Project X 1497-1999

Project X 1497-1999


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Written and designed by damian lopes, Project X 1497-1999 is a poetry-multimedia installation. It explores discovery, technology and colonialism by using the internet to re-examine Vasco da Gama’s first voyage from Portugal to Africa and South Asia in 1497-99.

Five years after Christopher Columbus’s journey to what he thought was India, Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope, proceeded north to East Africa, and then east, across the Indian Ocean, to land on the Indian subcontinent. Da Gama’s journey of 1497-99 is far less celebrated than that of Columbus in 1492 (especially in the English-speaking world) but its impact was just as profound, because within a few years Portugal established permanent settlements along the coasts of East Africa, Arabia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. This voyage ushered in the ‘age of discovery’ and the beginning of a new phase of European colonial expansion and exploration in Africa and Asia, empires that lasted well into the twentieth century.

This work uses sophisticated custom JavaScipts to link over 150 poems (in two collections), and over one hundred glosses and supplementary documents. With over three thousand hyperlinks, the poems are all highly interconnected: every word or phrase in the poems is ‘clickable,’ leading either to another poem or to a gloss. Though it appears possible to read the work in a more or less linear fashion, the JavaScripts ensure each reading is unique, just as each exploration takes the explorer on a different route. History, reading, exploration, research, surfing the web – these are all forms of navigation. And now in an age where the world’s surface has been fully ‘discovered,’ the interconnected nature of this work reflects the fact that the internet has ushered us into an age of rediscovery, finding out what we already know.

Launched 8 July 1997; completed 2000.


Surfing Diaspora: Dudes or Duds? by Ashok Mathur

Partly drawn from an actual diary of the voyage, partly fictionalized, heavily annotated from other historical sources, these pages are thick with hyperlinks. Almost every word spins you off to somewhere else. This is a history lesson, a social critique and a beautiful piece of web design. The site looks like a journal, with a parchment background, script-like fonts and woodcut graphics. Trace da Gama’s route on the pop-up map, then click on some obscure waypoint on the African coast for the relevant journal entries. Read through the journal from start to finish, or wander off through the text at random, stepping from one link to another as they catch your fancy. Getting lost was part of the voyage in 1497, and so it is here.
– DW, BrokenPencil 8

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2 responses

  1. Is this something that could be shared at the Great Northern Medieval Fayre in June? We have two education days!

    • I don’t know, but I’d be happy to explore the possibilities. I don’t know enough about the Fayre – is there internet access at a Medieval Fayre?

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