The Ephemeral Cartographies Pre-Conference Workshop was jam-packed with great presentations and discussions. Here are some notes and photos from the two days (please let us know if there’s anything you would like added to your short summary, or corrected – TNC).
The first day, Friday August 21st, began with a roundtable discussion where all the participants introduced themselves and their backgrounds, while workshop leader Sébastien Caquard gave a framework for the following activities. Then I began with the first presentation of the day, giving an overview of my poetic mapping project Detours (agencetopo.qc.ca/detours) as an example of how I might approach the final ephemeral map using data from this workshop (see Outcomes page). I finished by asking for contributions of place-based questions from the audience that could eventually be part of a database application currently in development, one that could give prompts to collect subjective information such as “where is the barkiest dog in this neighbourhood?” or “where is a good place to lie down on some grass?” Naturally, being the “official documenter” of the event, the only photo of this presentation from the presenter’s point of view (I forgot to ask someone to take a photo of me!). Here is the audience, waiting for the presentation to begin:
Jirka Panek, in his Emotional mapping for community based decision-making + GIS mapping tool, presented a web application for mapping similar subjective questions, such as “where is a good bike route in your city?” or “where are you afraid in the city?” “Where do you feel good?” His project included both digital and analogue methodologies, noting that the digital method produced more spots/answers than the analogue, and produced various visualizations such as heat maps or pins on paper. A mobile app is currently in development. His project can be found at http://www.pocitovemapy.cz/index-en.html.
Beate Weninger’s Visualizing Environmental Noise: Acoustic Noise Measurements vs. Subjective Perception talked about psychosocial sound and the visualization of noise, how to rethink noise assessment and representation, the tensions between the spatial and the temporal, and the fact that very few people understand noise maps, despite the fact that the EU’s environmental noise directive requires members to make noise maps every five years. It is still unclear how these noise maps are interpreted. Sébastien suggested looking at a pollution map that uses sound to represent levels of atmospheric toxins (http://atlas.gcrc.carleton.ca/montreal_btex/), a very clever approach since both pollution and sound are invisible, ephemeral, and immersive.
Then came the lunch break, during which many delicious Brazilian delicacies were consumed, including this enormous sandwich:
The afternoon was taken up with an ephemeral mapping activity, during which four presenters outlined their methodologies that were then put into practice.
Rachele Riley presented her work including her projects of mapping “unknown spaces” in Detroit and the Yucca Flats (http://www.evolution-of-silence.net/). Some of her research questions included “How do we learn about a place from afar?” and “How can we make someone care about a place and its history?” She ended by presenting a poem by Anne Carson (one of my favourite poets!) and a prompt to create a list poem about areas of “mythic spaces.”
Sofya Gavrilova presented Mapping the Absence, starting with her own past photographic works exploring, for instance, both sides of a ring road, and a 100 square metres of a landscape in 1 metre square increments. She also presented beautiful sculptural objects that manifested the space between an object and its shadow. Her mapping prompt was to find “what is missing for you in this space.”
Saskia Schut and Louisa King’s Earth, air, body; systems, senses and the map asked that we think about the interactions between the body as a system and the landscape as a system. “How can we register massive landscape systems through our bodies?” Participants were to walk the Maracana neighbourhood paying attention to the sense of balance and how the landscape’s grades affect the body.
Joshua Singer approached his presentation from a Situationist perspective involving an ecosystem of meaning, the sense of permanent play, and hacking as a form of fiction. His Adhoc Atlas project looked at the semiotic construction of space, where he documented every instance of typography within a one block radius. His prompt was to find instances of type in the Maracana neighbourhood and to speculate what systems they belonged to.
The participants were then asked to form groups of 4 or 5 people each, to choose one or two prompts or methods to explore, and then head out into Maracana neighbourhood.
