Within a five-kilometre portion of the significantly larger Culpra Station property, white sand on the banks of the Murray River, dark clay, and loose red sand can all be identified using Google Earth, and soil maps accessible on the Internet. An aerial photograph that can capture this distance and project it upon the width of a computer monitor requires a viewpoint positioned seven kilometres above the earth; at sixty centimetres below the earth’s surface, the clay soil hardens to a crust.
Removing parts in the middle of the narrative, an abridgement attempts to maintain a coherent plot in a shorter form (abridgement 2010, p. 5). However when too much is removed, the remaining scenes become so decontextualized that the content appears confused. Abridgement was initiated with a deliberate naivety. Using aerial images, GPS technology, and with no situated experience of site, an artificial grid of location points were plotted that anticipated a range a soil types.
When positioned on site, the geotechnical hand auger, designed to extract soil samples, proved almost completely ineffective– requiring hours to remove tiny fragments of clay. Relying on a distanced understanding of landscape, the artist’s collection of sediment is clumsy, confused and frustrated. The abridged understanding of Culpra Station negated chapters of knowledge captured through generations of inhabitants populating the land.
The inhabitation of land is embedded with histories, and cultural values; Indigenous Australians have been gathering this knowledge for tens of thousands of years. In large tracts of contemporary Australia, the land has taken on a different set of tenets, re-examined through lenses of financial production and evaluated by distanced technological systems– situated far away from the inhabited surface. Abridgement demonstrates the naivety of this re-evaluation of landscape as an economic resource. An understanding of land without the understanding of place; an abridged description that is confused, abstracted and absurd.
abridgement 2010, in A. Stevenson (ed.), Oxford Dictionary of English, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, p. 2069.