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.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
“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.”
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.
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.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.
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].