Drawing the World
by Joselina Cruz
Map Projections is a sculptured reality, based on the conflicting and interdependent elements of art and existence, illusion and reality, imagination and fact, chaos and order, irrationality and reason.1
How does one start a journey? Kubai Khan arks the Venetian Polo, do you advance with your head turned back. Or is what you always see behind you? Or even, perhaps, your journey always takes place in the past?2 Polo and the Khan speak of cities and journeys many imaginary given form through the haze of opium smoke. The Khan listens, intent on the contents of his empire that the traveling foreigner recounts. This is an empire the Khan knows he owns but has never imagined, could never image, beyond that of vast empty lands, conquered upon horseback, spreading and stretching out forever from where he sits. Polo's descriptions are mesmerizing in their details; each city's details a world all its own; and he enter many; streets, alleyways, squares, towers, and views from balconies, bridges and piazzas. His retelling follows his own paths of remembrance, or perhaps, follows the Khan's meandering thoughts, formless in its lack of memory of such. Polo's retelling of his travels maps out the space of an empire.
The forms of the journey and travels are countless. The exhibition Projections encourages textured travels, of flights of the imaginations drawn from fragments of paper tracking voyages; it goes through passages and empty roads, labyrinthine waterways, navigating between canals and gulfs, across mountain ranges and through streets. It surveys movement, the amount of greenery, sand piles, gravel and land area, including uncharted territories, the latter designated as 'data unknown'. Military maps used chiefly for surveillance use aerial photography. Like Icarus falling down to swoop at the land, it lock on the details. It is the panopticon in action. The exhibition too looks out windows and sees rushing scenery, blurred by speed , or stopped, subjected to remembrance and caught in painting. And there are maps whose topography does not exist except in memory, Rodriguez's empty maps urge us to place our own memories over his. These is too the contemplation of an antique map frozen in of imperial strength. Of ships' logs detailing movements, deaths, mutinies, sea winds, starvation, movements of stars, naval tactics. Logs being a most revealing novel of drama at sea.
On any voyage, a map or guide comes in handy: an A-Z a celestial diagram, a nautical Chart, a road map, a sea log, a rough sketch, an address, a fault line running across an archipelago. Such crossings as seen on the antique maps also speak of expeditions began, and many which never saw the goal of its voyage. Expeditions create maps drawn to objectify power over lands not at all seen by heads of empire, only talked about and boasted of. Marco. Polo left a boy of 15 and returned to Venice a ma of 39, his adventures legendary and mythical and true. In 1707, Admiral Arthur Clowdisley and his men of more than two thousand in his three ships sank on their way home from Gibraltar to the English Isles. 3 Ferdinand Magellan's ambitions ended on the island of Cebu. It was Juan Sebastian del Cano, of malnutrition and starvation. Of the 240 men and 5 ships that left for the voyage, only Del Cano and 17 other returned. More recently, we have Arthur Cravan, a dada poet and critic, who set sail for the Gulf Mexico. He never returned. He left his pregnant wife waiting for his return on the shores of Salinas.4 He most likely succumbed to time-madness, a sickness that afflicts those lost at sea or the desert.
Magellan's trip based on the best map available, but without any knowledge of longitude-the missing link for the perfection of nautical voyages, his expedition was beset with problems. 5 Despite the book Geography by Ptolemy (AD 150?), with its map projections, employing latitudes (gridding the world, in a sense) his charts were still inaccurate, showing a world mostly covered by land with very little water. In later centuries, maps became like gold. A 'precise' map foretold the fate of many, sailors and sovereigns alike. For some France, confronted with a revised map of his domain based on accurate longitude measurements, reportedly complained that he was losing more territory to his astronomer than to his enemies.6
Cartographers create projections: mathematical equations, which shrivel, land masses, Contort others, and generally, distort the earth, as we know it. Geographers, cartographers, Mathematicians employ map Projections that allow the circular Earth to be seen flat. Flat maps are not completely correct. A spherical earth stretched out on a flat surface stretch in some areas, shrink in others, mountain ranges topple into each other, oceans expand, spill over, valleys spread into desserts. To correct the topographic disarray, mathematical solutions straighten out the upheaval. In the process, the earth, stretched and shrunk, gets distorted. Every type of projection distorts distances and shapes; land shapes too and other areas are twisted, torn. Each map, guide, or chart, which Purports to tell a precise location, Always employs a certain Projection, thus a factual reality distorted, using the most precise of math's for specific needs. The land we see flat on a map is an imprecise rendering of a round earth.
