Issue No. 12 (December 2005) — Rethinking Regionality
We all live in a Perpetual Present. Behind us we have our own envisaged Past; with us is our own confusing and imperative Present, subject to compulsive expedient; ahead of us we have only our surmised Future of unsure prophecy and expectation. With these we make our way, doing what we must and constantly bending to demanding necessity, while trying to hold fast to our best intentions.
Ray Parkin (ix)
During the course of 1770 Captain James Cook, botanist/entrepreneur Joseph Banks, and the crew of Her Majesty's Bark Endeavour proceeded from their circumnavigation of New Zealand's coastline to discover, explore and map the east coast of New Holland, as Australia was then known. Starting from Port Hicks near the current New South Wales/Victorian border, this famous voyage of discovery stopped at Botany Bay, eventually passing and naming Cape Byron and Mt. Warning in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales (aka the Rainbow Region), and finishing its exploratory work at the top-end of Cape York in northern Australia. As Paul Carter notes, Cook has an ambivalent role in Australian history, variously exalted, ignored and vilified as a foundation figure (Botany Bay 1). More poignantly, at least according to Mark McKenna in Looking for Blackfellas' Point (a regional history of the Eden-Monaro area where Cook first sighted the Great South Land at Port Hicks), the bicentenary of the Endeavour's landing at Botany Bay on the 29th April 1970 inaugurates a "moral crisis" for the nation and is marked by indigenous Australians as a "day of mourning" (McKenna 157-158). For Carter, though, Cook is a traveller with a "propensity for coasting" (Botany Bay 2), and in our national imagination he (and possibly we) have continued to do just that right up until this day. If forgetting the historical trauma and the moral conundrum inaugurated by the Endeavour's journey is not an option, how might it be possible to re-conceive our personal and collective understanding of it?
Given the Endeavour's journey is a national myth, one of the grand narratives of white Australia, and one often interpreted through the literate technology of Cook's journal (an outlook that explicates the voyage from a singular perspective), an alternative kind of imagining might be to look at the journey through a conglomeration of differing but intersecting perspectives so that this "moral crisis" might be better confronted in its complexity rather than in the journey's singular certainty as an inaugurating national myth. This kind of multiple re-telling of the Endeavour myth is important because, as then Prime Minister Paul Keating implied in his Redfern Park speech of 1992 (transcribed in Keating), white Australia needs to deal with the injustices meted out to indigenous Australians, injustices that came about partly as a result of this voyage of discovery. If each subsequent generation has a responsibility to reinterpret the recurring myths of a tribe, the Endeavour's journey must rank as one of our Top Ten legends in need of an epistemological overhaul.
In this particular re-birthing of the Endeavour's journey I would like to look at it from a local and a regional perspective rather than a national one, in part inspired by the way Looking for Blackfellas' Point questions the period of time between the Endeavour's initial sighting of Point Hicks in 1770 and the first arrival of white settlers in the Eden-Monaro area in the 1830s, a "period during which Aboriginal societies fought for their land" (92). Indeed, before European takeover the Great South Land could equally be conceived of as a plurality of regionalised societies more than it was a nationalised one. In concert with this local/regional perspective (Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers of New South Wales respectively) there is also a focus on how the body operates in space, in particular how the crew of the Endeavour might have corporeally engaged with the world in a nautical context, one where their gaze was for the most part terrestrially directed. This is an attempt to shift the spotlight from the actual continent the Endeavour's voyage is said to have discovered to the space of the ship itself, and to use this as a means of contrasting the oceanic and the terrestrial, or the fixed and the fluid, a dyadic quadrant that dialectically entrains this voyage as it makes its way up the east coast in 1770. Equally, the fixed and the fluid is also a dyad critical to our understanding of the structures of knowledge. Thirdly, there is a sense in which this journey might also be re-conceived through an electronic epistemology, or in Gregory Ulmer's (Internet Invention) terms an "electrate" approach rather than a literate one. Ironically, this latter emphasis is an approach that was also suggested to me via a reading of Ray Parkin's "book" H. M. Bark Endeavour.
