“Gould says of his Book of Fish, ‘what I write, & what here I paint are Experiment & Prophecy.’ ”
Ronald Bogue writes this in Deleuzian Fabulations (2010) on Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish (2002) which is based on The Book of Fish (around 1832-33) by William Buelow Gould with paintings of flora and fauna (with narratives) of the penal colony on Sarah Island, Tasmania.
In Flanagan’s historical tale, the protagonist William Gould escapes the disintegrating penal colony of Sarah Island towing voluminous registers penned by the Commissariat Officer Jorgen Jorgensen. The registers are filled with Jorgensen’s elaborate fabrications of the colony, telling of its material wealth, technological accomplishments and exoticism. Sarah Island was an extra-ordinary place; it had the largest shipyard on Australia, but also a railway system whose loop was so small it had hand-painted changing panoramas of faraway places, including a bejewelled Great Mah-Jong Hall that lured Chinese traders to gamble away their hard-won fortunes. Sarah Island, an island within an island positioned offshore from an island colony, became a place of reinvention by Europeans and reflected the aspirations of the British Empire, where natural and human histories were based on a grand Linnaean taxonomy and organised by a Benthamic panopticon.
Gould escaped with the registers to avoid Jorgensen’s fabulations —extraordinary and fanciful representations —from being discovered and taken as historical truth. He does this in order to protect penal life from some ‘other’ reality, which Gould had himself documented while preparing paintings of fish upon the orders of his commandants. Ironically, in the delirium of his escape Jogensen’s fabricated registers and his [Gould’s?] own historical accounts became confabulated in Gould’s mind.
The call for papers for SAHANZ 2012 is inspired by the relations between Bogue’s essay, Flanagan’s story, and Gould’s documentation. It takes seriously the productiveness, outcomes and implications of ‘fabulation’ for architectural history. To Bogue, Flanagan’s practice is “an experiment on the real, an engagement with the historical record and its stories, told and untold, its memories and amnesias.” As a concept which has its origins in literary criticism and devotees among critics like Haruki Murakami, Thomas Pynchon and J. M. G Le Clézio, fabulations invoke the thresholds of the real and the imagined, serious and trivial, time and space, phantasmagorical and self-evident, process and outcome, theory and practice. Fabulation challenges those who according to Barthes
“… want a text (an art, a painting, [a history]) without a shadow, without the dominant ideology; but this is to want a text without fecundity, without productivity, a sterile text … The text needs its shadows; this shadow is a bit of ideology, a bit of representation, a bit of subject; ghosts, pockets, traces, necessary clouds; subversion must produce its own chiaroscuro.”
[Barthes quoted in Jorge Silvetti, ‘The Beauty of Shadows’ in K Michael Hays, Architectural Theory Since 1968, p. 280]
We invite papers on a wide range of current research, and inclusive reflections on the idea of fabulation in architectural history. How have the inheritances of architectural history – works, images, narratives, languages, tools and methods – been fabulated through our collective practices? What are the possible implications of fabulation for heritage practice that negotiates continuities with the past (often multiple pasts) and for looking forward into the future? Such ideas raise questions about gaps, or histories untold, as well as myths received through the writing and images of our architectural histories – myths that in turn raise questions about the truth-value of the past. Reflecting on the Tasmanian setting of SAHANZ2012, we also ask how these myths are fabulated or challenged by the combined presences of nature and heritage.
Authorised by Head of School, Architecture & Design
13 September, 2011