curated by Caleb Johnston
From the Mercator projection to Global Positioning Systems, maps have long remained the language of power. In Counter Mapping, we push back against this history. This exhibition began with a question: if maps are the instruments of power, how might we produce and circulate a poetic, even, radical cartography? I was keen to keep this theme wide open. I am less interested in offering a definitive model (even if one were possible) of what a counter mapping might look like, as I am in artists’ individual interpretations. I am motivated by the desire to appropriate mapping technologies and disrupt the authority of the gridiron to flatten and deaden the complex social worlds of Vancouver. The resulting collection is as varied as it is innovative. Working across disciplines, artists deploy a range of tactics in their rewriting of the urban landscape. We move from tracking individual lines of inquiry through GPS to impersonating tour guides in offering alternative histories of the city. We work from animating walking as a creative process and means of urban navigation to restaging the archive to publicize the private. From acoustic ecology to staged spatial disruptions, assembled works tender sensory narratives that constitute this unwieldy entity that we collective know as Vancouver.
In this exhibition, we rewrite the urban and take seriously how the city is performed, reproduced and contested. Engaging the city, we transgress any easy boundary separating art, politics, territory, and everyday practices. It is from this well that Counter Mapping springs. We redraw maps to disrupt the notion that the city can ever be understood as a totality. Our work mirrors the insight of theorist Fredric Jameson who calls for ‘cognitive mapping’, by which he means the need to grow new sensory organs to trace the existential journey of the traveler in an increasingly un-mappable world. We trace maps to get lost in the city, to descend into and experiment with new ways of moving through the urban landscape, and to reinsert the human body within the clean lines of Euclidean geometry. In doing so, we enter into the struggle to define the urban in a time and place where access to the city narrows, be that through the hardening of surveillance systems, the proliferation of private consumption, or the greater enclosure of public territory.
Counter Mapping was presented at the 2011 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.
Aja Rose Bond
Yi Xin Tong
Vancouver© Jay White
© Jay White