Ray Parkin's H. M. Bark Endeavour excerpts journal material from among the Endeavour's personnel, features of the ship's construction details, some of its plans and charts, along with aspects of its sailing capacities in both written and graphic form, a combination the author then syncopates with his own commentary. While H. M. Bark Endeavour projects itself almost as a multimedia exercise in a literate form, it still doesn't move in space, or even allow itself to get Lost in Space. Parkin has been a sailor so he knows his spatial co-ordinates too well to get lost, either textually or spatially. On Tuesday, May 15, 1770 though, while Cook and company are coasting along the ocean adjacent to the sub-tropical region now known as the Northern Rivers, he names the first of two still significant places there:
A tolerable high point of land bore NWbW distant 3 miles — this point I named Cape Byron (Latitude 28° 27´ 30" s, Longde 206° 30´ West). It may be known by a remarkable sharp peaked Mountain lying inland NWbW from it. From this point the land trends N 13° W. Inland it is pretty high and hilly but near the shore it is low; to the southward of the point the land is low and tolerable level. (Cook, qtd in Parkin 220)The next day, after sailing a little further north and looking back at that same "remarkable sharp peaked Mountain" from a south-west bearing (just offshore from where the border-town of Tweed Heads now stands) Cook notes in his journal:
We now saw the breakers again within us which we past at the distance of about 1 League, they lay in the Latde of 28° 8´ & stretch off East two Leagues from a point under which is a small island, their situation may always be found by the peaked mountain before mentioned which bears swbw from them and on this account I have named Mount Warning. It lies 7 or 8 Leagues inland in the latitude of 28° 22´ s, the land is high and hilly about it but it is conspicuous enough to be distinguished from everything else. (Cook, qtd in Parkin 222-223)Cook's touring alter-ego — Joseph Banks — notes briefly of the same landscape feature: "At sun set a remarkable peaked hill was in sight 5 or 6 leagues off in the countrey, which about it was well wooded and looked beautiful as well as fertile" (Banks, qtd in Parkin 223). With the liquid fathoms of ocean underneath them ("One fathom equals 1.82 metres, or six feet", Parkin viii), and the peak of the now-named Mt. Warning lifting their gaze, the participants in this voyage used the act of naming to inaugurate an embryonic knowledge of the spatial co-ordinates of the Northern Rivers and Byron Bay, co-ordinates that placed both the locality and the region on the Mercator's projection, the imaginary grid that still girds the globe's maps. Significantly, at least as Parkin argues it, the "Endeavour was armed only defensively. The voyage was a voyage after knowledge, not conquest" (x). "Knowledge", "conquest" and "naming" are rarely absent from each other's company, all are inextricably linked, so to suggest otherwise is an implausible naivety. If previously the Great South Land was a satirical figment of Jonathan Swift's imaginary world in Gulliver's Travels, with Cook's naming of Cape Bryon and Mt. Warning, along with the mapping of their spatial co-ordinates, there is a material instantiation of the global ethic that has come to pervade much of Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers today.
The figure of Mt. Warning is the most monumental landscape feature of the Northern Rivers and a reminder of the Old World of Europe in its subliminal capacity as a form of spatially acquired knowledge. Mt. Warning is an extinct volcano whose prehistoric eruptions provided the basis for the fertility of the soils in the Northern Rivers region. Also (and regardless of whether Parkin thinks the Endeavour's journey had little to do with "conquest"), his comment that, "Mount Warning, whose peak is remarkably like that of the Matterhorn from this [south-west] bearing" (221) evokes the static and monumental nature of European political power at an early pinnacle of its colonising ascendancy, as well as suggesting that a mountain top is the most beautiful of all landscapes. Sometimes considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the Matterhorn is a mountain peak rising 4,478 metres (14,692 feet) out of the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy and is a sight/site of extraordinary beauty. According to Simon Schama, a commonplace of European colonialism at the time of Cook's journey was "... that the possession of a mountaintop was a title to lordship. To a truly absolute prince, nothing, certainly not a pile of rock, should be 'inaccessible,' beyond the reach of his sovereignty" (423). In this frame, the naming and ascension of a mountain are akin to institutionalising the principle of sacred autonomy, and the keeping in perpetuity of a fixed domain of political and epistemological understanding over the surrounding countryside. The mountain, then, is a landscape figure that connects human knowledge to the unchanging word of God, or at least to the latter's Christian version, and a spatial means of creating the illusion of political and epistemological permanence (Schama gives an account of the relationship between mountains and Christianity in Landscape and Memory 411-417).
