Lawrence Weiner: Inherent in the Rhumb Line

22 Mar 2007 – 9 Dec 2007

Save Event: Lawrence Weiner: Inherent in the Rhumb Line4

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National Maritime Museum

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • DLR - Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich or Greenwich
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Inherent in the Rhumb Line, explores a concept underpinning maritime navigation. On a flat surface, a straight line is defined as being the shortest distance between two points while maintaining a constant direction. However, on the curved surface of the Earth these two properties cannot be true at the same time. The rhumb line is the path of constant compass direction, potentially continuing into infinity. These lines of navigation first appeared on late 13th-century Portolan charts and, in the 16th century, Gerald Mercator's revolutionary mathematical flat projection made rhumb lines the easiest, although not the shortest, way to steer from one place to another. The Mercator projection distorts the size of the land masses and shows rhumb lines crossing the meridians at a constant angle; were a rhumb line followed around the globe a spiral course would be traced. All maps are inherently metaphorical; they are political tools constructed through historical contingencies that require interpretation. Impositions that model behaviour, and the generality that paradigms evoke, consistently interest Weiner. Inherent in the Rhumb Line questions metaphorical understandings of the world.

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