Thursday, 6 March 2008


Ironically, given the previous post, here's a map of a voyage at sea...

I used to collect maps, in a small sort of way. I particularly liked the ones where the ground is different colours between different contours, so from a little way away they looked like you were gazing down at the earth from a great height.

I also liked the bit of geography that deals with how landscapes work; how they came to look the way they do now, carved by glaciers and people and time... I like to look at a landscape and try to understand how it got to be like that. I liked Raymond Williams' People of the Black Mountains, which follows the human story in that area from the last ice age through to ...well, it was going to be right up until the present day, but he died before finishing it, unfortunately.

And then there are our own personal maps...

My friend Annie was talking about psychogeography, which I'd never heard of before, but instantly recognised the idea. At least, the idea as it suggested itself to me. Annie's working on something along those lines. She mentioned this exhibition at the V&A, and since I was going up to London anyway, we were there yesterday.

There were some interesting things, though I think I was looking for a more personal and empathetic relationship between the artist and the landscape, and a lot of this stuff was more about ideas, clever clever stuff.

At least it got me thinking, anyway.

...I dug these maps out last night. Harry Harris, a Flickr friend, added a quote from Jeanette Winterson which I really like:

Maps are magic. In the bottom corner are whales; at the top, cormorants carrying pop-eyed fish. In between is a subjective account of the lie of the land. Rough shapes of countries that may or may not exist, broken red lines marking paths that are at best hazardous, at worse already gone. Maps are constantly being re-made as knowledge appears to increase. But is knowledge increasing or is detail accumulating?

A map can tell me how to find a place I have not seen but have often imagined. When I get there, following the map faithfully, the place is not the place of my imagination. Maps, growing ever more real, are much less true.

And now, swarming over the earth with our tiny insect bodies and putting up flags and building houses, it seems that all the journeys are done.

Not so. Fold up the maps and put away the globe. If someone else had charted it, let them. Start another drawing with whales at the bottom and cormorants at the top, and in between identify, if you can, the places you have not found yet on those other maps, the connections obvious only to you. Round and flat, only a very little has been discovered.

(from Sexing The Cherry, by Jeanette Winterson)