Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Reflections on Map Drawing Assignment (Laurel)

In retrospect, I had a lot of trouble knowing what to put onto paper. So my response to not knowing what to do was just to put something (anything) down, and I am wondering now whether what I drew is really what I think a map of my world/body would look like. It is possible that part of this trouble for me simply had to do with the fact that I was not map-making in my own element, so there was a certain lack of comfort with the map-making tools (paper, crayons, etc). Up until now, all of my map-making, map-thinking experience has been three-dimensional and sensory-based. So I think that my product was perhaps less satisfying because I didn’t exactly know how to approach the tools. I was thinking about how to make what I was making, rather than about the form of what it was I wanted to make. (Sorry for that sentence…that’s awful!) Which was probably not the right balance, I realize now. That issue aside, this assignment brought up some very fundamental questions for me (fundamental for our project, anyways…):

What is a map? What does it mean for a map to be “readable” to someone else? Does a map of my body need to give specific, universally understood directions, like a map of trails on a mountain? And if my “map” doesn’t say the same thing to every person who looks at it, is it still mapping or is it just representational? (Where is that line between representation and map? What is “map?”)

I guess this assignment more than anything made me question what my goals were when making a map of my body (map in general?). Should a map of my body reveal something specific and real and legible about my physical being, or is it okay if it instead tells people something about my experience as this physical being (something about the way that I choose to view my self based on lived experience)? Is it enough to just represent my body the way I envision it, the way I experience it, or does a map need to do more than that? Maps convey information. Okay. But what kind of information do they convey? Is that something that is standardized? And I realize that historically maps do a lot of different things: some maps are geographically correct while others are blatantly incorrect, some are intended to show two dimensional space while others try to represent that third dimension, some serve as guides while others serve as warnings, etc. But I do think that at the heart of it all, maps attempt to convey some kind of truth. Clearly, that truth is bound to the time/space/social climate of the period in which it existed, it is a truth that belongs to the mapmaker. But, in thinking about maps and their relationship to truth, I am wondering what kind of truth we have attempted to put on paper. As mapmakers, what are we trying to convey? I think perhaps that was the fundamental question that was missing before I started my maps – I needed to know more specifically what truth I was trying to capture about my world/body. It was easy enough to just plough into the drawing, but how can a document be readable to somebody else if the mapmaker doesn’t have a clear understanding of what the map is about?



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