While it was some time before Europeans actually conquered Mt. Warning, to possess the views and the countryside afforded by its naming, mapping and ascent, the comparison between the two peaks remains instructive because acknowledging the height of a landscape feature in the exploration and discovery phase implied the nascent, even if somewhat hesitant imperial/colonial ambitions England had for New Holland at this time. This imperial predilection then foregoes an in-situ understanding of Mt. Warning as "a magnificent physical statement of 24 million years of land building and re-shaping, occasional bursts of violence, and life giving opportunities" (Graham n.p.), or of the local indigenous people's spiritual or geo-political understanding of it, and gives its European name an expanded lexical inflexion than the one Cook intended: a warning of the "timeless" European power to come. This additive level of meaning also insinuates the idea that the mountain is a landscape figure that presages the panopticon, as well as the surveillance society of global capitalism, both of which are now animated by electronic communication. From the top of a mountain, any centralising character can knock out a tune like "I Can See Everything Clearly Now". The naming of Mt. Warning, then, fixates a European politics of space over its Australian variation and in so doing thinks that mountains and land don't change, or that human will or knowledge can't reshape our understanding of them, or ourselves. This is a control complex exercised on a titanic socio-political scale as much as it is an ordering, a naming of nature as well as providing an oblique clue as to the unchanging "reality" of the Endeavour's journey as an Antipodean foundation myth.
While the fixed nature of European socio-political power is sometimes concreted into place by its re/production in the more mechanical technologies of literate textuality, it is the contextuality of the Endeavour's journey that also deserves highlighting here (for further discussion of this dyad: textuality/contextuality, see Appadurai 187). As Carter (Botany Bay 29) interprets the Cook/Banks relationship (the former intuitive, metaphorical; the latter a master of a more fixed Linnaean inspired objective formalism), it was nonetheless one conducted mostly in an oceanic context, a context where an understanding of the "body's bilaterality", that is the body's above/below, in-front/behind, and its left/right axes, is crucial (it is Edward S. Casey who refers to these axes as "the body's bilaterality" 207-210, 236-237). These intersecting trajectories are utterly spatio-temporalising entities that corporeally configure our life-world experience as a three dimensional phenomenon, especially in the confined but fluid space of a sea-going vessel; they also help confer a centring privilege on bodily movement while remaining a serious impediment to epistemological stasis or a fixed global gestalt. Even in more fixed terrestrial landscapes the body remains in perennial movement, so when located on the ocean there is a double movement of both the body and its context. As well, this double movement of the body's bilaterality, in conjunction with the oceanic, gives some compositional authority to the actual bodies held in their dual sway. The intersecting motion of these axes draws the body more intensely into its specific place on the globe (its located position) while simultaneously marking out the trajectory of its earthly movement (its passage from birth to death).
These spatially mobile crosshairs animating the body-in-place (that is, the specific contextualised movement of the above/below, the in-front/behind, and the left/right axes of the body) are profoundly embedded in all of us, while also being imminent to all human groupings. It might then be fruitful to conjure up in our current thinking the bilateralising and contextualising capacities of any one, or a number of bodies on the Endeavour as the ship made its way up the east coast of New Holland in 1770. This placement of actual bodies on the Endeavour (an understanding we can learn a great deal about from Parkin's H. M. Bark Endeavour, then, refers us to the contextuality of a given code, production, event, or understanding, as much as its textuality, a change in emphasis vital to re-examining the nature of change, re-invention, and re-discovery. We need to do this in order to enhance the prospect of the latter trio's instantiation in economy, culture and politics, something that is already happening vis-à-vis the Endeavour's journey.
As the veils of repression surrounding our historical understanding of the Endeavour's journey and its aftermath are increasingly contested (cf. "The dynamic of history is the slow return of the repressed", Brown 230), in Walter Benjamin's terms this is a "moment of danger" where the actual mode of production in which our knowledge of the journey is couched is also contested (247). An epistemological reformation (that is, questioning how and in what form our knowledge of a particular object or event is constituted), then, is a co-production partner with any historical, political or moral re-evaluation. So, in the slow-motion movement from Cook's era to our own, this "oceanic feeling" of the Endeavour's journey (see Connery on this idea of the "oceanic feeling") has moved onto land at Byron Bay, a Northern Rivers town that has undergone significant change with the ongoing pressures and pleasures of globalisation.
