WINTER 2010_NEVER NEVER LANDS: Prospecting in Dreamtime


“In the Land of the Never-Never; in that elusive land with an elusive name – land of dangers and hardships and privations yet loved as few lands are loved – a land that bewitches her people with strange spells and mysteries, until they call sweet bitter, and bitter sweet.” We of the Never-Never, By Jeannie Gunn

This year The Unknown Fields Division continues to enter into new relations with the territories of science, nature and fiction. We explore the complex, rich and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures and probe our preservationist and conservationist attitudes toward the natural world. In Galapagos we mused on evolution and in the Arctic we contemplated the end of the world and now we look to strange new beginnings as we embark on a voyage to bear witness to the reinvention of nature through technology in the Australian Never-Never.

The Division will head off on a dust blown road trip across Australia, into the vast and mysterious interior of this remote island continent in search of its ancient tribal hinterlands and its vast techno-landscapes. This land of rich resources and sparsely inhabited expanses houses huge feats of engineering; technological incisions into the narrative landscape of the Dreamtime – the creation mythology of the indigenous Aboriginals. Stories and ceremonies of dreaming beings that once shaped the sacred sites of mountain ranges and river-beds are now spun with the ghosts of modern technologies.

Here beneath the Southern Cross, telescopes listen to the beep-beep from alien worlds, solar arrays track the sun, observatories scan the Milky Way and all the while, machines harvest the earth for the precious ingredients of our daily lives. We will venture ‘out back’ into a hidden terrain – a strange landscape behind the scenes of modern living – visiting the vast mines of the interior, stalking mechanical beasts the size of buildings and exploring excavations the size of cities. Violent gestures of accelerated geology employed across these vast expanses create landscapes of erasure, excavation and re-articulation. Towering mountains of tailings, articulated valleys and vast lakes emerge from these incisions; re-made as new nature. We will be both visionaries and reporters, critically engaged with the conditions of today through speculation about the coming of tomorrow. Clambering over the wreckage of the future, our architecture will operate in the no-man’s land between the cultivated and the natural: a new Dreaming for a new kind of wilderness.

‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ Arthur C. Clarke

10/11 Division Roster

Leaders: Liam Young and Kate Davies

Troops: Soonil Kim, Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu, Wen Ying Teh, Samantha Lee, Robert Buhler, Ville Saarikoski, Mazin Offali, Ed Pearce, Aram Moordian, Ho Lun Chiang, So Yeon Jang.

All Mine
Unknown Fields Domestic Mining Operations_Winter 2010_Outback Australia 30°46'06.4"S 121°31'02.0"E

To chronicle the creation stories of the city, Unknown Fields took a dust-blown road trip across Australia in search of gold. Towering mountains of tailings, remade landforms, terraced valleys and artificial lakes all take shape from this distributed ground, cut through the narrative landscape of the Dreamtime, the creation mythology of the Aboriginal Australians.

Territories once mapped into surfaces of Aboriginal dot paintings are now depicted on screen in the digital point clouds of geology survey scans. In the accompanying film we dive deep to follow a new subterranean creation story, one created from the underground mine computer models and laser survey data that is used to determine the most cost effective excavations plans and mine strategy. In the cool calculations of digital mine models, the shape of the mine pit changes as the geologists enter the variable gold price into their software. One cut at a time, the fluctuations of the gold price are etched into the ground of Western Australia, forging deep underground caverns and open chasms.

Unknown Fields have built a domestic mining machine with a data connection to the precious metals market. It is live-linked to the gold price as it trades, tracking its percentage rise and fall, the miner carves into the everyday. The abstractions of buying and selling play out in our comfortable mundane, excavating our domestic landscapes. It mines as you sleep, as you take a bath, as you watch TV, as you read the morning papers. What was once out of sight, lost to distance, just a sacrificial territory in a place we will never visit, is bought home, screeching and drilling into the cities and spaces we all know so well.

All Mine by Unknown Fields. Engineered and fabricated by Nick Williamson, Software by Tobias Jewson

GravityONE: A Choreography for Militarised Airspace by Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu.
Unknown Fields Experimental Flight Lab_Winter 2010_Outback Australia 23°47’56.4″S 133°44’13.2″E

The remote territories of the Australian Never Never are anything but empty. The history of these landscapes is one of nuclear testing, rocket launches and black military technologies. The skies over this red earth are scarred with the contrails of experimental weapons flights and charged with the militarised electromagnetic waves that reach out to US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Forgotten, somewhere in this landscape, is an abandoned missile tracking station. From here Oliviu, in our Experimental Flight Lab, is launching a choreographed flock of autonomous gliders, to drift through the air in silent protest. Floating on engineered thermal currents their wingspan antennas broadcast white noise through the electromagnetic landscapes over Australia’s Pine Gap military base, momentarily jamming their telecommunications signals.



THERMAL GENERATORS- A prosthetic implant in to the cliff, a technological augmentation, a point where the entire light weight architectural system prop on the ground through the use of an air column.








