Robert Hodgin’s Meander project generates historical maps of rivers that never existed. The artist was inspired by real-world maps made in the 1940s by Harold Fisk, who was tasked with charting the Mississippi River in the United States. Fisks’s original maps depict the annual movement of one of the country’s longest bodies of water, which has continuously run its own course regardless of human intervention.
Meander follows closely in Fisks’s visual and conceptual footsteps, albeit with an unusual twist: the rivers and landscapes depicted in Hodgin’s detailed maps are entirely imaginary. Echoing the rise in modelling as a technique for understanding and mitigating the impact of climate change, Hodgin uses Houdini, a 3D animation software, to create a hypothetical river. The process begins by adding a single guide line, which then flows and evolves on its own, shaping a fictional terrain as it a winds its way through the landscape.
Meander reflects a world that is simultaneously artificial, non-human, natural and ever-changing. Looking at Hodgin’s algorithmically-generated rivers, we are reminded of the planetary timeline of the landscape contrasted with the profound human impact we have on our natural systems, from pollution, to floods to droughts.