Lingua Geographica, 1996
Pinned photograph, framed
200 x 200 x 10 centimeters (approx. 78.75 x 78.75 x 3.95")
Collection of Erika and Robin Congreve
Born 1962, West Melton, New Zealand; lives in Canberra, Australia

Lingua Geographica
“European cartographic history is part of my heritage—it’s part of how many of us came to be born in this part of the world—and it’s these traditions I want to work with: to challenge, change, and propose other ways of drawing our maps”.

For the last fifteen years, Watson’s works have been about cartography, in particular the way that maps inform our idea of the world. Watson creates works based on early historical projections of the globe. For example, this work uses photographic fragments of a picture of her tongue to create a map of the world in the shape of a heart. This map shape is known as a cordiform projection and was invented by the sixteenth-century German astronomer Johannes Stobern. The representation of the world using imagery of the artist’s tongue, a sensory organ, suggests that maps affect the way we experience the world.

This work transposes maps onto sculptures of tears made of salt. Each tear has been stained with rust, compost, and pollutants in the shape of countries. The tears suggest emotions such as sadness and, when coupled with the use of pollutants, could be said to offer regret at our treatment of the natural environment. As with Lingua Geographica, Watson has chosen a familiar form, in this case the tear, to call attention to a broader issue, the state of our oceans.

Asia Society chat with the artist:

I am a fourth-generation Pakeha New Zealander – Pakeha is a Maori word for non-Maori from New Zealand so we have a label that has been given to us by the indigenous people. I am interested in this heritage, in how white people came to be Pacific Islanders, in a sense, because that is the history of my ancestors who left Ireland, Scotland, and England - the classic UK mix - and all that is gone. I have no relationship to those places, I do not identify with them. It would of course be nice to go for a visit, but they are not ‘home’ by any means; I am a New Zealander. So I am interested in that process, how this came about.

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