Sensory Maps.

From the current point of view, thinking about the posts presented in this blog, it is clear to me what  title should  in the heading. As my research shows, I was mainly drawn in map making and for that reason, if I were to start that blog again, I would call it ‚Between illustration and cartography’. However, I did not know at the beginning that the topic of maps will be a main subject throughout my research. Coming up with that idea was a part of the journey which lead me to maps.

As the last blog post I wanted to present the different type of cartography – sensory maps. While considering the aspect of subjectiveness in maps, visualization of smells and feelings is a great example. The artist, Kate McLean decided to find a way to depict how the urban spaces can be perceived using only the sensation of smells. It is one of the most elusive ways of perception and one that is hard to recall. On the other hand, smell can also be strongly connected to memories. For example, while feeling particular scent we can remember the situations from the past that are associated with that smell and the experience can be very intensive. The author points out that the fascinating thing about smells is their invisibility. The maps she creates try to interpret what can be perceived with our noses and depict it in the way that could be understandable and easy to imagine for others.

sensory

Fig. 1. McLean, K. (2011) New York’s Smelliest Blocks. [image] Available at: https://sensorymaps.com/portfolio/new-yorks-smelliest-block/ [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

McLean’s works are usually interactive engaging the audience in different ways. For instance, the smell map of Glasgow (fig. 2.), besides the usage of colors that inform the viewer of the types of smell in a particular part of the city, the author also provided the samples of those smells located next to the map. In another work the audience is engaged to write down how do they feel about each smell – is it nice or does it stink.

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Fig. 2. McLean, K. (2012) Scents of Glasgow. [image] Available at: https://sensorymaps.com/portfolio/glasgow// [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

Each map depicted by the artist is different and it shows a very experimental approach. Coming across the work of Kate McLean I thought that I must include it in the blog, because it represents different interpretation of human perception. It also shows that defining each smell is very subjective. Some people can associate one smell with pleasant feelings and for others the same odor can cause dizziness or disgust.

Sources:

McLean, K. (2014). Sensory Maps. [online] sensorymaps.com. Available at: https://sensorymaps.com [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

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Map-making. Reflections.

A good map tells a multitude of little white lies; it suppresses truth to help the user see what needs to be seen. Reality is three-dimensional, rich in detail, and far too factual to allow a complete yet uncluttered two-dimensional graphic scale model. Indeed, a map that did not generalize would be useless. But the value of a map depends on how well its generalized geometry and generalized content reflect a chosen aspect of reality.’ (Monmonier, 1996)

After reading Mark Monmonier’s How to Lie with Maps, I realized the importance of visual representation in cartography and responsibility upon people that are involved in map making. Every detail plays a crucial role in communication. The message that is transmitted to the viewer must be clear and easy to read. The map is a collection of symbols that provide their own language that one should learn to understand. The way something is visualized is not accidental – size, shape, texture, hue, all of those features matter. I realized that maps should be as objective as possible, but because of the fact that they can never show completeness of information (the whole picture), the most important information need to be prioritized. Furthermore, the essay written by Monmonier made me reflect on my own project – ‘the subjective map’ I am working on and though I have never consider it to be informative and accurate, I wondered about its ‘incorrectness’. 