In the book Invisible Cities, cities are given shape, life, made whole. From Diomira to Zaira to Pyrrha and many others, Marco Polo speaks of cities and his words conjure the place, projects the site for the Khan. Projection: it trips the tongue, but nevertheless throws of another self, the possibility of bilocation, of forecast, of an other, the palimpsest of the real, a frame of film, protrusions, representations. Its very surface, the surface of projection is layered by the distinct materiality of the space or the sire it seeks to construct, projections make it possible for us to own, at a glance, location. It becomes the poetics of projection, and a projected poetics.
Before the events of September 11, Michel de Certeau wrote About 'seeing Manhattan from the 110th floor of the World Trade Center�.A wave of verticals. Its agitation momentarily Arrested my vision. The gigantic mass immobilized before the eyes.'7 And our vision of owing of the world, what of it? Certeau asks:
To what erotics of knowledge does the ecstasy of reading such a cosmos belong? Having taken a Voluptuous pleasure of 'seeing the whole', of looking Down�8
Indeed, looking down on maps, cityscapes, the glitter of a City' lights as a plane lands, we read it like a text that unfurls itself in front of us. We follow with our eyes, synoptic, and our fingers, sensibily, trailing this way, tracing a path our mind following the route. Paseo de las Delicias, Atocha, Claudio Moyano and the old booksellers, Paseo Duque, Angel Caido, Left to the Republica de Cuba until Palacio de Velazquez�
Maps, antique maps or otherwise, are proof of our persistence in possessing spatial precision. But with each year, new details are drawn in, others re-drawn, some removed, borders drawn up, others taken down. Maps recover uncovered lands exposing them to the world but at the same time unrolling a film of possession over it, de Certeau is correct when he writes that stories begin with footsteps. Tired captains set foot on land and it is discovered, owned. Then the new terrain is marked on a map, this time around a map more precise than the last. But footsteps lead not always though pathways trodden, but create a network of uncommon circuits, circuits, cirling this way and that-extending maps and ownership outside of set parameters. Cobangbang's AAIMLN (2001) is book in pencil, open to erasures and changes to the walled city of Manila, as it disperses beyond the wall's 'confines'. As every map should be.
Let us follow Walter Benjamin through Susan Buck-Mors Mental conception of his path through Paris:
"it is not difficult through our flânerie to reconstruct Benjamin's work day. Arriving by metro, we could have surfaced through the art-nouveau portal at Rue 4. Septembre, and traversed the Passage Choiseul, exiting near the lush Square de Louvois, The quite peace of which ends abruptly at the rue De Richelieu. Crossing its speeding lanes of traffic, He reached the safety of reading, a short stroll from the library brought to view all of central Paris, first and foremost, the surviving arcades in which the discovered the modern world in miniature: Choiseul, Vivienne , Colbert, Puteaux, Havre, Panoramas�"9
We wander like Benjamin, our fingers on our maps, lost in The nostalgia of the city we find ourselves in, forgetting that We read fiction, the projection momentarily forgotten.
