Deep Mapping


I have started mapping through various scales and time with writing as a descriptor and director of various aspects of place. Maps are of dwelling places, remembered journeys, possible adventures and imagined worlds. Mapping is a ‘sea-change’, or an interruption, from a previous practice of movement and a ‘know as you go’. The nearby and the inner are also worth considering, at least for a time….as is rereading ‘The Poetics of Space’ by Gaston Bachelard.

Working in a studio I miss experiences of awe like those of observing transient light and feeling wind and rain and touch of feet in soft ground and compelled fingers moving materials spontaneously to make a mark. I am also aware that maps are never ‘real’ places and should not be taken literally. There are no storms or weather on a map, the skies and mountains are always visible and the paths always clear. There is no fear when doodling a map indoors; insights are pulled silently from the ether rather than touched, or sometimes acidly etched by real experience, into lines, colours and shapes.

(Maps I made and quotes I learned at the workshop ‘Creative Cartographies’ by Rebeccca Sharp at Off the Rails Arthouse in Ladybank, Fife.)

Deep Mapping goes beyond simple landscape/history-based topographical writing to include and interweave autobiography, archaeology, stories, memories, folklore, traces, reportage, weather, interviews, natural history, science, and intuition. In its best form, the resulting work arrives at a subtle, multi-layered and “deep” map of a small area of the earth. (Wiki)

This impulse to map our experiences in its entirety [is] paired with our ongoing inability to fully do so […] seeking to capture life’s rough edges with increasingly sacrosanct manoeuvres, and yet we will continue to fail in our pursuits. And yet: let us not forget that is the contours of these failures that give art its great pathos […] we
love [books, stories, art] not because they give us answers but because they gesture at the world, they carve out their little patch of earth and then ultimately fold back into themselves, asking us to navigate the echoes left behind.” – Reif Larsen in Lewis-Jones, The Writers Map, p 173

I was coming to see that facts carry a traveler only so far: at last he must penetrate the land by a different means, for to know a place in any real and lasting way is sooner or later to dream it. That’s how we come to belong to it in the deepest sense.”  – William Least Heat-Moon, PrairyErth




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