Byron Bay is now a significant staging point in a multiplicity of global trails, while also being a locality that sometimes is still jokingly referred to as a northern suburb of Sydney as well as a town "increasingly colonised by 'bourgeois bohemians'" (Burnley and Murphy 224). With a heady mix of resurgent Bundjalung traditions and re-negotiations engaging both local indigenous people and more recent settlers; a by-gone history as a whaling station; a social tapestry comprised of a constant around-the-clock movement of hippies, back-packers, tourists and ferals; throw in some new-age mysticism (personal growth workshops centred on charkas, re-birthing and the sacred feminine are common in the Bay); a vocal creative community; as well as a justifiable reputation for expensive real estate; all these elements, and more, make Byron Bay a unique locality in the Australian spatial imagination. In this heated local space, the gifted citizen-subject is the one who stays mobile to the elements of both actuality and discourse. This is also a citizen-subject made psychically, culturally and politico-economically mobile by interaction with the globalised flows of a pluralised network of electronic epistemologies and is less a part of the unitary certainty that exemplifies some of the debates over nationalism or national character. This shift from a unitary-nationalist mode of knowledge production to a global-pluralist one is what most typifies Byron Bay as a community and many of the people who live there.
Conjunctively then, Parkin's H. M. Bark Endeavour and the journey it depicts, the current state of the Byron Bay locality, and more broadly, the nature and culture of the Northern Rivers region, should satisfy Ross Gibson's quest for an "oceanic" understanding of white settlement rather than a terrestrial one. At the same time it might be wise to keep in mind that the repressed knowledge the oceanic can summon up to testimony is also a representational space where a "hatred of trees" (Bolton 37-48), war, dispossession, rape and murder sometimes emerge out of silence and despair (one regional example of these latter categories is Peter Read's A Hundred Years War, which outlines the white settlers' war of dispossession against the Wiradjuri tribes of the Riverina area). The state has often repressed this deeper knowledge of colonisation, but Parkin evokes these "uncanny spirits" of the oceanic, when quoted in Angela Bennie's interview with him as saying of his thirty-years-in-the-making obsession with the Endeavour's journey: "I believe a book is more than its author. The author is just the man who writes down what the book is telling him." This is the kind of gnomic instruction that a literate sense of authority might abhor but it is a declaration you could hear at any one of the multitude of personal growth workshops conducted in Byron Bay. At the very least an intensified sense of the "oceanic feeling" (both positive and negative) has permeated the psychology and politics of everyday life in the twentyfirst century. Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers are, respectively, living local and regional examples of this shift in emphasis from the fixed to the fluid, especially as it relates to both reinterpreting the past and the systems of knowledge used in that reinterpretation.
Cook, with his finely honed skills and knowledge in navigation, exploration and discovery; and Banks, the systematic scientist; simultaneously entwined with a composite picture of the spatial actuality of the Endeavour and its crew sailing up and alongside the regions of the east coast, all come together to form a possible spirit-like anagram for the modus operandi of electracy, the primary means of structuring knowledge in a globalising era dominated by electronic communication. With its ability to synthesise a wide variety of electronically codifiable modalities of knowledge (image, text, voice, music, FX, gesture, colour, computer program code etc.) it might now be instructive to view the Endeavour's journey through this kind of electrate ken.  It is in this synaesthetic sense I can recall one of electracy's key poetic attributes: it is a spatially and temporally mobile epistemological structure (sometimes even a parallel, contagious and causal array of simultaneously present, sometimes seemingly absent meaning-making modalities). This is also on top of it being a kind of a techno-cognitive space where one's own potential for the navigation, discovery and exploration of electronic data (and its subsequent transformation through a continuum of information, knowledge and wisdom), combine with the arts of scientific definition, deduction and categorisation, all of which remain components of the "chorographical method" underpinning it. 
