little high on the mpg estimate)15,000 miles /30mpg = 500 gallons of gasoline a year * 20 pounds = 10,000 lbs of CO2 a year
A cow produces up to 90kg of methane a year (source .pdf)Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (source)90 kg * 2.2 lb/kg = 200 lbs of methane * 20 = 4,000 lbs of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases  
from http://fatknowledge.blogspot.com/2005/04/cows-vs-cars-greenhouse-gases.html 
The cows could also serve as a sculptural barrier, an accident prevention barrier with the liquid filled cows slowing down runaway vehicles before they cross into oncoming traffic.

Mt Macedon bushfire memorial

I took a trip to Macedon with my parents who were visiting from Canberra and were heading to see a friends garden in Macedon. We drove from Brunswick out the Calder freeway to Macedon, visited the garden, went to a cafe for lunch, the drove up Mt Macedon past the large estate gardens and then state forest to an Ash Wednesday bushfire memorial on the top of Mt. Macedon. I had no control over events, I merely went to document the experience.  

The most striking thing about the drive is the monotony of it. There is very little on the highway to spark conversation. You tend to stare at the other cars going by and the occupants. Sometimes they are of interest as with the classic car group we passed that I guessed were heading out to Castlemaine, the 'Hotrod Capital of Australia'. Apart from that, once the spreading suburbs are gone there are a few suburban style houses with ornamental gardens, very few working farm houses, some orchards especially around Sunbury. The occasional hill gives a break to the horizon and some sense of location.

It is a very different experience for driver and passenger. The driver of course needs to concentrate on the immediate job of driving and cant be too distracted by the surroundings. But if the highway is too monotonous there is an equal chance of being distracted by the monotony. Marker points are important to keep a driver aware of the distance they have driven, the time the have been driving for and where they are in relation to where they have come from and where they're heading too.

The motorist as a captive audience. They are in a state akin to meditation and I there is a great opportunity to tap in to that receptiveness, the need for markers (other than McDonalds roadhouses) and the desire for points of conversational interest.

The lookout struck me as interesting place with liminal qualities. It is a non-place where you look back to survey the surrounding area. It may be used somewhat ritualistically. The push and motorcyclists especially seemed to make and event of it. For the bicyclist especially there is great physical effort in reaching the place, a uniform worn that strips the usual social indications and a comraderie achieved by exerting such effort for a common goal.

Highway journey to Macedon


Monochrome and Liminality

All blank space is potentially baffling. The monochrome, or blank space put forward 'as' art, however, seems just plain tricky. Monochromes make no attempt to tell stories. They contain nothing that is (visually) recongnisable from daily life. They confound western academic notions of chronology as they appear almost randomly through arts history - and, like all blank spaces, they confound interpretation itself. Perhaps more importantly, the confound pre-existing western notions of figure/ground relationships. Monochrome introduces chaos into the system it inhabits primarily by foregrounding the blankness that is usually understood to signify background...'
Morrison, A. 2006, 'Autobiography of an (ex)coloured surface: monochrome and liminality' in Discrepant Abstraction, MIT Press, London

Through a series of monochrome paintings in the early 20th C Russian artist Kasimir Malevich attempted to reconfigure painting. Black Square, above, 'was essentially a meta-painting, a painting about painting... As far as Malevich was concerned, representation and its confines only served to further the divisibility of the world, and artistic 'truth' could only be communicated in the form of a paradox - or even a lie.'
Morrison, A. 2006, 'Autobiography of an (ex)coloured surface: monochrome and liminality' in Discrepant Abstraction, MIT Press, London

Robert Fludd Primordial Darkness - 1617

This not a new thing. Fludd in 1617 attempted to convey the greatest mysteries of life through this painting. Infinity, life and death.

Alphonse Allais The first communion of anaemic young girls in the snow - 1883

Alphonse Allais, in the late 19th C as part of the French movement, les incoherents, did a series of comic works including the above and a musical composition entitled Funeral March for the Last Rights of a Deaf Man. 

