Site of the First Fort
Site of the First Fort is a website that presents an interactive map of a fictional archipelago. Clicking on a location on an islands calls up a narrative of events related to the selected location. The landforms of the archipelago are drawn from the algorithmically generated UV layout from a 3D photogrammetric scan of a monument in the St. Augustine Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. The text of the original monument, rendered in relief on a plaque set on the concrete of the memorial, reads: "SITE OF THE FIRST FORT, SAN JUAN DE PINOS, BUILT BY PEDRO MENENDEZ DE AVILES AD 1565, DESTROYED 21 YEARS LATER BY SIR FRANCIS DRAKE AD 1586".
The narratives are generated by a Markov chain model composed of historical marker text from throughout the state of Florida, articles drawn from Wikipedia on early Florida history and the Fountain of Youth, and a first hand narrative written by Hernando D'Escalante Fontaneda who lived among the Calusa indians in Florida for 17 years after being shipwrecked in 1549. The names of the places clicked on are generated from a probabalistic grammar that combines names and nouns with the names of various landforms, some found in Florida and some not. The motivation for this piece is in response to the recent reports of the term "climate change" being banned from use by employees of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in the interest of the state government's commitment to "true facts".
With this piece I bring the human reality of Florida into confrontation with the physical reality of climate change and the earth's physical processes as hyperobject. The archipelago, drawn from the mediation of the form of the monument (which performs the conceptual work of nailing down a particular hypothetical time and place) operates as a conductive reference to the ultimate destiny of the territory of Florida in the case of catastrophic sea-level rise: to disappear under the waves like Atlantis. The Markov chain generated narratives are the product of a literal stirring together of the myriad perspectives that together constitute the state of Florida over time and space. It is an inventive destruction, in which the particularities of information are melted together to create potential pasts.