First of all, proportions. For example, in the map showing us an urban plan of a particular city, size of each buidling or street are essential for us to understand the space and to orientate ourselves in it – get to know the direction in which we should go. On my map, however, the proportions are distorted – buildings being the same size as flower vases or trees being smaller than cafeteria tables. The reason for that is that the depicted elements are not meant to transmit information about space – rather, they are meant to show an importance they have in my mind and in my way of perceiving. Their task is also to show an atmosphere of the place and to create an impression of a memory. Secondly, the sketched items lack a sence of orientation. Since my observations are made from different perspectives (usually two points of view – when I go up and down the street), distinct things catch my attention depending on direction of my walk. That is why the position of some items on the drawing is inaccurate. This manner of sketching the map would be unacceptable in the detailed cartographical projection. On the other hand, considering for instance the touristic maps, they sometimes visualize the important city sights as symbols – showing only the facade or some elements that are facing different direction than in reality. It is used for the purpose of better understanding the city space and its important points designed for the people who are unfamiliar with it. Monmonier describes it as map distortion addressing analytical needs which serves as a tool for communicating the particular type of data. The thought that this example brings to my mind is a significance of an audience addressed with a particular type of map. A map-maker has to firstly reflect on the type of public that is going to read his work in order to understand the visual language needed to be used. The more qualified are the receivers of information, the more specific and specialized the map will be. Comparing that to the general role of illustration, it is very similar as it also serves as a tool for communication. It can be specific and fully understandable only for a group of people – for instance, medical illustration. It can serve as a type of documentation and projection of the world around us, but also it can have educational purposes. Alan Male in his book Illustration: A Theoritical and Contextual Perspective describes all of the roles illustration has – such as: Information, Education, Commentary, Storytelling, Persuasion – In my opinion, applicable to map-making as well. First two functions are fulfilled by almost every scientific map. Commentary is not that obvious but we can apply it to the maps created in order to describe the events and to show statistics. Those can sometimes be thought-provoking, hence, leaving us concerned about the subject. Maps are also used to create stories, especially in fictional books and movies (I wrote about this topic in one of the older posts about imaginary maps). And finally, one can think about persuasive role considering for example the antique cartography where people often changed information to take advantage from doing so. It seems to me that a lot of contemporary artists is eager to mix mapmaking with illustration. To mention just a few – Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińscy, Andres Lózano and Guillermo Trapiello. The first couple is well-known for their atlases made for children illustrating the main features (and stereotipes) of each country. The last two collaborated with the spanish brand walkwithme that produces guides and maps. Fig. 1 presents a map of one of the neighbourhoods of Madrid drawn by Guillermo Trapiello. Another example, depicted on fig. 2 is produced by Ruby Taylor, a british illustrator. It shows a slightly different visualisation which is more illustrative presenting the types of rain we can encounter in the UK. Both illustrations present very similar colour palette – with bright pastel hues and without a big usage of contrast. First one is more informative, one can read the directions and names of the main streets in the areas as well as locations of the most important buildings. The surroundings are visualized threedimensionally which brings depth to the picture. Whereas the other drawing is flat and does not show the detailed information. It is rather a work of art than a serious cartography. It provides a perfect example for the tendency I described before – illustrative map-making.

Trapiello, G. (2013) Barrio de las Letras. [image] Available at: link [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

 Rain Map 

Taylor, R. (2018) Rain Map. [image] Available at: link [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Sources:

Monmonier, M. (1996) How to Lie with Maps. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Male, A. (2017). Illustration: A Theoritical and Contextual Perspective. Second Edition. New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 166-181.

Trapiello, G. (2018). Guillermo Trapiello. [online] guillermotrapiello.com. Available at: link [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Brewer, J. (2017). Andrés Lozano’s story-packed scenes “appear” in his sketchbooks like visual improv. [online] itsnicethat.com. Available at: link [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Analyzing the colours of Japanese woodblock prints.

Screenshot 2018-11-22 at 22.30.59

As my keyword project develops, I started thinking about the palette of colors I could employ in my final work. Since Sidney Sime’s Land of Dreams stuck in my mind so much, unconsiously I was always thinking about my outcome as monochromatic. The idea slightly changes now, as I discover that usage of colors in my work can benefit the final piece.

Briefly, as FAT1 project I am analyzing the keyword ‘ways’ looking at the literal definition of the word (intersections of ways=maps) as well as the abstract one (ways of seeing=subjectiveness/ perception). I am trying to create a subjective map of a neighborhood I live in. Currently I am forming layers of that map consisting of buildings, architectural elements and dominants, items on the shopping counters, murals, sculptures, urban spaces etc. – everything that catches my attention. Arranging all the components as I memorize them I am trying to achieve the visualisation of my way of perceiving the surroundings. I realized that I could evaluate the combination of colors I could use and if I should use any. Or maybe I should substitute them with monochromatic patterns?

item image #1

Hiroshige, A. (1834). Yabase no Kihan. [image] Available at: link [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