While this is not the time-space coordinate for a detailed analysis of chora's complexity, a few organic simplicities will have to suffice.  The concept of chora is usually attributed to Plato, specifically to the dialogue of Timaeus and his companions as set out in Timaeus and Critias. Chora as an idea, for the most part, is amorphously thought of as the space of being and becoming, the real place that a body in particular, and more generally a society, a globe, or a cosmos inhabits. This being/space/becoming triad, then, is the matrix into and out of which stasis (being-ness) and change (becoming-ness) are entwined in the course of a lifetime, possibly even an eternity if space is viewed from a cosmological perspective. In the framework of this Platonic dialogue, chora is the term/spatial actuality that mediates "reason" and "necessity", two of the three conceptual pillars of the Timaeus (the third being "Reason and Necessity Working Together" 96-124). Each and every body and polity is prone to such a triangulating set of circumstances, a state of affairs already referred to earlier as contextuality, the actual place where knowledge and know-how mingle as praxis.
The ongoing semantic usage of chora is in the geographical term chorography, the systematic description and analysis of regions or of a region (etymologically chora arises out of the Greek word choros, meaning place). And in the broader scale turn from more temporally founded methodologies to spatial ones (of which chora is emblematic and crucial in understanding the nexus between space and knowledge) our epistemological attention unravels out of a unilateral fixation (one usually dominant in an historical as well as a visual-word turn of events), towards a more serrated sort of all-at-once fragmentation, while at the same time being wrapped in an additive dream-like logic of textual/aural/imagistic association rather than a subtractive and/or a disembodied logical sequence. For Ulmer (and others) the turn to the spatial and the electronic require significant re-adjustments in the methodological framing of knowledge-making practices hence the need for articulating, even if only tentatively, a chorographical method; a method that trades more in local/regional particulars and less in universals and one that itself may have to be recast every time a new project comes along or another subsequent reinterpretation is necessary.
The ongoing repression of these more mobile electronic arts of self- and world-making is a continuation of the agoraphobic instinct as Carter (in Repressed Spaces) might argue it. The "stay put", "stay silent" ethos of the more stitched-up elements of white settler culture (for the most part elements embedded in a literate sensibility) no longer remain adequate in the face of an emerging electrate sensibility, one predicated more on a movement impulse rather than the "movement inhibition", the latter a significant characteristic of the agoraphobic charge according to Carter (Repressed Spaces 9). What is happening here, then, is a tentative reappraisal of the Endeavour's journey from an electrate point of view and a multifariously configured chora-centric methodology, a shift that comes at the expense of a more singularly understood national/literate one (see Benedict Anderson for an outline of the key relationship between literacy and nationalism).
Finally, I too must cast off from the Endeavour's engagement with Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers. But before doing so (and returning to the act of naming as a spatial practice that Carter references in practically all his work) it's worth noting the current wash-up of how Cape Byron got its name. One significant local myth recurrent in Byron Bay is that it was named after the Romantic poet Lord Byron (father to computer pioneer Ada Lovelace) and who, as a generalisation, abandoned reason in his search for a passionate engagement with the senses via the poetic sensibility. If the citizen-subjects of Byron Bay see themselves as Postmodern Romantics, this is a self-definition that could be realised by having a sensual night out (away from the kids) by going to the Lord Byron Motel in the centre of town; they could even roam around the town's Keats Street, Shelley Drive, and Lawson Street reciting Shakespearean sonnets to a hip-hop beat. After all, this is a town that has refused entry to "Club Med, McDonald's, giant property developer Becton, even Bob Dylan" (Fraser 24), an outcome that symbolises Romanticism's occasionally stubborn practicality. But if the self-assessment of Ord, a character in M. Barnard Eldershaw's novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, (15) is accurate: "I am a romantic which is the synonym for an untrustworthy person, one who is emotionally avaricious ...", then the romantic impulse as we experience it today might also provide an even deeper psychic justification for the economic, political, and spatial rapaciousness of the colonial/imperial/capitalist kind. But regardless of whether one is a scientist, a romantic poet, captain of the Endeavour, or an "ordinary" citizen-subject of the twentyfirst century, there is an ethical price to pay for the rapaciousness of over 200 years of European settlement in Australia, a price that one day will have to be more accurately formulated in ecological, economic, possibly even thanatological terms.
