Simon Faithfull’s practice takes him to extremes – literally. His work is concerned with journeys and reporting back. He has sent a chair into the stratosphere to the edge of space, travelled to Antartica on an ice-breaker and made a walk along the bottom of the ocean. His fascination starts with the globe; the sphere, the planet as a sculptural object. As an artist he sets out to subjectively experience its extremities, reporting back to his audience.
We at Edge Arts are very excited to have commissioned his latest project 0/0 A Journey to the Centre of Nowhere – an expedition along the Merdian line, starting in Northern France and ending on the coast of Ghana. The digital drawings he sends back from his journey will form a major public art work running through the University of Bath campus and leading audiences into the new £10m The Edge building and arts spaces. This is a fitting setting – the University is an elite research centre, also exploring and reporting back from the boundaries of the planet and human experience through science and humanities.
Faithfull’s photographs from the journey also form part of the major opening exhibition in the double-height gallery this month.
Simon Faithfull set off on his journey on the 12 July and we caught up with him before he left to talk to him about his latest odyssey.
Q What is your fascination with the Meridian Line?
A It started when I went to Antartica. One of the strange things about this journey (and there were many) is that as I travelled from RAF Brize Noton, to the Ascension Islands, to the Falkland Islands, to South Georgia, to Signy Island, and then finally to the British Antarctic Territory and never actually left Britain. These are all the last bits of Empire – little rocks that no one else wants (though some are pretty contested).
Another thing that’s strange about going to Antarctica is that time gets less and less relevant and other-worldly. The sun stops setting and starts making circles in the sky. You start crossing time zones more and more frequently as they get thinner and thinner. So theoretically at some point you would be changing your watch every 20 mins. Of course you stop, because it’s irrelevant anyway as the sun’s not setting.
All of that made me very aware of the legacy of the British Empire. The lines of longitude that have been strung around the planet are completely arbitrary and don’t need to be anywhere in particular. It’s the legacy of Britain being the dominant naval power that placed the Greenwich Meridian where it is.
Just the paradox of the line being hypothetical – it doesn’t exist – and it being this grand construct fascinates me.