Unreal Nature

July 16, 2016

To Engage What Remains Hidden

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… Whereas the plan leads to an end, the map provides a generative means, a suggestive vehicle that ‘points’ but does not overly determine.

Continuing through the essay ‘The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention’ by James Corner found in Mappings edited by Denis Cosgrove (1999):

… For the landscape architect and urban planner, maps are sites for the imaging and projecting of alternative worlds. Thus maps are in-between the virtual and the real. 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.

[line break added] The map ‘gathers’ and ‘shows’ things presently (and always) invisible, things which may appear incongruous or untimely but which may also harbor enormous potential for the unfolding of alternative events. In this regard, maps have very little to do with representation as depiction. After all, maps look nothing like their subject, not only because of their vantage point but also because they present all parts at once, with an immediacy unavailable to the grounded individual. But more than this, the function of maps is not to depict but to enable, to precipitate a set of effects in time. Thus, mappings do not represent geographies or ideas; rather they effect their actualization.

Mapping is neither secondary nor representational but doubly operative: digging, finding and exposing on the one hand, and relating, connecting and structuring on the other. Through visual disclosure, mapping both sets up and puts into effect complex sets of relationship that remain to be more fully actualized.

[line break added] Thus mapping is not subsequent to but prior to landscape and urban formations. In this sense, mapping is returned to its origins as a process of exploration, discovery and enablement. This is less a case of mapping to assert authority, stability and control, and more one of searching, disclosing and engendering new sets of possibility. Like a nomadic grazer, the exploratory mapper detours around the obvious so as to engage what remains hidden.

… mapping differs from ‘planning’ in that it entails searching, finding and unfolding complex and latent forces in the existing milieu rather than imposing a more-or-less idealized project from on high. Moreover, the synoptic imposition of the ‘plan’ implies a consumption (or extinguishing) of contextual potential, wherein all that is available is subsumed into the making of the project. Mapping, by contrast, discloses, stages and even adds potential for later acts and events to unfold. Whereas the plan leads to an end, the map provides a generative means, a suggestive vehicle that ‘points’ but does not overly determine.

Robinson and Petchenik claim that ‘in mapping, one objective is to discover (by seeing) meaningful physical and intellectual shape organizations in the milieu, structures that are likely to remain hidden until they have been mapped … plotting out or mapping is a method for searching for such meaningful designs.’ In other words, there are some phenomena that can only achieve visibility through representation rather than through direct experience.

[line break added] Furthermore, mapping engenders new and meaningful relationships amongst otherwise disparate parts. The resultant relational structure is not something already ‘out-there,’ but rather something constructed, bodied forth through the act of mapping. As the philosopher Brand Blandshard observes, ‘space is simply a relation of systematized outsideness, by itself neither sensible nor imaginable’; it is created in the process of mapping.

To be continued.

My previous post from Corner’s essay is here.




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