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Cartography

Representation, landscape & the multi-perspectival

All that seeks to define territory exactly is distorted by: scale, relativity, proximity, time, motion (misdirection), saturation and assumptions of continuity.  All that seeks to distinguish territory with an inherent inexplicability, fosters the non-linear, the montage, collage, and poetry.

Cartography (in Greek chartis = map and graphein = write) is the study and practice of making geographical maps.  Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that we can model reality in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.  [Wikipedia]

The history of cartography is fraught with the problems of representation and issues of scale.  The Cartesian grid overlays of land and sea are formal devices of ordering and objectifying nature for some social purpose – ownership or consumption, nationalism or tourism.

Scientific, artistic, and political fields converge in using technology not simply as a means of human productivity, but as a way of constructing knowledge.  —

Knowing, as research, calls whatever is to account with regard to the way in which and the extent to which it lets itself be put at the disposal of representation.  Research has disposal over anything that is when it can either calculate it in its future course in advance or verify a calculation about it as past.  Nature in being calculated in advance . . . becomes, as it were, ‘set in place.’  Nature . . . becomes the object of a representing that explains. [Ron Broglio, “Wordsworth and Technology Mapping British Earth and Sky, Georgia Tech.doc]

Ever since the invention of the wireless shattered the cohesion of time and space, we find ourselves in an every increasing quest for defining where we are and whom we are in relation to where we are not, and that which we are not.  The obsession with power and control demands increasing levels of believability in the accuracy, facticity of representation – cartographic or photographic.  Yet, as long as our attempts to do so are seen as “transparent representation of reality” [Broglio] they lead to further isolation from nature and engender a withering separation from awe.

Jorge Luis Borges wrote in 1960 a short story that described the ambition of a group of imaginary cartographers to represent an empire to perfection: ‘On Exactitude in Science’ (by Jorge Luis Borges).

. . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province.  In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.  The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters.  In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.


Thus, in its bid for full and complete representation, the map moved closer and closer to coinciding with the territory to be mapped.  Quite literally, the map promised (or threatened) complete coverage.  Borges leaves us with an image of the map slowly wearing away, stretched and torn and tattered over its lands, inhabited by Animals and Beggars.  Borges’s Map of Empire recalls an ideal of representation that, in retrospect, we associate with Cold War intelligence and academic disciplines centered on nations, areas, and regions…   [Barlow, Tani E., Hanawa, Yukiko, LaMarre, Thomas, 1959-Lowe, Donald M., Editors’ Introduction positions: east asia cultures critique – Volume 13, Number 1, Spring 2005, pp. 1-8]

Watt panorama - surface matrix - test row

Watt panorama - surface matrix - test row

Flawed Gestures:

Confronting environmental issues, global problems – asks first to somehow represent that environment effectively, to create identity with the space that environment and issues occupy – in a sense to map.  To this end seeking new modes and attitudes of visual expression of environment are essential to foster new perspectives for solutions to the unimaginable – that which has yet to be imaged.  Acknowledging the constructed bias of any such representational attempts through technology, we offer that even our – panoramic mapping failures – of the vast surface and totality of the active processes of the watt have value for highlighting these inherent problems of technological representation.  Or, perhaps in some poetic sense, these flawed gestures sketch meaningful cyphers that parenthesize an inability of capturing the whole.  At some depth, they may serve as reminders that allude to an inherent inexplicability of the environment – of landscape.

"Flying Carpet" watt panorama, surface matrix - test

"Flying Carpet" watt panorama, surface matrix - test

"Panorama Arcs" - surface matrix - test

"Panorama Arcs" - watt panorama - surface matrix - test

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