Scopic totalizations produced by drawings of our world: Cities, towns, villages,etc, lose the inhabiting factor of the Human presence. We lose site of the anthropomorphic Presence. Like Benjamin we must walk through our mapped Cities, and cross channels, imprinting human face. Not (just) of possession but, importantly, of passage. And necessarily of memory. Baluyos' walks toward three volcanoes enriches our experience of the earth, the video working like a ship's log that takes in visual details. It also makes one aware of the inner rumblings of the lands and its continued shifting and displacements. Earthquakes are daily occurrences-however imperceptible these physical shifts- as proven by her seismic 'earth journals.' rendering efforts of permanently setting down terrain on paper futile.
I, too, follow different paths, one foot in front of the other, searching out labyrinths that cities present. I pretend not to meander, walking with an apparent objective, but in truth, it is with the paced leasure of someone seeking out the news, or the simple intimacy of places familiar.
I could tell you you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and the degree of the arcade's curve, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roof; but i already know that this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past: the height of a lamppost and the distance from the ground of a hanged usurper's swaying feet; the line strung from a lamppost to the railing opposite and the festoons that decorate teh course of the queen's nuptial procession; the height of that railing and the leap of the adulterer who climbed over it at dawn; the tilt of a guttering and a cat's progress along it as he slips into the same window; the firing range of a gunboat which has suddenly appeared beyond the cape...
As this wave of memories flows in, the city soaks it up like a sponge and expands. The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the grating of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls. 10
These are places I remember most, fat with memory and experience. And maps bring back that spatial energy of having been. And place names, like City Road, Islington, Hoxton Square, Jay Mews, Place de Alps, Narciso, Victoria Bridge, Orchard Road, Domstrasse, bring on a swell of recollections. If, you, like me get lost all the time, then there is no point in walking with a purpose; any intention dissipates as the maze of streets shrink, divide, multiply, twist, turns, one into many and the many into one and the many, into many more. And like Polo, it becomes a city dotted with memory. And the pocket map, is placed back inside one's coat; when one is lost—a journey is just about to begin.
"That's another thing we've learned from the nation," said Mein Herr, "map-making. But we've carried it much further than you. What would you consider the largest map that would be really useful?"
"About six inches to the mile."
"Only six inches!" exclaimed Mein Herr. "we very soon got to six yards to the mile. That we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!"
"Have you used it much? I inquired. "It has never been spread out yet," said Mein Herr: The farmers object: and said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So now we use the country itself as its own map, and I assure you it odes nearly as well."11
1 Denes, Agnes 'Study of Distortions series 1973-79' Isometric Systems in Isotropic Space-Map Projections (Rochester, New York, Visual Studies Workshop, 1979), p3 form MAP, London: iniVa, 1996, p1-24
2 Calvino, Italo, Invisible Cities, London: Vintage 1997, p28
3 Sobel, Dava Longitude, New York: Walker and Co, 1995, p11
4 Carolin, Clare, Into the Light from A to B and Back again, London: RCA, 1999, p34
5 "For lack of a practical method determining longitude, every great captain in the Age of Exploration became lost at sea despite the best available charts and compasses. From Vasco de Gama to Vasco Nuņez de Balboa, from Ferdinand Magellan to Sir Francis Drake
—they all got where they were going willy-nilly by forces attributed to good luck or the grace of God. "From Dava Sovel, Longitude, New York: Walker and Co., 1995, p6
6 Sobel, Dava, Longitude, New York: Walker and Co, 1995 p 27
7 de Certeau, Michel, Walking in the City, from The Cultural Studies Reader, New York: Routledge, 199 p152
8 ibid, p153
9 Buck-Morss, Susan, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project, Massachusetts and London: MIT Press, 1991, p342
10 Calvino, Italo, Invisible Cities, London: Vintage, 1997, pp10-11
11 Carroll, Lewis, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) cited in Hughes, Patrick and George Brecht, Vicious Circles and Infinity. London: Penguin Books. 1975 p 66 and Bibliomania http::ww.bibliomania.com/0/0/11/20frameset.html quoted from Ray Langenbach, Mapping the Cartographer, catalogue o Wong Hoy Cheong, Willie Valentine Fine Arts & OVA, 2002, p.15