Remapping Sydney Meridian

Follow Lily Hibberd on this virtual walk, on which she retraces her steps along the Meridian line from Sydney Observatory to Sydney Town Hall. Every day at midday from Monday 8 June to 1 July 2020, Lily will guide you along the line, one Meridian ‘station’ a day over 24 days. This walk reveals the history of Sydney’s Meridian, a north-south line transecting the Observatory’s Transit telescope, and the role it played in imposing an empire of regulated time on the colony as well as its connection to surveying and laying claim to the land.

As she retraces the Meridian line, you will find out how far it has shifted over time. Her walk suggests that neither time nor territory can be bound by absolute rules. In this rift of time and space lies a paradox: Eurocentric and colonial premises, including technological determinism, cannot change the reality that time itself is impossible to pin down – that time is always changing.

This blog has been created for ‘Boundless – out of time’, Lily’s month-long artist and research residency at Sydney Observatory. Presented by Powerhouse Museum as part of NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney 2020.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Station 24: Sydney Town Hall Rooftop

July 1, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Follow Kent Street a few metres to reach the T intersection with Druitt Street. Cross over to the corner of Town Hall House (both loved and hated as an exceptional example of Brutalist architecture).

Station 23: On the abandoned façade

June 30, 2020

Lily Hibberd
At the top of Druitt Lane, directly in front is an abandoned building, on the doors behind the one way street sign is Station 23. Despite the misuse of surveillance by probably all governments worldwide and plenty of private corporations, in addition to the pollution of our ancient view of the sky, Global Navigational Satellite Systems have at least provided a holistic view of our planet and data on its changing nature over time, as well as impacts of the present human-caused climate crisis.

Station 22: Druitt Place

June 29, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Take a left at The Shelbourne down Sussex Street. Trek along about 200 metres until you reach Druitt Place. Walk just inside the laneway – on your right is Station 22. Over time, as surveying became a more established and governed practice, ‘trig’ stations and baseline markers were installed.

Station 21: under the footbridge on Market Street

June 28, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Now, turn right into Market Street, staying to the left of the footbridge. Approach the corner of Sussex Street, then turn around 180 degrees to find Station 21 on the footbridge pillar. The contradiction of the empirical premise that all of nature can be claimed and controlled is evident today in the very current problem of making maps coordinate with the global positioning system (GPS).

Station 20: in front of City Mart on Market Street

June 27, 2020

Lily Hibberd
At the corner, take a hard left and right there on the wall in front of City Mart is Station 20. Despite all of these instruments and the presumption of accuracy, from the first years that European methods were introduced to survey colonial Australia errors plagued the process, and corruption was rife.

Station 19: Archway next to Vicolo Café

June 26, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Further along on Kent Street pass by some rough sandstone walls, another archway then Vicolo Café, just beyond that, in the second arch is Station 19. The science of spatial measurement (called metrology) has required increasingly precise correlation between instruments, units and standards.

Station 18: In archway after Nando’s

June 25, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Keep going and just after Nando’s is a nice archway where you’ll find Station 18. According to Andrew Long, author of an often cited text on First Nations’ practices of scarring trees in the New South Wales region, ‘Early European settlers adopted the techniques of bark stripping they observed from Aboriginal people’ (Long 2005: 7).

Station 17: Kent Street Doorway

June 24, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Cross over King then onto Kent Street but stay on your left, just a couple of metres further are two doors and Station 17. Now for some technical details on the marking of boundary trees. By 1830, apparently, about ‘3.5 million acres of land had been alienated in New South Wales’ (Marshall 2006: 3).

Station 16: In the laneway at Number 40 King Street

June 23, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Sydney’s streets, as you probably noticed, are not aligned with the Meridian and perhaps this is an oversight… although, as far as I know, Paris is only city ever built on the basis of its meridian.

Station 15: Electrical box in front of Air China

June 22, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Keep going down Clarence Street, look out for the nice Deco buildings over the road, and continue until you see two spindly trees, and in front of Air China on the shiny electrical box is Station 15.

Station 14: Air Ninguini number 100

June 21, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Turn right onto Barrack Street. At the intersection, cross over the road to the Mach2 bar and continue a few metres along Clarence Street. Before the pharmacy at number 100 is Air Ninguini – this is Station 14.

Station 13: York Lane

June 20, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Just before you reach the end of the lane, there is an archway on the left that must have been a carriageway but was bricked up. Here’s Station 13. Upon the conferral, in 1884, of Greenwich Mean Time, also often simply called GMT, Britain was given a power that was not abstract.

Station 12: red wall in York Lane

June 19, 2020

Lily Hibberd
Turn into York Lane, and along the way check yourself out in the mirror windows. About halfway down, on the dirty red wall, is Station 12. Today the longitude of Paris is 2° 20′ 14.03″ East. But east of where?

Station 11: Corner of Erskine St and York Lane – Officeworks

June 18, 2020

Lily Hibberd
At Erskine St. head for the Wynyard pub … no, it’s not beer o’clock just yet! Cross over to the Officeworks store, behind the 4th pillar, just before the laneway is Station 11 – a little detour from the meridian – a triangulation to be precise.

Station 10: behind the Telstra sign

June 17, 2020

Lily Hibberd
More coffee shops, you should see Pie Face across the road, but keep going past another grey wall, on the other side it where there is the Telstra sign you’ll find Station 10. In 1792, the figure of the Earth was foremost on the minds of two French scientists, Pierre Méchain and Jean-Baptiste Delambre.