This was later repeated by Erwin Schulhoff’s “In Futurum” (1919) and John Cage in his famous 4'33"

'I have nothing to say and I am saying it'. John Cage



(re)presenting liminality

There are many and varied representations of liminal. It is a term from anthropology that has been reinterpreted through other disciplines for differing reasons. Often works of art are retrospectively interpreted as liminl or being about liminality. For me there is a beauty and an indeterminacy that offers multiple possibilities and interpretations of a space. There is also a receptiveness in a liminal state that opens the subject up to suggestion or new connections between elements.

This is a still from the Bill Viola video installation "Oceans without a shore" at NGV. You can get a sense of it here but it is best experienced as a installation (preferably at the 16th chapel in Venice it was designed for). He represents bodies in the transition between spaces, which could be taken to be the afterlife and the earthly realm. It's interesting to hear Bill talk about how the actors didn't raelly need directing as they all had a narrative that they brought to the project.

This is a simple graphic design image but I like it because of the different points of focus that give it depth and an unsettled feeling

This installation, called 'Liminal Air' by Shinji Ohmaki, is the best spatial represetation of liminal that I've found. A space that is neither here nor there.


This image by artist Eva Lee entitled 'Liminal Division 2' shows the liminal space as  the space between spaces, contextualised by the space around it, but devoid of matter or meaning.




The working title remains the same as this blog. The question is now really two:

What is the relationship between the city and its rural periphery in the post-modern metropolis? How do people reconfigure the city by their movement? 

I'm interested it the scale of movement, the type of movement and the qualities of the journey in relation to the places linked. What is achieved by the movement? Can we understand this further through notions of liminalty, phenomenology and heuristic research? Can this understanding be used to build resilience into a changing city? Will peak oil/climate change effect (or affect) the scale and density of the city.

Abstractions - drawing

The city imagined as a grid field

Our memories smudge marks through the field

The smudging layers and solidifies as paths and the field drops away 
becoming essentially terrain vague

Abstractions - model

Model 1 - the city as a woven fabric and the trails we weave through it

Detail - inverse




From http://www.castlemaine.org/;
The road to Castlemaine, from Melbourne, passes through towns at roughly equal distance from each other.
The clue to this is given by the first town on the trek from Melbourne being given the name: "Diggers Rest".
Each town is by a water course and is about a days walk from the other .
They were the camp sites for the prospectors as they walked to the gold rush.

Enterprising individuals set up businesses to supply the diggers and of course pubs. That is the origins of these towns.
The trek was 1. Diggers Rest. 2. Gisborne. 3.Woodend. 4. Kyneton. 5. Castlemaine. 6. Bendigo.

Melbourne to Diggers Rest - 35k's

Diggers Rest to Gisbourne - 20k's

Gisbourne to Woodend - 16k's

Kyneton Castlemanine - 37k's

Unless there was some sort or transport service at either end there are some stops missing. Maybe Taradale or Malmsbury at the Castlemaine end and Keilor at the Melbourne end.

From wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keilor)

Keilor in the early times of the gold diggings was a noted camping place for bullock teams to and from the diggins at Castlemaine and Ballarat.

Also from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malmsbury)

Gold was discovered in 1858 and the town became a service centre for diggers travelling to Bendigo and Castlemaine.

So the trip becomes Melbourne - Keilor - Diggers Rest - Gisoburne - Woodend - Kyneton - Malmsbury - Castlemaine (- Ravenswood? - Bendigo)

As a healthy person can walk between 20-40k's /day (although the definition of a healthy person would be a bit different in the 19th century) depnding on their load, it could be that a bullock train, or a loaded person may stop at each of these places and an unburdened person might make it two stops.

The plan now is to map out Melbourne in relation to this movement and see whether there is any correlation to this scale and the current morphology. What about bicycle scale?
Train? Car? Well they're already somewhat obvious but what happens when you start overlaying them? And what takes the place of the riverside camp? Of course, this all has to relate back to time and how long we are willing to travel in a day.


Place and Landscape

A landscape is a series of named locales, a set of relational places, linking by paths, movements and narratives.

Tilley, C. (1994) A Phenomonolgy of Landscape, Oxford: Berg. cited in Bender, B. (2006) 'Place and Landscape' in Handbook of Material Culture, London, Sage



A little Google mapping reveals that the sites that I had in mind all have a very similar distance and/or travel time from the centre of Melbourne. I like it when things happen like this. It makes me feel like I'm onto something.

