pictures: Stephen Walter (above) and Sohei Nishino’s (below) maps of London
Maps, in our imaginary, carry much more objectivity than they actually do in reality. We can probably explain that by the reliability that we put in them in order to locate ourselves in a city or in a country. However, just like the architect plan (another kind of map), maps are actually a form of representation that is characterized by just as much subjectivity than any other forms. They only shows what make sense in their system of logic, they use a more or less complex aesthetic vocabulary and they often emphasize the importance of some of their included elements.
The work of art that expresses the best this subjective beauty in my opinion remains the medium length 1978 movie by Peter Greenaway, A Walk Through H. (see previous article) in which an ornithologist recounts his journey in 92 maps that one by one leads more and more toward abstraction. Very luckily you can watch this movie by following this link.
Stephen Walter and Sohei Nishino are two artists who are exploring the subjectivity of the map. S. Walter has draw two gigantic maps of London and Liverpool in a sort of report of Situationist drifts (derives) experiencing the psychogeographies of those two cities. His maps are mostly constituted by doodles and words that places various neighborhoods and its characteristics but also his autobiographical feeling about those places when he went there. Space’s representation and narratives are then completely colliding in one documents and makes S.Walter’s maps absolutely fascinating.
Sohei Nishino is using photographs to compose his maps which oscillate between aerial views and maps using a technique that became famous by David Hockney which consists in assembling pictures together despite their different vanishing points. S.Nishino chose some very generic photographs from main monuments of each city to make the map more recognizable but one could imagine his work with an approach more similar to Stephen Walter’s that would assemble pieces of life brought together with pictures that would eventually constitutes the city.
I recommend the documentary about The Beauty of Maps released by the BBC a year ago and all visible via the following link.