I thought a good place to look for inspiration are old Japanese woodblock prints. Landscapes, nature and architecture are one of the main themes which Japanese artists were depicting and those motifs also correspond with my topic. I noticed that a great number of prints uses similar perspective, which goes above the viewer’s line of sight, but it is not strictly the bird’s eye view. Sometimes,  especially while showing architecture, they used an axonometric projection too. In my opinion, the reason for that is the fact that those architectural elements – very detailed – must had been much more complicated to depict. Also, wood remains the main material in Japanese traditional architecture and it seems to be culturally very important. For centuries each carpenter and joiner was using a specific type of joints connecting beams, sometimes known only for themselves and kept in secret. Those joints were very complicated in structure, hence we can deduce the importance of woodwork. While researching, I came across 18th,19th and 20th century artists such as Koitsu Tsuchiya, Hasui Kawase, Ando Hiroshige and others. Hiroshige remains one of the most famous ukiyo-e masters, his works printed on postcards and hugely reproduced. The prints he created are from the period when technique of woodblock printing was still developing and the artists were exploring the usage of colors. Previously, the technique served as a tool to print texts and it could be printed only using black ink. When illustration was needed in the book, it was painted by hand on top of the printed image.

koitsu.jpg

Koitsu, T. (1939). Ueno Shinobazu no Ike. [image] Available at: link [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

The colors on the prints I analyzed are very vivid and the selection of those colors used in a single print complements each other. After selecting few of the artworks, I decided to make a little experiment. I used an eyedropper tool to create the palettes of colors used in each one of them. This simple exercise made me understand which color prevail in a particular composition and whether there is something all of those artworks have in common. I noticed that pieces created by Hiroshige tend to have stripes of intense navy blue in the top or in the bottom of the painting. He also was keen on using bright swatches of red and pink but only to visualize some elements of the landscapes like sunset, sunrise or cherry blossom. If other saturated colors were used in a single print they were only unsignificant highlights – nondominant but important in the completeness of a drawing. The great quantity of the hues are grey or grey mixed with blues or greens. Other works from the same period of Japanese art history seemed to have a similar tendency. I found some prints using light and warm paints too, lacking the intensity but transmitting the nostalgic atmosphere. In majority this kind of artworks depicted interiors of the buildings or geishas dressed in beautifully patterened kimonos. I noticed a harmony in all of those works – maybe the reason behind it was the shown scenery – mostly composed of mountains, forests, rivers and sea.

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As I created the palettes I decided to take it little bit further – making gradients out of the gathered hues. It was something I did impulsively but as a result I build a gradient palette which I can use as a guidance while working on the keyword project.

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Source:

roningallery.com, (2017). UKIYO-E | JAPANESE WOODBLOCK PRINTS. [online] Available at: link [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

floatingworld.com, (2018). Japanese Woodblock Prints by Hasui Kawase. [online] Available at: link [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

Lynch, P. (2016). These Mesmerizing GIFs Illustrate the Art of Traditional Japanese Wood Joinery. [online] archdaily.com. Available at: link [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

Imaginary Maps. Part II.

In the last post I wrote about the maps that from the perspective of a person living nowadays are imaginary, because they visualize wrong and distorted information or consist of images that today we would describe as fairylike. However, these maps are the important historical source to analyze and they are an overview of the concept of the world people had in the past. There are also a great source of inspiration. In this post I would like to reflect on maps created with the purpose of being imaginary. Those maps serve as illustrations to fictional stories and non existant literary lands. 

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Fig. 1. Sleigh, B. (1918) An Anciente Mappe of Fairy Land newly discovered and set forth. [image] Available at: link (Accessed on 17 Nov. 2018)

Ancient mappe of Fairyland mapped out by Bernard Sleigh in 1918 is a great example of an otherworldly place that make the viewer dream and wonder about what stories this land could be telling (fig.1. shows the whole image and fig.2. – a fragment). The illustration is filled with different characters that one can know from children tales and fables. I found it very entertaining to look at the picture with a closer view and analyzing whether some places or some protagonists are familiar to me. I passed through Red Riding Hood’s house, Peter Pan’s Never-Never Land, the Snow Queen and cheerful Humpty Dumpty. The author also put some descriptions of what is happening in a particular spot located on the map – such as ‘Here Cinderella liveth with her Prince’ or ‘Here Perseus saves Andromeda’ and my favourite one – ‘Tom Thumb is somewhere here but he is too small to draw’.

