You are in site section: Online features

Dana Packham

Dana Packham


Artist biography

Dana Packham

Dana Packham has just completed her second year of a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Photo Media) at the Australian National University.

Her passion for photography developed during her education at Copland College. Having little previous experience in the area, she became fascinated by both darkroom and digital practices through the guidance and encouragement of teachers who continue to inspire her today. The decision to continue her study of photography at the Australian National University was one that came easily to her.

She enjoys working with both analogue and digital methods, utilising both where appropriate in order to create her work. She loves photography most when she feels like she is creating something new and different, favouring alternate processes and heavy manipulation.

Artist statement

For this series I wanted to play on the idea of the individuality of early maps. In many of these early creations the true shape and identity of the Southern Hemisphere was unknown, however the authors still attempted to depict a southern land mass, despite being entirely fictional guesswork. The results of each map were varied and unique.

I was interested in creating an interactive piece, one which the audience could engage with freely. My previous works are primarily 2D images hung on a wall, leaving no room for audience participation.

This body of work consists of nine different puzzle cubes, each featuring six original maps. The maps on these puzzle cubes, based on the original shapes of land masses and islands in the Southern Hemisphere, have been manipulated in such a way that when turned the tiles always meet up. This was done by ensuring that certain points were always intersected in each image. As a result, the audience is constantly creating new and original maps, placing them in the role of early map makers. They are literally able to create their own Great South Land.

Despite always creating new shapes and appearing to be always 'solved', there is a small amount of text concealed within each cube. When assembled correctly and joined together, all nine cubes can come together to reveal the hidden message.

Artist work

Title: Puzzle Cubes
Medium: Matte and lacquer on puzzle cubes
Dimensions: 55mm x 55mm x 55mm (x9)
Date: October 2010

A photo of a puzzle cube.

Artist inspiration

This series was inspired by the Great South Land display of the Australian Journeys gallery. This display focuses on the early misconceptions of what the unexplored Southern Hemisphere would be like.

These ideas were varied across the world, including the Greek belief that the Southern Hemisphere would be a dangerous place filled with abominations, and that no human could hope to survive there. However, the most prominent idea presented in this display was that of a large continent encompassing the majority of the hemisphere, this unknown continent became referred to as the Great South Land.

Early map makers attempted to depict this land mass in their creations, each resulting with entirely different versions of the Great South Land. One of the most notable map makers who indulged in this practice, Abraham Ortelius, is featured in this display. These maps were completely inaccurate, but beautiful and compelling nonetheless. Modern maps, depended on for their accuracy no matter their form, lack the freedom and individuality that early cartographers created these works of art with.

Despite the Great South Land being my primary influence for this project, my series also draws inspiration from the gold rush display, which featured elaborate games in which the players were required to find their way to the Southern Hemisphere in order to seek wealth.

Double-page coloured engraved map. The map is titled 'MARIS PACIFICI' and it depicts north and south America and Pacific islands, including New Guinea, the Philippines, Japan and Australia. The map also includes illustrations of sailing ships.
Maris Pacifici map by Abraham Ortelius, hand-coloured print from an engraved copper plate published by Plantin Press, Antwerp, 1595. Photo: George Serras.

Ortelius's map included up-to-date information from European explorers who had visited the Pacific. It also reproduced ideas about the Southern Hemisphere from ancient Greek times. Made before any European is known to have set foot on the Australian continent, Maris Pacifici perpetuated the northern belief that at the bottom of the world was a great south land.

Read more on the maps in the Great South Land display

Learn about the 'Race to the Gold Diggings of Australia' game