After the mapping activity, everyone returned for a debriefing with the leader of the group, who then presented a summary of findings:
The people in Rachele’s group explored boundaries and dichotomies, especially the river Maracana as a symbol and as a different presence, the sense of othering, the other side of the line. There was also a sense of celebratory power, a love letter and fragments. Sofya’s group discerned three different groups of absences: the emotional (joy, security, etc.), the infrastructural (bridges, bars, etc.), and finally, signs of absence (broken pots, empty things that were once full). Saskia and Louisa’s group commented that it was difficult to focus on the body, as one relies on the eyes and ears so much, but that they found much equilibrium tension around the Macarana stadium. In Rio, it is often not possible to go uphill where many favelas are located, including the one across from the university, so they relied on their eyes to find a visual sense of uphill topography that mimicked the social shift and unbalance of the favela on the hill. Finally, many in Joshua’s group explored around the stadium, finding much of the large, official signage there (in sans serif font) to be a very closed system, one mainly of control with an intense inside/outside dichotomy. Safety was also a concern of this system, as well as service (such as deliveries). Others focused on a contrast of desert vs. tropical forest.
Some preliminary data:
The first day was thus action-packed and full of interesting ways of thinking about the urban landscape around the university. Our Brazilian hosts Carla, Ricardo, Alex and friends then took us to their favourite bar nearby for rounds of long-neck bottles of beer.
The second day started with Jock Gilbert’s presentation “Cartographic Readings of Country: ‘Interpretive Wonderings at Culpra Station’ and ‘Working the Ground at Wilcannia NSW’.” Jock began with his background in landscape architecture, framing his inquiry with the works of Gregory Bateson, Felix Guattari, and Agnes Denes. He then moved to his projects about mapping a river with different perspectives, and participatory mapping with between university students and primary school students drawing a map of their village. Jock closed with some musings about the colonial grid, made for cars that few people in the village owned, and how the grid began to recede with community made maps.
Silvestre Ferrer then presented “The Mapping of Dynamic Phenomena and the Language of Moving Pictures,” beginning with a short movie showing deforestation in the Amazon and linking it to a “chronophotographical sequence” by E.J. Marey that decontructed bird flight (reminding me of Eadweard Muybridge’s work). He also brought in Jules Janssen’s chronophotographical plate, Galileo’s chart of Jupiter’s moons, Harness’s flow line concept applied to traffic flow, and Harold Fish’s Mississippi map that represents changes of the river layered into one image, all interesting approaches to representing time.
Dominic Redfern’s performance “Detritus” explored “useless information captured out of context,” citing Henri Lefebvre and Mei Po Kwan on site-specificity and space/place production in his work, in this case, “trash” or “rubbish” that he had collected from around the Maracana neighbourhood. He treated the audience to an extremely slow, live video, macro-lensed “long take” mapping of this rubbish, in which we experienced a collapse of time alternately into fragments of distracted viewing and textural immersion.
The second activity of the workshop was presented by Skypelab, or Maggie McCormick, Henning Eichinger & Franey Nogueira, through their project “Transcontinental Faces & Spaces.” The goal was to explore drawing as a way of seeing and mapping, and to re-evaluate the role of drawing through the use of layers of digital media, specifically through contour drawing practices of faces using Skype. Unfortunately, we were unable to access any Wi-Fi connections, so the activity took place without the digital filter of Skype and its “everyday public spaces.” The researchers were also interested in the distortions and delays that occur sometimes during a Skype call. The task for workshop participants was to find a partner, and while sitting across the table, to draw his or her face without looking at the paper or lifting the drawing implement. Afterwards, the partners were to discuss where they had come from and to draw this place from the imagination.
The workshop concluded with a roundtable discussion on how an ephemeral map might be materialized in general, but more specifically by using the data collected from the previous day’s activity. There were many interesting ideas and it was agreed that consensus was not a goal, but in the end, the final map would be best as influenced by the personal approach of the mapmaker (download notes: concluding-brainstorming-session.pdf).
Our Brazilian hosts then led the way to their favourite grilled meat restaurant, where the vegetarians did manage to find a few things to eat as well (and where I finally got into a photo)!
Thank you to all the participants and presenters, as well as to all those who helped in the organization of the workshop. Obrigado!