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Fig. 2. Sleigh, B. (1918) An Anciente Mappe of Fairy Land newly discovered and set forth. – detail [image] Available at: link (Accessed on 17 Nov. 2018)

Everything is depicted in dreamy pastel colours and so it looks idyllic as if nothing bad  has ever happened there. It gives the impression of a perfect land, so picturesque and peaceful. Yet, if we put this image into historical context, considering the time when it was painted, it gives us another way to perceive it. The map was created at the end of the first world war. Devasted cities, destroyed houses and families, suffering and ambience of loss and pain are the strong contrast to this fantasy land presented by B. Sleigh. I was wondering how people back then looked at that map – Did they feel comforted? Encouraged? Did it brought good memories of their childhood? It is a nostalgic thought but, from my point of view, it made my experience of watching the image even more interesting and mesmerizing.

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Fig. 3. Hess, J. (1930) The Land of Make Believe. [image] Available at: link (Accessed on 17 Nov. 2018)

The map of Fairyland drawn by Sleigh inspired a whole generation of artists. His influence can be seen for instance in the painting created by Jaro Hess, a czech artist known for his unique and vibrant imagination. Fig. 3. represents the map he painted in 1930 showing, similarily to the work of Sleigh, all the fairytales united in the single place – ‘The Land of Make Believe’. Looking through the picture, one can find Hansel and Gretel standing in front of the Gingerbread House, the Emerald City of Oz and the Sleeping Beauty who sleeps in her castle. The visualisation of this dreamy land is far less picturesque than the Fairyland’s projection – Hess used darker colours and strong contours. He also decided to settle the scenery at night which can make us think about the darker side of all those stories. It is noteworthy to remember that a lot of tales known by today’s generations are the ones adapted by Disney movies. They show us happy endings and the victory of ‘good’ over ‘bad’. Evidently, we forget about the original tales, far more cruel and terrifying, that were fundamental for creating these animations. While studying ‘The Land of Make Believe’ I had the impression that the author wanted the viewer to reflect on this darker side of well-known stories. He points out that Sleeping Beauty still sleeps in the cursed castle and we can only suppose that maybe Prince haven’t arrived yet. In the drawing Cinderella lives in the little wooden house, probably still with her stepmother and stepsisters and Hansel and Grettel are about to encounter the cruel witch. Hess’s art is thought-provoking and non-obvious. The piece I really like is called The Jungle II  (fig. 4.), painted with vibrant but subdued colours. It reflects the mysterious atmosphere, hard to explain and that represents the unknown. The jungle he depicts is filled with confusion caused by a great amount of different animals and wild plants, some of them looking unreal and dreamlike.

Fig. 3. Hess, J. (circa 1968) The Jungle II. [image] Available at: link (Accessed on 17 Nov. 2018)

The two examples of the maps that I described are undeniable pieces of art – they stimulate our imagination and they provide a commentary to the stories that everyone knows. We look in a different manner at the maps created for the purpose of being an explanation for the plot of the book. We analyze them, sometimes as we read along in order to understand what is happening. Some stories are much more interesting when they are represented by the map where we can follow what protagonists are doing. As an accurate example, we can think of Lord of The Rings and the Map of Middle Earth created by J.R.R. Tolkien. The projection of the land described in his trilogy helps the reader to understand the journey Frodo had to pursue. One can clearly see how difficult it was and what challenges he had to face. From my point of view, the map was also crucial for the author to create the book. Firstly, Tolkien had to imagine the land he wanted his protagonists to live and travel in. The descriptions of that land had to be precise and accurate so that the book could be understandable. About the importance of creating the maps in order to write a novel, I read in the article written by David Mitchell called ‘Start with the Map – A writer’s lessons in imaginary cartography.’. Mitchell is a writer known for creating the ‘Cloud Atlas’, the book I truly appreciate. In the article, he explains the similarities between the writer’s and the cartographer’s mind. He points out that map-making is an important process while imagining the plot of the next novel. He writes:

