No começo de julho de 2017, fiz duas apresentações no ICC 2017 – 28th International Cartographic Conference em Washington D.C. Ambas fazem parte da minha pesquisa de doutorado. A primeira apresentação foi no workshop Maps & Emotions organizado pelos professores Sébastien Caquard, Amy Griffin e Alex Kent. A segunda apresentação foi em uma das mesas sobre cartografia crítica do evento principal. Em breve, os artigos completos estarão disponíveis para download.
Cartographic narratives and deep mapping: a conceptual proposal
In this study, there will be discussed a trend called deep mapping, an interdisciplinary topic in the spatial humanities field that aims to explore narrative capabilities of maps, revealing stories associated with places. According to this approach, maps can be used as a tool to encourage a deeper knowledge about places. Besides that, maps can be extremely helpful to discover underlying meanings in the complexity of the space, showing patterns that otherwise would not be apparent. Essentially, the major challenge of deep mapping is to deal with qualitative aspects of places, like emotions and memories. Thus, the main question raised by this investigation is: how deep maps could be able to represent memories, emotions and perceptions associated with spatial experiences of urban places? Considering that scenario, this study is motivated to suggest a conceptual framework that could contribute with the future discussions about deep mapping. We argue that, in order to accomplish this challenge, deep maps should embrace three fundamental principles: (1) the walking, (2) the archaeology and (3) the montage. The walking presupposes that maps must encourage people to discover places by strolling, tracing alternative paths on the urban maze. The archaeological feature of deep maps corresponds to the assumption that cartographic narratives should provide a historical depth, looking for cultural objects that rest under the remains of that place’s history. The montage in deep maps corresponds to the idea that depth could be achieved through the combination of several media, such as photos, videos, texts, audios, hypertext, or even other maps. Therefore, we believe that these three principles – which are based on Walter Benjamin’s critical thought about Modernity – form a conceptual structure that could inspire future methodological approaches regarding deep mapping.
This study focuses on the convergence of art and cartography, whose approach provides relevant discussions about the critique of scientific maps. In the context of the Critical Cartography, Jeremy Crampton says that a critique is an investigation of the assumptions of a field of knowledge, not a disapproving judgment. In his own words, “critique is a political practice of questioning and resisting what we know in order to open up ways of knowing”. In that sense, contemporary art plays an important role not only to discuss the relationship between power and knowledge in cartography, but also to propose other categories of thought. Embracing aesthetic purposes, artists use maps as an expression against the false neutrality of the formal cartography, which considers a map as precise tool to represent space based on strict conventions. J. B. Harley says that a map will always be a partial representation and cannot be exempt from its ideological inclination. Thus, the explicit manipulation of the cartographic language in the context of visual arts can uncover other qualities of the space, making clear the partiality of the maps. Therefore, we emphasize the potential of artworks to communicate different insights about how we experience and live the contemporary space.
Among several map properties, there is a crucial visual element: the representation of borders, understood here in a broad sense as an arbitrary delimitation of a certain space. In general, borders are based on political decisions, often involving tensions and power dispute. Therefore, scientific maps have to clearly communicate these borders according to strict rules. However, people’s perception of the real space could not exactly correspond to this rigid definition. This scenario leads to the following question: how the intersection between art and cartography can improve the critical thinking about borders? By questioning borders, we suggest that art is able to show that real spaces are characterized by liminal spaces or thresholds, not by absolute or strict separations. Contrasting with borders, the notion of threshold not only indicates the separation of two ambiences, but also includes aspects of transitions, gradual change, movement. Therefore, this concept connects space and time, allowing a transition between two points, experiencing limits, testing forces, leaving the comfort zone, risking new approaches.
From this perspective, we highlight some artworks: first, we selected an image of the installation called Area Restringida (Restricted Area), an artwork created by Mateo Maté. Using barrier poles, Maté created a restricted area in a shape of the whole American continent, which is also under surveillance of a camera and security agents. Visitors are blocked by these “borders”, preventing them to trespass the installation. Second, we’ve chosen an artwork called Upotia, created by Nicolas Desplats. The artist created several paint buckets, labeling them as upotia: the ink supposedly could be used to set the frontiers of an imaginary land. Referring the famous concept of Utopia, Desplats brings some interesting discussions about the “cartographer’s perfect dream” of tracing an ideal frontier. Finally, we highlight the work of Francis Alÿs, an artist that proposed performances in two of the most controversial borders worldwide: the US-Mexico border and the Green Line in Israel.
These examples deal with the strictness of the borders, demonstrating how an aesthetic approach can be used as a mode of interpretation of cultural aspects regarding space in contemporary society. By recovering Critical Cartography investigations to support discussions about borders in arts, this study also raise questions about the arbitrary delimitation of spaces that are otherwise composed by diversity, power relations and conflict.