Here, in the poetry of mythmaking at least, it seems appropriate that an aesthete has usurped the British naval officer — "Commodore the Hon. John Byron" — who according to Parkin was the person after whom Cook named Cape Bryon (221). However, it is not simply the act of naming places in pre-/colonial, or even differential local/regional contexts that should be of concern here. Rather, the concern could equally be concentrated on the whole "lexical cartography of twentieth-century Australia", one that indiscriminately implants a distant discourse over the pre-existing space, culture and politics of a down-under continent. If J. M. Arthur's thesis in The Default Country sails close to the truth's bright light (that the lexical order English literacy entrenches in Australia from colonial times onwards, but particularly in the twentieth century, is inadequate to a more thorough-going understanding of the continent) then this realisation still has an adverse ongoing influence over our current epistemological ordering of Antipodean time and space.
If the language we currently use is inadequate to a fuller understanding of Australian time and space, and we would like to rewrite the historical record of the Endeavour's journey, just what might be the options? Firstly, throw out the urge for a traditional re-write and engage with one of the more mutable forms of electracy: the code of a computer game. Parkin's work is an extraordinary example of an author being in the work, not simply of it, or even just its copyright holder. As a sometime sailor, artist and writer, Parkin's great achievement in H. M. Bark Endeavour is to present this voyage of discovery in its spatio-temporally configured oceanic actuality, or as close as any literate representation will allow. Herein, the voyage's virtuality and reality reverberate eagerly through, about, and in each other in an almost organically focussed representational praxis. Its superb drawings of the Endeavour and elements of its nautical technology testify to this assertion. H. M. Bark Endeavour, then, provides a singularly important but aesthetically composite foundation on which a computer game might be built. A McLuhanesque idea no doubt, but the past (and its re/presentation) is not a "foreign country" or some incomprehensible other to be ignored, repressed, and vilified, or even exalted as unchanging.
If it were possible to bury the literate version of H. M. Bark Endeavour at sea, it might eventually be plausible to resurrect it as a computer game where a player is elevated to the role of an avatar of the ship's famous captain, possibly Joseph Banks, even one of the crew or an on-shore Aborigine of the period, or some admixture of these and other elements, and is positioned in such a way so as to engage a different semantic order in relation to the landscape, politics and culture of Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers, possibly even the entire east coast of Gondwanaland/New Holland/Australia. While it is certainly not feasible to repress the Endeavour's journeying altogether, it is possible to re-imagine, re-code and re-order our knowledge and understanding of it by, for example, making a computer game out of it. Pertinently, Andrew Murphie captures well the intensely dynamic complexity of self- and knowledge-making in gaming contexts, writing that "... games show us that habit never stands still." And that,
The modulation of habit is central to gameplay, motivated by the simple but in some ways difficult problem of what to do next, how to adapt given habit to the relational histories, vertigos and battles that might be coming up next. The contemporary ecological context for this — and perhaps the contemporary social problem involved — is the problem of what to do next in the midst of networked complexity. (79)
As an electronically codified computer game incorporating the continually interacting engagement of image, sound and text (and their many sub-categories), the Endeavour's journey could exist in a ceaseless state of re-discovery and re-invention where one possible coding strategy among many might be the option of portraying Captain Cook as a refugee from his own emotional, familial and localising circumstances. This is a point of view that will resonate with anyone who has arrived by boat or plane on this continent, or even in the Northern Rivers region, since at least 1770.
Terrence Maybury was born into a rural context (the Riverina region) before going on graduate from Murdoch University. After a period of time working in the independent media sector along with some university teaching he is now completing a PhD entitled 'Chora-Logic: Electracy as Regional Epistemology' while once again residing in a rural context (the Northern Rivers of New South Wales). email@example.com
 For an introductory account of "The Synaesthetic Skein of Electronic Productivity", see Maybury 124-198. [return]
 See Ulmer Heuretics, 45-129 for an embryonic dialogue about how a chorographical method girds the electrate imagination. [return]
 Chora is ably captured in Niall Lucy's wry comment on the concept in his dictionary of Derridean terms: "To be brief, khora is the pre-philosophical, pre-originary non-locatable non-space that existed without existing before the cosmos" (68). [return]
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