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Entries in maps (16)


Nelson's battle plan for Trafalgar, 21 October 1805

Captain Horatio Nelson. Battle plan for the engagement with the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars off Cape Trafalgar, Spain. 1805 © National Maritime Museum, London.

A wall of ships, the British ships sail toward it planning to cut the line in three, taking out the flagship first, i.e. no signals.  Not being a naval historian, and reading a brief summary, it appears that part of the English fleet was at Gibralter, weakening the total Navy, and so the French and Spanish thought they could defend Cadiz by forming a long line in front of it.  However, weather will intervene.  Little wind and contradictory orders to the French and Spanish to turn resulted in an extremely slow reformation leaving clumps of ships over a loose five-mile line.  In come two tight arrow-like British lines.  As they all were no doubt luffing around in the same calm weather, the battle must have seemed a bit like slow-motion.  However, outnumbered, outgunned and out-shipped, the British won, Nelson was shot and died, and storms that blew up the next day sank several of the wounded ships of the day before.  

If there is anything that endears one to Nelson's 'England expects that every man will do his duty' spelled out in signal flags flying from his own flagship, it is this scrap of a battle plan on the back of what looks like a bit of blotting paper.  One must never be seen to be trying too hard, but duty is done nonetheless.

Does this kind of thinking exist any more?  I only come across it in British espionage novels, those thrilling, complicated, but allegedly deeply conservative tales that pass these days as my escape reading.  Ex-SAS men gone rogue sort of stuff.  Not really rogue, in the end one finds they are on the side of right and duty.  Of course.

Anyway, beautiful little drawing.  It moves me to tears for some reason.


Christine Hiebert's blue drawings 2003-4

Christine Hiebert. Wall Drawing / The Drawing Room, Easthampton, NY 2004; blue adhesive tape, glue on wall. 11'-4h x 20'w

This is an artist who has made drawings with blue masking tape since 2000.  in this 2012 conversation she mentions when working graphically before computers learned how to draw everything for us, she would make curves using very thin tapes.  Yes, I remember this, a physical relationship between hand, tape and eye that was sensual and scaled to the arm: the automatic marks of the anthropos.

On her own website she talks about how the lines are flung out into space as a negotiation of the unknown, or the unexperienced.  It seems that how they land on the wall is not unlike a map that precedes experience, indeed, frames experience.  The selection of certain marks, the choosing of certain widths of tape, of placements, draws a map of desire and intention.  These are landscapes – they follow mapping conventions that are difficult to ignore.  However, just because they look like maps does not mean they are maps.  They are drawings that delineate planar areas where the borders of each territory are made significant: nothing is blurred, or ambiguous.  Some are strong, some weak – have I slipped into metaphor again?  Yes.  They are pieces of blue masking tape on white paper and white walls that spur us to think of things.

Christine Hiebert. Wall Drawing / The Drawing Center (view #4)

and a very small image, but showing that the scale is way beyond the hand and arm, it is now the wall, the ladder and the whole body. 

Christine Hiebert. RoundTrip. A wall drawing for the Pinakothek der Moderne, 2005



Selkirk Settlement maps

“Plan of land bought by the Earl of Selkirk from Peguis and other Indians. 18th July 1817.” Source: Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 4149347. Click on this image to enlarge it.

“Selkirk Treaty – Indian Chart of Red River,” undated. Library and Archives Canada, note reads “Land involved: The Red River north of Red Lake River and South of Lake Winnipeg and the Assiniboyne River from Fort Douglas to ‘Musk rat or Rivière des Champignon [sic]‘ … No date (but probably accompanies treaty of 1817/07/18)

Two maps, the lower one probably sketched by Peter Fidler, witnessed, signed and attached to the deed of the sale of land along the Red River to the Earl of Selkirk in 1817 for the Red River Settlement.  It is signed by five chiefs who made their marks as their clan totems. 

Curiously, if one reads the potted history of the Red River Settlement, this negotiation is not mentioned: Selkirk purchased a controlling interest in the Hudson's Bay Company which already claimed the territory, and then granted it/himself a large (116,000 square miles) tract of land, Assiniboia, both to establish a colony of Scottish sheep farmers displaced by the Highland Clearances who arrived in 1812, and to quash the North West Company's interests in the West.  The Pemmican War ensued, Métis were involved, the North West Company burned down the colony's fort, arrests were made and eventually the North West Company merged with the Hudson's Bay Company.  The seeds of the Red River Rebellion fifty years later were sown here.

