THE AUGMENTED LANDSCAPE, SMOUT ALLEN #3
The drawing doesn’t simply read as a black figure against a white ground: white lines are traced across the surface of the black, and they appear to be perforated, punctured, and scored. They look like printing plates used for engravings or silkscreening, or printed circuit boards. In photographs of the model, we see that the elements drawn are, in fact, present as thin metal plates. In one image, we see the that the tabs along the upper right edge of the rightmost block of the drawing are folded up to form a three-dimensional edge. We also see that what we had taken for single blocks laying on a sheet of paper are in fact split into various planes: again, the rightmost block can be seen as two plates in the photograph, split about two-thirds of the way along. Incompatibilities appear between the model and the drawing: the perfectly circular element (the only perfect circle in the drawing) at the bottom right corner isn’t present in the model, although the pattern of perforations and cuts adjacent are clearly visible.
What are developed in this drawing are surfaces rather than planes. Descriptive geometry and orthographic projection relies heavily on the concept of the immaterial picture plane, through which lines and points are projected to construct an object through a network of interlacing lines in a single, cohesive representational set. The reality of the object in a set of orthographic objects is determined as each element is progressively disambiguated—a line in the plan could be anywhere in the virtual space of the object, but once it is drawn in section, its place is confirmed. By contrast, Smout Allen have little concern to shore up the substance of their virtual object by this kind of rigorous cross-fire. The object varies each time it is re-drawn—as they say, it is an iterative ‘test-site’ rather than a demonstration; a materialisation rather than a depiction. The floating condition of the drawing is not merely a compositional effect of the layout; for all it’s intricacy and precision, the objects drawn are, in an important sense, still indeterminate. The governing surface of this drawing isn’t the virtual and immaterial picture plane, but an actual sheet of matter, traversed by wandering lines, perforated, folded, and split into three dimensions. I asked earlier what codes were operating in this drawing—it should be recognised that they are the codes of the workshop, the modelling table, and the laser-cutter as much as the codes of orthography.