Tales of the fourth dimension

Barikin, Amelia (2013). Tales of the fourth dimension. In Amelia Barikin and Helen Hughes (Ed.), Making worlds: art and science fiction (pp. 234-240) Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Surpllus.

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Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
Author Barikin, Amelia
Title of chapter Tales of the fourth dimension
Title of book Making worlds: art and science fiction
Place of Publication Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Publisher Surpllus
Publication Year 2013
Sub-type Research book chapter (original research)
Open Access Status
Year available 2013
Series Surpllus
ISBN 9781922099075
Editor Amelia Barikin
Helen Hughes
Volume number 14
Chapter number 20
Start page 234
End page 240
Total pages 7
Total chapters 27
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
…I shall never sleep calmly again when I think of the horrors that lurk ceaselessly behind life in time and in space, and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars which dream beneath the sea…
H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, 1928

March, 1925. Captain Gustaf Johansen’s two-masted sailing ship has run aground on a strange and unknown island, somewhere in the southern Pacific Ocean. Scrambling across the muddy shore, the crew encounter an alien city; a mind-bending vision of “cosmic majesty” that appears as a conglomeration of “vast angles and stone surfaces—surfaces too great to belong to any thing right or proper for this earth, and impious with horrible images and hieroglyphs”. Colossal pillars and gigantic stone blocks tower over the oozing, greenish wasteland. Great monoliths soar above slimy subterranean vaults.

More than the scale or material oddity of the place, it is the sheer and total weirdness of its geometry that ultimately strikes terror into the hearts of the sailors. Angles that seem initially to be concave appear on second glance as convex; the position of the sky and the sea are queerly indeterminate and somehow interchangeable; it cannot be decided whether the giant sea-soaked sculptures jutted about the landscape stand as horizontal or perpendicular to the ground. But it is not until Johansen’s men come across the door—a portal of darkness so vast it seems acres-wide—that the full extent of the horror is revealed:
Then, very softly and slowly, the acre-great panel began to give inward… In this phantasy of prismatic distortion it moved anomalously in a diagonal way, so that all rules of matter and perspective seemed upset… Everyone listened, and everyone was listening still when It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly squeezed Its gelatinous green immensity through the black doorway into the tainted outside air of that poison city of madness.

Visualised by H.P. Lovecraft as a monstrous assault on the human senses, the non-Euclidean landscape is an unthinkably “abnormal” realm, “loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours”: the sublime product of an alien mind...
Keyword Science fiction
Contemporary art
H. P. Lovecraft
Fourth dimension
Q-Index Code B1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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Created: Fri, 04 Oct 2013, 16:26:28 EST by Amelia Barikin on behalf of School of Communication and Arts