So where does this 'sale of land' occur in the official history?  Or was this simply a politeness, not really a sale, but acknowledgement that a negotiation had taken place.  

I first saw this map in Derek Hayes' Historical Atlas of Canada and just thought it the most alive map I had ever seen: the English names on the rivers indicate that north is at the top of the page, the Enlightenment convention where the viewer is located in the place of the sun, Sun Kings all of us.  However, the aboriginal chiefs were on the other side of the table, looking at the map from the north, their territory.  Both parties reveal their relationship to land: one is in it, one is looking at it.  The chiefs were spatially placed in a supplicatory position in terms of Selkirk's agents; the agents revealed their commodification of the land through both the power of The Map, and their objective view of it. 


Boyle Family earth casts

Boyle Family. Rock and Scree Series, 1977. British pavilion, Venice Biennale 1978

Part of the Boyle Family Manual for the Journey to the Surface of the Earth: 'The objective of this Journey will be to make multi-sensual presentations of 1000 sites selected at random from the surface of the earth.  Between August 1968 and July 1968 blindfolded members of the public selected these sites' [by throwing darts at ever larger-scaled maps until a 6' square was found].

1. Take the actual surface coating of earth, dust, sand, mud, stone, pebbles, snow, moss, grass or whatever hold it in the shape it was in on the site. Fix it. Make it permanent.

The rest of the instructions, 6' core sample, film pan from the centre and a 100-frame film of the site, and a study of 'the effect of elemental forces' on the site were always less captivating than the casts of the site itself.  This was done with frames and plaster lifting the surface material with it when the cast was removed.  
There were more instructions for dealing with plants, animals, people, filming them, taking samples, but it was the cast that was the enduring gallery material. Accompanying texts found on the Boyle Family website are impenetrable streams of consciousness, a barrage of words working their way into description.  There is a review by J L Locher, which one suspects was written by Mark Boyle himself as it is so similar to all the other writings on this site.  But what of it, this is a body of work that started in the 1960s and continues still, this recording of the world.  

Such a conceptually simple frame produces simple objects: 6' squares of ground and it is these themselves that invite speculation, rather than the process.  They are notes from the earth, unconnected to any discernible narrative.  The squares of ground are not linked by resource-extraction, climate, cost or beauty; nationalism, history, productivity or location.  They are microscopically complex, conceptually reflexive and this is what is so interesting, that this work shared the unemotional approach to process of Sol Lewitt, in Boyle's case with the complicity of the earth, and that makes all the difference.   


Gerhard Marx: Johannesburg, 2012

Gerhard Marx, Garden Carpet: Johannesburg [1], 2013. Plant material, tissue paper with acrylic ground on canvas board, 120 x 180cm Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

Gerhard Marx, a South African artist, seems interested in the underpinnings of the commonplace, in this case the map of Johannesburg which becomes reinscribed with the surface materials of Johannesburg.  Not quite geology, more dirt, as if the gleaming towers and freeways of the modern city are just this: dirt, roots and grass, the map itself scratches on the ground.

Gerhard Marx, Garden Carpet: Johannesburg, detail. Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa


more flight paths

Murder of Crows from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.

Dennis Hlynsky, who teaches at RISD, has a number of these small films on his website. His post, 'murmuration of starlings' outlines how he does it all technically.
After watching these videos for a while you start to recognise slow hops from wire to wire and swift flashes across the sky.  Presumably each trail is visible for the same time in these films – clearly some birds are lazy little laggards. Or maybe just tired.

data in data out from Dennis Hlynsky on Vimeo.


un autre monde, 2014

Flight data provided by FlightStats

This is an interactive site about 100 years of aviation.  Click on the image to go to the whole site: there are various pages, graphs, historic photos and projections, but the most magical is the world shining with route paths. 


Le monde au temps des surrealistes, 1929

Variétés - Le Surréalisme en 1929 Print, Illustrated book, photomechanical reproduction, letterpress 25.2 h x 17.8 w cm National Gallery of Australia

'Le monde au temps des surrealistes', published by Breton in 1929 to show the parts of the world important to the surrealists: the places, named by country, tend to be those with aboriginal art, the operative word being original.  Thus Europe, the United States, sites of a kind of universal western culture and product, do not figure.  

