The Andes Range is our natural frontier to the east, running from the northern border of Chile to Santiago. With an average height of 5000 meters, the mountains descend gradually to the south until they seemingly disappear, reappearing in the Antarctic under the name of Antarctandes. This is the geography that separates us from the world. At the same time it connects us internally, giving origin to the diverse climates and natural resources of the Chilean territory. The mountains mold our culture, and loom large in our national imagination, both geographically and visually.
Imaginary Geographies proposes a geometric and material reconstruction of this icon. The project’s starting point is an audio composition of the sound of the mountain range mixed with the verses of “The Imaginary Man” by the late great poet Nicanor Parra. In this poem, Parra describes the relativity and transformation of the territory in landscape according to man’s feelings.
These sounds are subjected to digital interpretation and manipulation, such that the whole spectrum of frequency in the recording is subdivided and then sampled. For example, if the audio composition has frequencies ranging from 200 to 1000 hertz, and the goal is to obtain five samples, we measure the intensity at 200, 400, 600, 800 and 1000 hertz. These values are then translated to a straight line, whose end points correspond to the lowest and highest samples. These lines are then weighted proportionally with values that can be applied to a function or productive process, such as woodcarving.
Depending on the intensity that is measured in each of these frequencies, points are raised on the straight line at a greater or lesser distance, through which a curve is interpolated. This profile or cross-section represents the information of the sound at a certain time of the recording. A new line can then be drawn, consecutive to the previous one, corresponding to a different ‘slice’ of the recording. Through repetition, our tool becomes something like an oscilloscope or sound visualizer that leaves traces of the sound held in time.
The final realization of Imaginary Geographies involves the introduction of these curves on material surfaces, using CNC carving techniques. The digitally manipulated information becomes a form-generator, which can be used to create a family of objects: tables, benches, shelves, cabinets and mirrors, among others. The final expression of each object depends on the distance between the carving routes.
In other words, the smaller the distance between each pass of the tool, the closer the expression will be to the geography visualized digitally. On the other hand, the further apart the tool paths, the more the expression will seem to be derived from the language of CNC carving itself; thus there is a continuum from the geography of the raw information to the “geography of the tool.”
Imaginary Geographies: Manufactured Landscapes Coffee Table
Lenga / Calavera black basalt
This coffee table is rendered in lenga, a Chilean wood also known as ‘Patagonian cherry,’ and black basalt. With an irregular spiral expanding from the inner basalt circle to the edge of the table, the texture gradually decreases in depth, transforming a geographical image into a solid geometry. A juxtaposition of irregular and regular, the basalt circle is offset to one side of the table, leaving a larger flat surface in wood. At first view, a solid cylinder appears to transform into something fluid; upon interaction and with use (eating, drinking or just playing as a child would), one discovers imagery directly related to landscapes found in the Andes, from the north to Patagonia.
Imaginary Geographies: Manufactured Landscapes Credenza
Cherry / Black Tusk basalt
Exterior surfaces of this credenza (sides and doors) are carved in cherry, which is bleached to resemble tree bark.
For this piece, parallel carving routes are used, each spaced 1/3 the width of the carving cutter, resulting in a clear visual impression of the passage of the tool. The routes of carving intersect vertically resulting in what we previously called the “geography of the tool.” The greatest amplitudes are located at the top of the piece, creating an expressive irregular edge into which black sandblasted basalt is embedded. By contrast, the carving descends into regularized parallel grooves, almost like the fluting of a Greek column.
Imaginary Geographies has the potential to expand further into numerous object typologies, materials, scales and procedures.