CISP Online

Blog of the Centre for Invention & Social Process, Goldsmiths

Artefacts of Mapmaking

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“The bird, far from his name, flies from the name that I give it, but continues to fly in the treats of zoology and the poems of St. Jhon Pierce. The gull is in its sky, irreducible to ours, but the language of the taxonomist is in the books, itself irreducible to any gull ever dreamed of, living or dead”. (Latour, Pasteurisation of France, 1988).

This video is part of a presentation done during the visit by the Science Po Master’s Programme for Art and Experimentation in Politics and Bruno Latour to CSISP at Goldsmith, this March 7th. It  was used as visual data to reflect on different traditions of mapmaking´s artefacts.

The presentation´s main questions were about What are maps? How are they translating the world? And What are the cultural traditions involved in mapmaking and mapreading? In this context, maps were considered as an artifact resulting from a long reflexive process of interpretation and translation of the world, which may vary from place to place and from time to time. Maps, was argued, can be understood not as sign about nature, but as producers of nature. They are creating the territory by representing it, and each mapmaking tradition refers to an specific set of behaviours and social practices within a given material culture, recording maps as an object artefact, involving several performative traditions such as gesture, ritual, sing, speech, dance or poetry (Woodward and Lewis, 1998).

From this perspective, the empirical questions were focused on  the specific mapmaking tradition of The Central Andes, South America. The syncretic configuration of this territory, allowed some Ritual Festivities to emerge as performative maps, combining both Western and Andean mapmaking tradition, which through music and dance perform an Imago Mundi of their surrounding world.

The present video was recorded on 2010 during La Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe de Ayquina, Atacama Desert, Chile. This Festivity is structured around a “holly town”, with around 500 houses, inhabited by no more than 15 families during the year, but overflowing with more than 20,000 people for the main day of the festivity. The village was built as a stage: the houses are located on the slopes of the ravine, emulating observation boxes, and the urbanism is articulated around the main square and church, located at the bottom of Ayquina´s ravine.

The mapping strategy used by the festive´s participants can be understood as idealised metaphors, where the world is not represented through mimetic standards, rather than through transforming its elements into a new dimension, expressed through groups dance performances. This festive map is not only about the reality itself, but also about how social groups can imagine and fantasise the world they are living in.

One Comment

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