Ballarat 117k's 1hr 31mins

Castlemaine 122k's 1hr 36mins

Healesville 67k's 1hr 13mins

Rye 95k's 1hr 26mins

Seymour 110k's 1hr 26mins

Torquay 106k's 1hr 25mins

Warragul 104k's 1hr 23mins


Homi Bhabha, in Ecological Urbanism, writes; “It is always too early or too late to talk about cities of the future. The ‘just city’ or the ‘generic city’ fl oats before our tired eyes in the half light of dusk and returns to our expectant gaze in the dawn of the new day.”
Bhabha, H in Mustafavi, M, Ed., 2010, Ecological Urbanism, Baden, Switzerland

Victor Turner’s work on liminality will be my primary framework. He states “if our basic model of society is that of a ‘structure of positions’ we must regard the period of margin or ‘liminality’ as an interstructural situation.” (Turner, 1967 p.93) Van Gennep stressed ‘the importance of liminality, the transitional time or condition in which one, or a group, or a territory, or the season, is not what it was and not what it will become, but something in between, something marginal, vague, and flexible’. Quoting Van Gennep, Turner says that “all rites of transition are marked by three phases:separation, margin (or limen) and aggregation.” (Turner, 1967 p.94)
Turner, V, 1967, The Forest of Symbols, Cornell University Press, New York

Here is my first image, thinking about the highway as a liminal space;

The mounds relate to the burial mounds or tumuli that can be found throughout the world as gateways to the afterlife. They are a really interesting example of landscapes of narrative and of liminal space. Stonehenge was recently found to function in a similar way as do the pyramids.

The crosses relate to the discussion below about the highway as public space, narrative and expression in these spaces.

The 'Golden Arches' in the background relate to the burial mounds visually and currently act as our major marker points along the highway, markers at a set distance relating to the length and time we can currently travel in a car. Will this change in a post-resource socitey? Many of the towns in Australia started because of a similar situation. On the road to Bendigo gold fields there were rest points a days walk apart; Diggers Rest, Gisbourne, Woodend, Kyneton, Castlemaine, Bendigo. Originally camp by water points, they grew into a store, a pub and a town.

In a larger sense I'm interested in the transition to a post-resource rich society but also on a small scale the space of transition and the narratives we have around them.

Rem Koolhaas in his address to the Ecological Urbanism Conference argues that ‘a hybrid condition is the condition of the day.’ (Koolhaas, 2010) Conditions of modernity and the end of modernity are occurring simultaneously. He sees the coexistence of modernity and endlessly improvised, spontaneous conditions that don’t consume much energy. This suggests to me a liminal state.
Koolhaas, R, 2010, ‘Advancement Vs. Apocalypse in Ecological Urbanism, Baden, Switzerland

Currently the only ligitimate expression that we have along the highway are memorial markers for the victims of car accidents;

And the ubiquitous circle-work, most likely the inspiration for Ben Morieson's 2001 work Burnout;

There are some interesting examples of artistic practices that work with the road as a medium for expression, possibly illegally, like Jessica May's work with roadkill which redefines the highway as a site of contestation.

I like this bit of absurdity by artist Erik Johansson using the road as a canvas to play with scale.


Peak-oil, also known as energy descent, is the theory that fossil fuels are about to get increasingly hard to access and this will send up the price petrol and electricity (therefore virtually everything we know). It was confirmed last year by the International Energy Agency that the world will never reach the level of 2006 oil production worldwide. As our socitey is entirely based on the cheap access of fossil fuels, this will force a restructure of our cities.

As a starting point. I'm interested in the way that we view the city and the narratives we spin around it. There are a large population of highly mobile, creative people living between the city and it's far fringe (which I take as about 150k's maximum or 1.5 hours travel) that are customising their lifestyle through movement. The journey becomes a big part of that lifestyle; the way they move, the routes they choose, the stops on the way.


This blog will be a record of my process for the masters program in Landscape Architecture at RMIT in 2011.

My initial application title was Designing the Other City - Liminality in re-imagining the city for post-peak oil. The working title is the above blog title.