Zanny_Oct.6th_Map Critique

Zanny_Oct.6th_Map Critique

Part I: Critique

Keywords for analysis:  Emotion, affection, boundaries, territory, identity, struggle, memory, flow, mobility, relationships, belonging, violence, geo-politics

The conceptual title for this map is “Latino/a America”; a map that explores the idea of the border as something that is experienced and embodied through migration. The artist of the map is Pedro Lasch. He was born in Mexico City and then moved to New York City when he was 19 years of age. Currently, he resides in North Carolina where he is an art practitioner and Professor at Duke University in the Department of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies

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Photo taken of Lasch’s map in
An Atlas of Radical Cartography

This mapping project captures the act of crossing a border, and the movement of the bodily experience doing so, rather than to re-define the border itself. This framework allows one to ask significant questions about the dividing line between territories: What does it mean to “cross” the border? What does it mean to corporealize the struggle of crossing the border? What is the emotional weight and memory that is carried as one leaves their “home” in search for another space to settle in an unfamiliar territory? What sense of belonging will I experience? Since a border serves as a piece of geo-political infrastructure where bodies and materials intersect and collide, it therefore becomes important to explore the greater emotional and political territory of the line itself. Lasch brings this framework into mind as we think about how to visually map the social-relations embedded in the spaces perceived by the state through the act of “counter-mapping”.

Lasch takes on this lens to focus on the emotional and experiential dimensions of “crossing” the border through the act of migration. Rather than looking at the border as ‘object’, Lasch captures the intimate experience of crossing the line. To go beyond the physical geographical line that separates one zone from another, Lasch uses an active working framework of “counter-mapping” itself to capture the on-going physical and mental struggles and experience of people moving across US-Mexico border. In order to do so, he gave the people he know who were about to cross the border a generic drawing of the geographical outline of North and South America as a means to capture the individual encounter before, at and after the border crossing. Each person he knew received two maps for their ongoing journey; one for them to keep and one for them to mail back to Lasch when the could/if they did.

The maps that did make it back to Lasch were weathered, stained, ripped, dirtied and tattered with the routes and roots of different journeys over different periods of time. The rawness of these maps were transferred into an artistic and political series for the purpose of an exhibition. Individual maps on display were accompanied by visceral short paragraphs of border-crossing stories.

These two Images were from the exhbition but snapshot from hid website: http://www.pedrolasch.com/latinoaamerica.html

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One of the visual stand-outs of the map itself are the written words “Latin” and “Latino/a” that are humbly and violently embedded onto the continents themselves. This act of word choice is a way for Lasch to conceptualize Latin American and Latino communities. What does it mean to be a “Latino (a)”? What does it mean to be a “Latino (a)” in “North America”? What does it mean to be “Latin American”? This choice of language confronts the viewer to hopefully pause and reflect that being a Latino or a Latina goes beyond identity. In fact, the map itself speaks to the multitude of Latin America identity and its multiple belongings across geographical territories, while visually embodying the feelings of violence and stereotypes of containment in-between national boundaries. Thus, the position that Lasch is coming from is to bring in other values of affective and effective exchange with what the border entails through the act of “countering” the geographical outline of North and South America itself. Social-relations are represented within the perceived neutrality of the line itself, which is why his technique is certainly one that embodies a “counter-cartography” narrative. According to Lasch:

       “The common tie between all of the different versions is the sharing of a new “Latinidad” that
extends globally, and is redefining the English-speaking world. We are changing what
“America” means, and what it means to be “American.” ”
       ( Quote from An Atlas of Radical Cartography, pg. 78)

Another visual power of this map is that it is simplistically static, while retaining the complexity of the political message. With the geographic boundaries shaded violent scales of red with two white words embedded in the colors, this map has been manipulated and used in multiple ways. For one, it has been used as a mural in different spaces and places according to who commissioned it (see image below). Further, the map has appeared in many pamphlets, posters and unique publications, such as An Atlas of Radical Cartography. Certainly, Lasch’s theoretical framework of the border as an embodied experience across scales of time and space is one that opens up the visceral multitude of the border as active, rather than passive, and as a system that violently “plugs” people in into contained territorial spaces. At the same time, however, his map brings attention to how the micro-the “Latino/a” identity- can/does counteract the mega-structure.

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Image found: http://www.pedrolasch.com/latinoaamerica.html

Part II: Critical-Creative Prototype

This map was significant for my term’s mapping project since I am situating it within a Latin American context too. My further critique of the map is that although it seeks to capture the violent dispossession of border-crossings through the experiences of Latino/Latinas, I do not think it gives a fair representation to the historical platform of the struggles in LA in order to understand the expanding identities of Latin Americans. Further, it is not clear what the historical context is in order for the viewer to be grounded in understanding the “Latino/Latina” identity.  Thus, for one of my maps as I think about the development of my personal Atlas as a whole for this project, I would like to render layers of historical geopolitical policies and systems that have shaped Latin American identity vis-a-vis drawing powers of axis.

For example, Lasch’s geographic representation offers ways of thinking about the containment of the Latin American identity itself, however, what would happen if we layered in the neo-liberal reforms of the 1980’s and 1990’s in Latin America in order to put the Latino/Latina identity in relation to the power structures that have come to determine and shape the struggle to the Latino/Latina identity? Perhaps historicizing this geo-political frame of  military dictatorships, economic collapse and a wave of debt would be one way to better understand the identity struggle across the continents

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