‘While none of the novels I’ve published as a writer contain maps, my notebooks are littered with them. Scenes (or suites of scenes) need spaces to happen in. What those spaces look like, and what is in them, can determine how the action unfolds. They can even give you ideas for what unfolds. This is why mapmaking and stage-sketching can be necessary aspects of writing.’ (Mitchell, 2018)

The article caught my attention, because it have never crossed my mind before that the way imaginary cartography helps an author to create a story can also be crucial for an illustrator. Understanding the writer’s way of thinking can be an effective guidance to illustrate that story. Therefore, creating imaginary maps is a valuable skill to learn regarding the profession of illustration.


Sources:

Mitchell, D. (2018). Start With the Map – A writer’s lessons in imaginary cartography. The New Yorker, [online] Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/start-with-the-map [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018].

jarohess.wordpress.com, (2017). Jaro Hess (1889 – 1977). [online] Available at: https://jarohess.wordpress.com/biography/ [Accessed 17 Nov. 2018].

britishfairies.wordpress.com, (2018). British Fairies. A site studying and discussing British fairy lore. [online] Available at: https://britishfairies.wordpress.com/tag/jaro-hess/ [Accessed 17 Nov. 2018].

geographicus.com, (2018). Geographicus. Rare Antique Maps. [online] Available at: https://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/AncientMappeofFariyland-sleigh-1918 [Accessed 17 Nov. 2018].

‘Imaginary’ Maps.

 

Throughout the centuries people had the need to tell stories and use their imagination to create new ones that were spreading by word of mouth at the speed of light. Once the epoch of Renaissance had begun, a lot of eager and curious minds started traveling, looking for new trails and discovering what world was hiding from them for ages. It is hard to believe from our point of view how cartographers did their job in the past. They tried to document the explorations on paper, without any use of technology we have acces to today. Sometimes, they drew what came to their minds. If the piece of land was impossible to investigate and travel through, they made up stories or myths to tell. It is interesting how the human brain is always curious of the unknown. As a result, a lot of imaginary maps were created, partly depicting the truth and partly disinformation.

Fig. 1. Hondius, H. (1639-44). Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula. [image] Available at: link  [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018]. The image was used in the book The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths Lies and Blunders on Maps by Edward Brooke-Hitching.

The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps” by Edward Brooke-Hitching is a great source to look for the examples of those maps. The author describes and shows us the projections of the world that are unique, because we can get a considerable amount of knowledge regarding our ancestors. The maps were not only filled with data of the ways they perceived the world, but also about the historical context. A big deal of them consist of the images of the kings or represented the power of a particular country, on others we will find another important historical facts and events. In my opinion, these visualizations were very often treated as pieces of art – each detail had a huge importance. The edges and corners were usually decorated and the title, written using extraordinary calligraphy, was visible and it was a meaningful part of the work (fig. 1.).

Fig. 2. Vingboons, J. (circa 1650). Map of California as an island. [image] Available at: link  [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018]. The image was used in the book The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths Lies and Blunders on Maps by Edward Brooke-Hitching.

