Make a map, not a tracing!

Reflecting on James Corner’s The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention made me think of two literary references to Jorge Luis Borges and Lewis Carroll that have stuck with me and created an extra layer of wonder (as wonderful as the data modeling of an URT layer) towards the nature of mapping. First, there was Borge’s map, “a fully detailed and life-sized map that eventually tore and weathered to shreds across the actual territory it covered”. Then, there was the map found in Lewis Caroll’s tale Sylvie and Bruno that cannot be unfolded, rendering it useless. Corner comes to the following conclusion:

In these two fables, not only is the map an inferior, secondary representation of territory, but the more detailed and life-like map strives to be, the more redundant or unnecessary it becomes. ~ James Corner

Maps must be “…abstract if they are to sustain meaning and utility.” I imagine Stamen Design’s Eric Rodenbeck wandering a watercolor world for hours. Google Earth has the feeling of a Borges map, stretching with its satellite eyes to a mountaintop, a  landmark, a front door, a fake sheep pasture, but even with this kind of technology, the novelty wears off quickly.

Here, Winnicott’s question, “Did you find that in the world or did you make it up?” denotes an irrelevant distinction. More important is how the map permits a kind of excavation (downward) and extension (outward) to expose, reveal and construct latent possibilities within a greater milieu.

After plotting points on URT, I was waiting for that invisible layer to reveal itself. Adding Gordon Matta-Clark’s Fake Estates and gutterspaces to my map was nudging me closer to latent possibilites that had yet to be excavated, but I did not know what I was looking for and I wanted to find it. That is not to say I lacked things to map that were visible. The process of mapping felt as if there was no beginning or end, “but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and overspills.” Multiple entryways and exits gave the process dimension. The project had a life of its own.

Let us summarize the principal characteristics of a rhizome: unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs, and even nonsign states. The rhizome is reducible to neither the One or the multiple. It is not the One that becomes Two or even directly three, four, five etc. It is not a multiple derived from the one, or to which one is added (n+1). It is comprised not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills. It constitutes linear multiplicities with n dimensions having neither subject nor object, which can be laid out on a plane of coinsistency, and from which the one is always subtracted (n-1). When a multiplicity of this kind changes dimension, it necessairly changes in nature as well, undergoes a metamorphisis. Unlike a structure, which is defined by a set of points and positions, the rhizome is made only of lines; lines of segmentarity and stratification as its dimensions, and the line of flight or deterritorialization as the maximum dimension after which the multiplicity undergoes metamorphosis, changes in nature. These lines, or ligaments, should noty be confused with lineages of the aborescent type, which are merely localizable linkages between points and positions…Unlike the graphic arts, drawing or photography, unlike tracings, the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detatchable, connectable, reversable, modifiable,, and has multiple entranceways and exits and its own lines of flight. (see Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 21)

This is my last semester in the Media Studies program and I didn’t realize it completely, but all semester, I was trying to create a map that I could take with me. Each point created a line with its own “line of flight”. In some ways, I wanted Carroll’s map that was impossible to unfold, instead of understanding that “…mapping unfolds potential; it remakes territory over and over again.”

1 Comment

  • What a lovely post, Christine! Mapping seems such an appropriate metaphor for so many other processes — education, our own personal development, etc. There’s no way to contain or finalize the process, because we always inhabit that “middle (milieu) from which it grows and overspills.” That’s why our projects are necessarily always unfinished. Of course, we do the best we can with the time we have — but ultimately we need to be satisfied with the realization that we’re merely creating a substrate, a rhizome, that we ourselves can build upon, and that others can add to, too.