Creating Elkwood: building an alternate history
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This practice-led research project is concerned with ‘world creation’. I use the term to describe the construction of a fictional universe that is internally coherent. The project is specifically interested in the role of narrative in world creation, and how an immersive story world might be constructed through the combination of illustration and writing. The project creates a world that references the technological innovations and scientific beliefs of the mid-1800s. However, these are pursued through an imagined time trajectory into the 1930s. Here we encounter an isolated, innovative and intellectually sophisticated community whose ethical and technological codes have been shaped by the earlier period. Advancing beyond the scientific knowledge of the 1800s, the world has continued to pursue the utopian, science-led visions indicative of the period. Special attention is paid to characterisation, costume, social technologies, environments and ethical frameworks. The project produces a series of illustrations (masquerading as photographic prints) and sketches from an ethnographic field study. An edited selection of these images is presented in a fictional National Geographic article from 1932. Illustrative field documents refused for inclusion in this publication are exhibited in an installed environment that details the discovery of Elkwood: the aberrant, isolated community that forms the imaginary site of the inquiry.