Jean Claire, in an essay on surrealist anti-materialism and non-western art, mentions the universalising tendencies in Europe at the time: the rise of Hitler's Volk, the appeal to Italian nationalism.  Politically the surrealists worked against synthesis, coordination, cultural coherence; masks and arcane rituals appealed precisely because they didn't understand them — they couldn't be appropriated by bourgeois culture.  

This is an 80-year old anti-globalisation map.  It is also the opposite of anthropology that seeks to understand the non-Western world.  The surrealists did not want to understand other cultures, it was important that there were other cultures. Can that be said, eighty years on?  As a child, David Bailey had read about Nagaland – a very obscure part of India on the Burmese border, and had always wanted to go there.  He went, eventually, in 2012 and found kids with iPhones and jeans and the elders living a thousand-year old life in their heads: when they go, it will go too.

Look up Naga people on wikipedia, one finds a struggle for statehood, a desire for autonomy, the predictable results of colonisation – that insistence that all peoples come under some central authority that they then have to spend much blood and many years to undo.  The surrealist map of the world isn't an exercise in sentimental preservation of innocent cultures, rather it can be seen as a map of the post-WWI periphery.  The south consists of islands and archipelagoes: a metaphor, contradictory, for the surrealist movement itself. 


matches: measuring off the miles



Plan of Bangalore, 1791

This plan of the original fort at Bangalore is from a most interesting site, deeplythinking.  The note across the top says: Plan of Bangalore (with the Attacks) taken by the English Army under the command of the Rt Hon'ble Earl Cornwallis March 22 1791. He was related to the Cornwallis, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, who founded Halifax in 1749 to counter French interests established at Louisbourg. 

Deeply Thinking Guruprasad says this attack plan map was part of the Third Anglo-Mysore War and shows the fort, the walled pendant hanging from the town which was surrounded by thick bushes and hedging. Bangalore became a British military base in 1809, developing over the next hundred years into the old town, the Petta, and the new station.

Bangalore, 1924What a diagram of British colonialism: the old town, the Petta and fort supervised by adjacent gridded suburbs, the station separated from the native quarter by a wide zone of parks and parade grounds.  Richards Town, Fraser Town and Cleveland Town northeast of the Cantonment Bazaar were probably named after officers and their companies, much the way Halifax streets were named after the companies stationed in barracks on them.  On the native side are the jail, the plague camp, the cemetery, the veterinary camp for the horses. On the British side are the Maharaja's palace, the polo ground and no doubt other sites of safety. (go to the original site by clicking on the pictures for enlarged versions of these maps – they are really interesting in detail)

In fact, this is all much like Halifax which, as late as 1960, allowed African-Canadians to crowd into Africville at the extreme northern end of the city, separated from the city itself by commons and an ambiguous zone that contained a mental hospital, a jail, and the city dump.  No such thing as disinterested urbanism: social relations are deeply embedded and last for centuries.



a handful of drives

Polly Hill. Driving map of Santa Cruz, 1912

There is a nice write up of this hand map on Strange Maps.  It reminds me that there was a time when people got into cars and drove around, looking at things, usually on Sunday afternoons.  Let's go out for a drive!  Who today in their right mind would think this was a treat?  but it used to be.

Driving has become such a chore: too fast, too much road surface, too noisy, an A to B experience, preferrably without incident.  No time to look at scenery, no stopping for gas and finding a courteous attendant, in fact little courtesy on the road itself.  It is all such a struggle. 


Sohei Nishino

© Sohei Nishino. Paris, May 2007 - November 2008. Light jet print. 1558×1348 mmThis work by Sohei Nishino comes to us by way of Tim Atherton who alerted us to the wonderfully named Hippolyte Bayard's photography site.

Sohei Nishino walks cities, photographs them and assembles the photos into vast cognitive maps.  He states that this is 'the re-imagined city from my memory as layered icons of the city'.

Spectacularly unsuited to looking at on the screen, they are large, black and white pieces, 4 x 4' more or less.  Knowing the process, one can imagine what they might look like, as unbalanced and as true as all cognitive maps, studded with fragments of startling detail.  

The detail of Istanbul, below,  shows something of the method: like small narratives in the topography of memory complete with sky and ground, some buildings and spaces are made special by their disconnection from the logic of a conventional map.  This is what google maps has liberated us from: the misleading veracity of the aerial view.