Fig. 2. represents a fragment of the United States map illustrating California as an island. This misconception was lead out after an exploration of this part of America in 1533. The author claims that “California continued to be depicted as an island until 1747.” (E. Brooke-Hitching, 2018). Since the “new continent” became an objective for a great number of expeditions, plenty of people were craving stories consisting of sea monsters, mythological creatures and so on. One of the first maps depicting the whole continent of North and South America was created by Diego Gutierrez in 1562 (fig. 3.). Gutierrez was a Spanish cartographer and his map was intended to show the power of Spain over the newly discovered land. His work has a unique title stating that America is a fourth part of the world. With a first glance at the map, one can see its misproportions and the variety of drawings showing boats, ships, fleets and different imaginary monsters. With a closer look, one is able to understand the point of view people had in the past. There is a small part of the map, where indigenous persons are illustrated as cannibals. They are shown in a cruel scene, one holding the knife above the other, ready to cut some part of the body. In the background there is a tree with already amputated parts of human bodies hanging from the branches. Ghastlily, it was perception that Europeans had about the natives residing in the discovered lands. Another interesting belief they had, which can be seen on the map, is that Patagonia was presumed to be a territory of 2,7 metres giants. What shocks here the most is that all those information were once believed to be real. Even more compelling is the fact, that we still may be wrong in our way of seeing some parts of the world. To give an example, until 2009 people believed in existance of Bermeja island in the gulf of Mexico. The island was marked in Google Maps and it was considered as a ‘real’ land. The exploration that took place nine years ago showed that the island was phantom. Even today, little is known about Bermeja. Many are suspicious that it might be destroyed by the US army, since Mexico and States were negotiating the sovereignty of the islands located in the Gulf of Mexico. Geographers have different viewpoints at this situation and they disagree whether Bermeja really existed and disappeared or whether it was located in another place.

Fig. 3. Gutiérrez, D. and Cock, H. (1562). Americae sive qvartae orbis partis nova et exactissima descriptio. [image] Available at: link  [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018]. The image was used in the book The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths Lies and Blunders on Maps by Edward Brooke-Hitching.

Interestingly, there is plenty of examples of phantom islands that seem to catch the attention of curious minds. Not a long time ago, I came across the interactive webpage that turns out to be a documentation of the islands that “were sighted, charted, described and even explored – but their existence has never been ultimately verified” (http://andrewpekler.com/phantom-islands/). The page (fig. 4. represents a screenshot of the webpage) gathers information about those islands and shows what year the name of particular island appeared and when was the last time it was stated. The design of the page is very simple and clear, with white background and neatly organized information about each phantom island. I think it was really inspiring to read about them and I am sure that the stories mentioned on that site inspired many others. To give an example, Wilhelm Müller, a german poet born in 18th century, wrote this poem about mythical island of Vineta:

Pealing from the ocean’s deep foundations,
Faint and hollow sound the evening bells,
And its strange and wondrous revelations
Of the fair old wonder-city tells.
Deep beneath the gleaming surface sunken,
Ruins of that city still remain,
On its turrets sparks of golden splendor
From the mirror glimmer back again.
And the mariner, to whom appeareth
In the evening light its magic glow,
To the selfsame spot forever steereth,
Though the rocks lie threatening below.
From the heart’s deep, deep foundations swelling,
Bells are sounding mournfully and low,
Ah! I hear them, wondrous tales revealing,
Of the love it knew so long ago.
Sunken there a world of beauty lieth;
Far below, its ruins still remain,
Golden gleams from heaven are thence reflected
In the mirror of my dreams again.
Then, into the fair reflection falling,
Would I sink within those silent deeps,
And I seem to hear an angel calling
Down to where that wonder-city sleeps.
(Wilhelm Müller, Rugen, the Island Vineta, translated by W. W. Story)

Vineta was mentioned in folklore stories and its legend says that it was one of the most marvellous ancient cities in the Baltic sea area, however the dwellers of that city were bad-natured and immoral and so they needed to be punished. Supposedly, the island disappeared in the huge flood and got sunken in the depths of the sea never to be seen again.

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Fig. 4. screenshot of: andrewpekler.com/phantom-islands (2018) Phantom Islands – A Sonic Atlas. [online] Available at: link  [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018].

Sources:

Brooke-Hitching, E. (2016) The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths Lies and Blunders on Maps. London: Simon & Schuster Ltd.

loc.gov/rr/hispanic/frontiers/gutierrz.html (2018) The 1562 Map of America by Diego Gutiérrez. [online] Available at: link [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018].

britannica.com/biography/Wilhelm-Muller (2018) Wilhelm Müller. [online] Available at: link [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018].

andrewpekler.com/phantom-islands (2018) Phantom Islands – A Sonic Atlas. [online] Available at: link  [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018].

