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The island of lost objects

Bowring, Jacqueline
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::12 Built Environment and Design , ANZSRC::120107 Landscape Architecture , ANZSRC::120302 Design Innovation
I recently came across these documents during my research at the Royal Geographical Society in London. The papers detail the exploration of the enigmatic Island of Lost Objects. Located at 0.00°N 0.00°E, the island marks the world’s geographical cipher, the null point. Uncannily, it seems that the island was not always at its current location. I was astonished to find that it had previously been located at the antipodal point, its geographical Other. At its former location it was known as Howland Island, and is still shown as such on some maps. It is a flat, uninhabited island, forlorn and windswept. Not only is the Island a kind of phantom, its now non-existent Other persists as an after-image. There is an irresolvable sense of presence and absence, investing the Island with an aura of loss. The documents recounted a number of curious elements on the island. A well is mysteriously noted as being “of seemingly infinite depth,” perhaps an extreme type of a wishing well. An altar and a beacon were further signals of hope in the face of loss. Alongside these votive elements of hope, were various forms of searching: a lookout tower, an acoustic mirror, and a perimeter track worn into the ground from scouring the horizon. It struck me that these practices of hoping and searching were all futile rituals, unlikely to yield a result. Instead, I realised – however perverse this might be – that the island is a place for the love of loss, for the prolonging of longing. Its own absence from its origin amplifies this. The island is evidently for the contemplation of all lost objects: love, civilisations, innocence, missing persons, MH370, passenger pigeons, the Great Buddha of Bamiyan. The endless litany of lost objects, the gaping lacunae in our lives - extinctions, misplacements, destructions, death.
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© 2018 University of Pennsylvania School of Design
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