Topographies of the Lost

Fellow in the field of performing arts Ivana Ivković explores her long-lasting and persistent fascination with cartography, navigation, movement, and divergent notions of atlas through a series of three posts that reveal trajectories and references of her developing project.

This series is published on the occasion of the publication of Solitude Atlas, a special publication mapping 25 years of Akademie Schloss Solitude through letters, essays, poems, short stories and illustrations of its former fellows.

Archaeologists across the north of Europe have retrieved multiple horse skulls from clay floors, beneath flagstones, and within niches in house foundations.

Some interpretations of these findings have focused on ritual use of the bones of an animal that represented fertility and abundance. But much more interesting is the one describing a non-ritual motive, suggesting that the skulls were placed under floors used for dancing or under floors of threshing-barns (used to process cereals by repetitive pounding) to create an echo that would carry across the land.

Those movements and steps of work and leisure, long ago performed and reverberated over horse skulls and long distances, have sunk into temporal oblivion, much like the crumbling petrified anatomical relics. We can only imagine those lost sonic topographies.

Atacama Desert, a vast plateau spanning 105,000 km2 over Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, has recently made the news once more as an unprecedented site of fossil whale skeletal remains.

A location famed for its aridity, it provides clear views of the skies and is home to some of the world’s most important astronomical observatories.

And yet, as astronomers gaze towards the skies searching for undiscovered galaxies and archaeologists unearth fossilized giants, another group sifts through the Atacama dust of memory, history, and eternity – Chilean women search for the bones of loved ones left behind by Pinochet’s atrocities.

These itinerant caryatids hold up on their shoulders hope for the dead and lost as they sieve through the dust and bone particles of the Atacama in Patricio Guzmán’s incredible documentary feature Nostalgia for the light (2010), a meditation on the impossibility of a present without the past.

The Earth is strewn with bones that echo into the distance.


Watching & reading list
Patricio Guzmán, Nostalgia For The Light, 2010
BLDGBLOG, on architectural conjecture, urban speculation and landscape futures by Geoff Manaugh