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.