© Sohei Nishino. Detail, Istanbul Diorama


Armelie Caron: tout bien rangé

Armelie Caron. New York, tout bien rangé, 2005 / 2008

Armelie Caron, in Anagrammes Graphiques de plans de villes - 2005 / 2008  , takes a figure ground map of a city and classifies all the blocks by size and shape.  Of course Manhattan is numbingly regular, and Berlin has lots of triangular blocks as axes slice through quite regular fabric.  Paris is a surprise, the axes are wider than the blocks, which as a texture are very tiny indeed. 

Re-organising pattern is always quite entertaining, sort of visual puns where a letter is out of place and it throws out a whole new, absurd, meaning.  These city blocks are re-arranged according to visual rules, rather than urban or historical relationships and says quite a lot about the scale of collective life each individual block in each city.  Paris has so many infintesimal blocks, probably the size of one building.  These are the blocks of Kieślowski or early Truffaut where there is a very fine line between apartment and street, where private life is small and public life is all.


Armelie Caron. Paris, tout bien rangé, 2005 / 2008


small countries

strangemaps: January 17 2010

This postcard from Australia, posted on strangemaps:  If Canadians worry that they are never mentioned in the news, or acknowledged that we are in Afghanistan, or have oil reserves the size of Iran's, or are the second largest country in the world after Russia, think how Australia feels.  All I've heard recently is the problem with tourists climbing Uluru and Kevin Rudd's apologies to Aborigines and the child labourers sent from Britain between 1920 and 1970.  They were sent to Canada too, but we haven't apologised yet.

Australia clearly is very large, yet looms small in the global imagination.  As Patrick Brown said once when someone complained that Canada was never in the news: 'Get down on your knees and thank God that Canada is not in the news.  Places in the news are inevitably about disasters, wars and corruption.'  I paraphrase.  When Canada was proud to be a middle power, we were not particularly well-known for our mediative, behind-the-scenes role between the large powers.  Now we are in the news for our four Fossil Awards. 
It is hard being a large country with a small reputation.


Paul Sahre

Paul Sahre. cover, Couplings, for Farrer Strauss & Giroux, 1996

Peter SchneiderCouplings. translated by Philip Boehm.  Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1996
Originally published in German as Paarungen, 1992.

I think I bought this book for its cover; amazingly the designer of the cover appears to have read the book– a discursion on divided Berlin written a couple of years after unification.  Nominally about affairs of the heart and the heart's inconstancy, it is also a Bildungsroman, the narrative the metaphor for Berlin's partition, separate development and clumsy re-acquaintance.

Twins: one brother all black leather and jeans, believes in western science (nature), the other in socialist society (nurture).  Everyone in the city is as internally conflicted and divided as the city itself.  The east has all the privacy of a refuge, the west is racked with profligate self-exposure.  Relationships founder on convention; are deflected by desire.  Yes, it's all about love, circumstantial and determined, love in a city and how Berlin maps relationships that crash into walls both physical and emotional. 

If all the characters in the book were merely ciphers for East and West Germany it couldn't sustain itself the way it does, with side conversations about buildings, the city, the compromises made by the aging '68 generation, the omnipresence of surveillance with the Stazi and a kind of inadvertant stazi of the mind.
Paul Sahre did the cover — a NY graphic designer who is often brilliant.  None of the sentimentality of Schneider: a different generation – Schneider born in 1940, Sahre probably in the late 60s.  Where Schneider can be bathetic, Sahre is funny. 

I liked this book when I read it, I kept it for the cover. 


British Columbia

This map is from Derek Hayes' 2002 Historical Atlas of Canada, the most beautiful of all the historical atlas projects. The image is linked to Google books where one can see just how beautiful.

One of the conditions of the colony of British Columbia joining Canada in 1871 was the building of an overland link from BC to the rest of Canada.  This was the commission given to the CPR and completed in 1884.  Is BC a different world than the rest of Canada?  They certainly think so.

This map, drawn in the 1870s when much of BC was simply unknown to surveyors and engineers, shows just how much of a conundrum this territory must have seemed. After sailing breezily through the flat land of the prairies where nothing can be hidden from view suddenly there is the wall of the Rockies. Even today, on the much improved Trans-Canada, one cannot get through BC quickly, and the older Highway 3 through the Crows Nest is very convoluted. However, such roads keep one more alert than driving through southern Saskatchewan in a 500 mile straight line.

I like this map for the dismay it seems to exude.  BC was going to be a hard project.