Mapping Readings and Screenings

A Map is to Process as a Process is to Map.

“Yeah but you can’t do that.” “Why not?” “’Cause it’s freaking me out!”

The character CJ Craig’s response to using a different map of the world, the Peters Projection, instead of the traditional Mercator map sums up my exact thought throughout the duration of the clip. As humans, we have the capacity to organize and categorize things mentally in order to understand them deeper. When something so well known is demonstrated as something vastly different than what we are used to, we become lost and cannot make sense of it right away. It’s like throwing a wrench into an engine. It disrupts the brain’s natural functions of association.

Further, we like to associate symbols with different meanings – one of which is the association of size with power. If what is in the clip is true, then the bigger the country appears, the more power we associate with it. In my honest opinion though, geographic maps are simply symbols on a page that represent the real landscape and borders of the world. The Mercator map is not exactly wrong – it is actually representing both size and location in relation to power of the countries of the world, though it may not say so explicitly. Whether that is the rightful way of representing the layout of the countries is an entirely different issue. The map also shows boundary lines where we humans have decided they should be. The real Earth wouldn’t have a giant red or black line running through the middle of the countryside to show where Canada ends and the US begins. This clip was definitely an eye opener for me and I do believe there should be a more precise and accurate map developed to represent the world’s geography alone, but a map can be about whatever is chosen by the cartographer to be represented.

To solidify my point of association in mapping, the article “What Is Contemporary Art Actually Mapping?” explains that there is a relation between the “given set” of elements on the map, and a second “range” of elements. I believe this means the interpretation and the symbols used to create the interpretation. I found it profound that this article articulated the idea of mapping as a process that is “perpetually incomplete.” Yes, a map and the process of mapping are two separate entities in themselves, but to say that once a map is complete, it actually isn’t threw me for a loop. Cue wrench. I guess I just never really thought about it that way. But it’s true. How can you have an actual, real-time representation of something when everything is constantly changing? Even things that seem stagnant, like skyscrapers, are undergoing changes whether it be the people that occupy them, the clouds that cast shadows on them, the surface temperature of them, etc. I could go on for days. The lasting impression I received from this article was that the map, as a stopping point of a process, is a thing of beauty and the map itself is a snapshot of a collective period of time surrounding the subject that is represented.

Erasure Readings and Screenings

In watching the Paul Pfeiffer video on Erasure, it brought to light several notable aspects of the concept. First, the fact that there is an effect that is both deliberate and unpredictable in removing something that was once there from a visual piece. The deliberate effect is that there should be a slight reminder of the thing that was once there, that erasing something doesn’t delete it, it brings out the memory of said thing. The unpredictable effect is that every person’s memory will be different and with it, bring different meaning and interpretation of that memory. The same scene can also bring to light a different area of focus that the viewer might not have seen before. In erasing the boxers from his long form loop, the viewer is forced to look at other things than just the boxers, like the way the ropes move or the audience’s reaction to the whole fight, and not just the knockout.

Seeing something versus having to visualize something that was once there makes the viewer work toward the piece and can be very powerful for the artist. Robert Rauschenberg successfully and controversially did this by erasing a De Koonig painting. Having seen a De Kooning piece before, a viewer is forced to envision the piece that was there prior as something that aligns with De Kooning’s style. Also, by erasing the entire piece and not simply one aspect, he brought to life the process of art. A viewer might look at the erased De Kooning and envision De Kooning laboring over the piece. By not seeing the piece itself, they visualize the artist instead – something Raushenberg refers to as, “poetry.”

In the article by Brian Dillon, erasure is compared to tabula rasa – a clean slate. Even once a piece, a journey, a life stage, a mistake, etc. is completed, there is always something you can do to start fresh, start new, and start again – or at least “make the world look new again.” You cannot un-see, but you can begin again. In a different sense, erasing certain elements from a piece of art can add value by devaluing it. I appreciate what Dillon had to say about erasure relating to the human face. You cannot make it vanish completely. Even removing the humanizing elements evokes a human response in others of horror and sympathy. Evoking emotion through elimination is something I hope to capitalize on through the completion of this project.