Wadsworth Longfellow, H. (1876–79) Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes. Boston: James R. Osgood & Co.

Perceiving the surroundings.

 

Fassler, L. (2014-2015). Gare du Nord II. [image]. Available at: http://www.larissafassler.com/nord_2.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

While working at my project for FAT1, I came across the article by Fiona Shipwright about psychographic maps created by a Canadian artist Larissa Fassler. I found it interesting because it relates to the sketches I made while analyzing the keyword I chose as a topic for my project – „Ways”.

Larissa Fassler’s cartography visualizes the places from her own perspective. Her work gathers observations and notes taken on site. To illustrate, fig. 1. demonstrates a fragment of Paris with commentary of what have happened in each place. These descriptions try to report the current state, current moment. However, the artist repeats her visits to the analyzed sites – here is where some situations overlap. One can see that some actions are repeatable. Fig. 2. represents the detail of the first image (psychogeography of Paris), showing the notations of what people surrounding her do, what language they speak, how many pedestrians crossed the street. In her maps she also tracks the direction of sunlight or wind – the passageways, the shadow areas etc. As a result, Fassler creates a subjective vision of the place – a subjective cartography.

This way of analyzing the space can give a huge amount of information and of understaning the people’s needs, their actions, their way of “using the city”. It is obvious that the designed urban space is going to be “used” by people, however this obvious statement is often overlooked by architects and urban planners.

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Fassler, L. (2014-2015). Gare du Nord II – detail. [image]. Available at: http://www.larissafassler.com/nord_2_detail.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

What Larissa does, is treating the space psychologically and socially, thinking about it in the human scale. She is not the first person that brings our awareness to designing the space for people. I think it is necessary here to bring the name of Jane Jacobs, a famous activist and journalist that manifested the right way to plan the city which is taking into consideration the city-dwellers. In her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities she highlights the harmful effect of designing the urban space for vehicles, and not taking into account people. She shares her observations about how the residents live and function in their neighbourhoods. The book was published in 1961, but a lot of remarks and notes she made are still relevant to current times.


“There is no logic that can be superimposed on the city; people make it, and it is to them, not buildings, that we must fit our plans.”
Jacobs, J. (1961) The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House.


schlossplatz

Fassler, L. (2017-2018). Columbus Circle, NYC II. [image]. Available at: http://www.larissafassler.com/NYC_2_detail.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

The connection to my keyword project that I found in the work of Larissa Fassler is the one of depicting the city as we perceive it. I gathered a lot of associations and interpretations of “Ways” and found a variety of different possibilities to explore. I started with „Ways of Seeing” that suggest several alternatives and indicates that each person has their own way of perceiving, thinking or remembering. The more literal meaning that caught my attention was defining the word as roads that cross and intersect, which can be visualized as maps. Connecting these two interpretations brought to my mind the subject matter regarding „mental maps”.

I started sketching from memory the ways I walk everyday and I tried to draw the map as I remember it, writing down what I did in those places or how the particular place makes me feel and sketching the interesting items I can find there. Fig. 3. represents one of the scribbles that I made. While doing this excercise, I was thinking about the reasons why I memorized these specific places. I realized that sometimes I remember some place because it evokes strong emotions – like anxiety caused while walking in a huge crowd of people not being able to overtake. Then, another reason is that we often keep in mind locations of our favourite cafeterias and restaurants or stores where we bought some unique items. I observed, that I tend to recall places that caught my attention because they were nicely designed or they looked cosy and attractive to me.

 

own images

The way each person memorize places is very thought-provoking – all of us create our own mental maps that are very different from each other, because each person has distinct experiences and commutes via distinct ways. While living in a particular city we can have a lot of this kind of maps in our mind – each for unique occasions such as where to eat something fast or where to drink a cup of good coffee? One will recollect the place for the reasons like seeing the beautiful mural or seeing the book one would like to read in a counter of some bookshop. We sketch our own maps everyday – to think about the route we will take home or to think of a bar we want to meet with friends.