A Comprehensive Atlas of Gold Fictions by Aram Mooradian.
Unknown Fields Future Archaeologies Department_Winter 2010_Outback Australia 30°46’25.6″S 121°29’59.5″E


Aboriginal dreamtime narratives speak of a time when the ground was soft and creation beings shaped mountains and rivers. Now the financial narratives of gold prices reshape the earth through massive excavations and technological incisions. The Atlas of Gold Fictions catalogues the strange infrastructures of the gold economy, from its source in the mines of Australia to the web of precious artefacts scattered across the globe. Aram, of our Future Archaeologies Department, has reimagined the infrastructure of gold’s solely virtual value through the speculative artefacts of a new network of gold objects inscribed with the oral histories of the land from which it came. A suicide note is inscribed on a single gold bullet, the sound of a grandmother’s laughter is encoded into an heirloom necklace and the dying languages of Australia’s indigenous culture are recorded onto the gold bars dug out of the very ground of their homeland. Our relationship to our finite resources is re-examined with this new dispersed geology of artefacts encoded with the cultural rather than economic values of the contemporary world.


GOLD BAR- Like the voyager gold record, the gold bar is redesigned as spools of lost and endangered languages from the indigenous sites where the resource is extracted.


GOLD VAULT- The gold vault becomes a new archive of cultural information and lost languages.


HEADPHONE JACK- This gold plated headphone jack has embedded within it an aboriginal songline from the place its gold was abstracted. Once the landscape is disturbed by mining machines, its songlines become dislocated from their lad, encoded into and spread by the gold. The aboriginal stories and song survive in the ore extracted. Just like the secret tracks of a beatle record, Hidden within the tunes of the latest pop song are the Endangered oral histories from the mine site.


EYELID IMPLANT- Mary Andreson works at a diner in Rhode Island. She likes to read ‘Hello’ and ‘Vogue’ as she dreams of having a better life. “If I am Beautiful” she thinks to herself, “I can get out of here”. So night by night she sweeps the floors and cleans the grime from the ovens, collecting the pennies that she is saving to make herself beautiful. As her hands become rough, she works towards implants that will remove the tired lines from her eyes; on which her ideal DNA is recorded, “When I am gone” she thinks, “they’ll read who I really am inside”.


HEIRLOOM PENDANT- Natapa lives in Bangkok with her mother. She is sixteen now and she wants to leave home but she is trapped. For months she has been seeing a boy, but she wouldn’t dare tell. Leaving is the only way to see him. Enduring their love in respective isolation, the young couple exchange pendants onto which their voices are inscribed reminded each other that it’s only a matter of time before they can be together. The sounds of their laughter and little sayings caress the grooves of the pendant.


LUMBAR IMPLANT- Tyler Mason, 24 from Ohio, came back from his first tour of duty in Iraq with shrapnel in his sides and a broken spine. The whole time I was out there he thought of Jane, whom he had left behind. He would sing the tune they first kissed to in his head as he was dragged to safety by a medic, wondering if he would ever see her again. When they fixed his back, inscribed in the contours of his implant he engraved that first song- “You and Me”. They patched him up, he kissed Jane and went on his way to Afghanistan.


GOLD BULLET- This was the suicide bullet used by Hunter S Thompson in 2005. Inscribed along its contours is a note to his wife Anita titled, ‘Football season is over’.

Sacred Anomalies: Infiltrating Landscape Surveys by Samantha Lee.
Unknown FIelds Department of Intangible technologies_Winter 2010_Outback Australia 21°21’23.6″S 124°09’56.8″E

The vast territories of the Australian outback are highly contested landscapes. The technologies with which this ground is surveyed and recorded also become the political means through which groups claim ownership over it. In the skies above, mining survey planes track back and forth laser scanning the earth searching for the topographic anomalies that indicate pockets of undiscovered minerals and on the ground, the ochre stokes of aboriginal landscape painters map the songlines of their sacred dreamtime stories. In our Department of Intangible technologies Samantha Lee is corrupting this mining survey data by engineering a seasonal network of mysterious dreamtime anomalies. Anchored around aboriginal sacred sites these mythic objects slowly stalk the contested territory, distorting mining cartographies to generate a new form of landscape representation. This architecture of mirages exists at the threshold between the sky and the subterranean, between the physical and the virtual, to generate a ghostly constellation of sacred sites hidden within the dataset.

samantha.lee-06Ghost in the Data


GHOST IN THE DATA- By scanning, the hidden ghost of the landscape is revealed, becoming a new layer of meaning in the virtual dataset. The sacred sites are given a presence which extends into the invisible and the subterranean realm, and isn’t just reduced to a thin surface. A reality made explicit by Native Title, this severs the surface of land from the government-owned underground.

SEASONAL MAGNETIC FLUX- Orbiting around the sacred waterholes, these new inhabitants of the land form a constellation in perpetual motion. When they meet, the magnetic field between them is amplified, creating a fluctuating network within the data.

THE ILLUSION AS VISUAL ANOMALIES- As an experience of journey driving though the flat desert, they become mysterious beacons floating on the horizon, and their reflections or silhouettes become navigational references. Standing at the sacred site, they orbit your horizon line, which in plan view becomes a circle as the panoramic view is unfolded around you.