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By Rod Giblett

This full of life new study is a serious cultural background of communique applied sciences, from railways and telegraphy to desktops and the net, in which Rod Giblett argues that those technologies play a pivotal position within the cultural background of modernity and its undertaking of the chic.

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Vulcan, the Roman god of blacksmiths and the forge, may not rate much against the designer of tools, machines and locomotives and the inventor of the selfactor. But modern heavy and dirty industry needs a mythology to explain itself and a god to call its own and Vulcan is an obvious choice. Mythology does not disappear when real domination over the forces of nature in and through the imagination is established. Industrial technology that actually dominates nature replaces pre-industrial mythology that imaginatively dominates it.

Wild in his foreword to Burke's book (1991, p. xvi) goes even further to regard it as 'the most important project in the history of the Australian nation'. Forrest was not merely making a way in the wilderness and turning darkness into light like (or as) God, but was giving birth to the nation just as God created heaven and earth, and light, by fiat. The way in the wilderness of the railway leading to the promised land of nationhood progresses in the nineteenth century in settler societies such as Australia and the United States and, in Cropsey's painting, to the next step in the triumphal march of modernity: the wires in the wilderness of the telegraph wiring a continent and nation together.

The railway line cuts through the humps and fills up the hollows to make a smooth, planar space free of obstacles to the trajectory of travel. The railways are just one of the mechanic arts that, for the Reverend Mr Williamson speaking in 1841, 'change the face of nature'. , 1988a, p. 133). The railway fulfilled an evangelistic function by virtue of its construction or form irrespective of what, or who, it carried, its contents. The railway smooths out or fills up the hollow, lowlying places of the earth by bridging or filling them, or both; the railway colonises the land, including wetlands (see Giblett, 1996), transforming it into landscape, into aesthetic surface (see Giblett, 2004).

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