Archie’s Press. (2018). Madrid Map. [image]. Available at: https://archiespress.com/collections/cities/products/madrid-map [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

Lastly, I would like to mention Archie Archambault’s mental maps of cities, states and outer space (and others) as his work also connects to the topic I am researching. Archambault started to produce his maps because of the concern that the society nowadays looses their navigational skills and sense of direction due to the technology, especially Google Maps. He creates his maps by walking around the city and making notes, asking locals for directions and checking with them whether his observations are correct. To visualize those maps he uses circles – the shape that he claims to be perfect, because it is pleasurable to look at and it was used by people for centuries. What I found interesting is that by creating those diagrams, he develops the ability of perceiving the surroundings and understanding the location, making it easy for him to move around the city without any map at all.

Sources:

Shipwright, F. (2016). Unchartered Ground – Larissa Fassler’s Psychogeographic Cartographies. [online] uncube magazine. Available at: http://www.uncubemagazine.com/blog/16549313 [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

Morris, H. (2016). The ‘mind maps’ of the world’s cities challenging GPS. [online] telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/mind-maps-of-the-world-s-cities/ [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

Fassler, L. (2018). larissafassler. [online] larissafassler. Available at: http://www.larissafassler.com/startside.html [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].

 

Roy Lichtenstein exhibition – contours and patterns.

Ava

Lichtenstein was one of the representatives of Pop Art, the movement that dominated the second half of twentieth century, among such artists as Andy Warhol or Robert Indiana.

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Fig. 1. source: own picture

The exhibition of nearly 50 posters from different periods of his life was prepared by Fundación Canal in Madrid. The exhibition presented Roy’s way of seeing and his method of art expression. Many contemporary practitioners are influenced by his work, especially the illustrators creating comics, even though Lichtenstein himself said that the comics was only his way of creation and the place to look for inspiration. Looking at the posters presented at the exposition I was trying to watch them from the perspective of people living in the time when they were firstly displayed for an audience – in 60s and 70s, in the time when this kind of art was a complete novelty. What did people think about his art back then? How did he became so recognizable? What I tried to pay attention to was use of contour and patterns. The palette of colors that he repeated in a lot of his pieces. All of the scenes, taken from the mass culture and consumerism, depicted in a very clear visual way.

Clear” is the word that comes to my mind while looking at those posters. They are easy to interpret consisting of an obvious visual language that often uses signs or pictograms as a technique of creating an artwork. Lichtenstein’s tools are contours and patterns. He expresses the idea using lines and geometrical splashes of color – all giving the impression as very ‘controlled’ and previously planned. However, the exciting thing is the unexpectedness in use of perspective. The artist uses non-obvious frames and zooms of the visualized objects (as shown in fig. 2 and fig. 3), which makes his art remarkable.

 

Sora

Fig. 4. Lichtenstein, R. (1996) Landscapes in The Chinese Style [Offset Lithography] Madrid: Fundación Canal.


Fig. 4. represents the poster of ‘Landscape in the Chinese Style’ – the Asian influence can be clearly seen. What comes to my mind is Japanese woodblock printing. Interpretation of this style made by Roy Lichtenstein is very interesting because it shows the classical Japanese way of catching perspective, it represents the element of landscape – often depicted in woodblock printing in the far east, and the format is vertical. The artist play with the patterns, avoiding strong contour and providing the depth using aerial perspective. This technique makes it look a bit mysterious, creating similar atmosphere to the ones presented in Japanese prints.

While looking at the fragment of another poster from this series (fig. 5) it can be noticed that the theme is not so obvious – everything seems a bit strange to the viewer. Only when we take a few steps back the patterns can create the mountains.

These art pieces are the very few ones where Roy did not use the strong contour. They are very different comparing to the other posters and – since I am very interested in Japanese woodblock prints, especially from XIX century – they caught my attention.

Sora

Fig. 5. Lichtenstein, R. (1997) fragm. of Landscape in The Chinese Style [Offset Lithography] Madrid: Fundación Canal.

Sources:

Exhibition titled “Roy Lichtenstein, posters” in Fundación Canal in Madrid. Web address: https://www.fundacioncanal.com/20315/roy-lichtenstein-posters/?par=exposiciones