conventional function of a map is to contain universal symbols and keys;
icons that people will recognize as streets, monuments, etc. As
in organised tours, they commonly emphasize what is commonly thought
of as interesting and important.
I collect personal maps people draw. One's memory and perception
of a place is very personal, so each map is a reflection, however small
or large, of how the individual connects to their environment: knowing,
organising, and understanding it. In short, each one is a
small token of memory and experience, whether created in order to help
someone understand a place, to direct them to the nearest gas station,
or as an answer to my own persistent requests to find the local gem
of a strange little town.
The original goal of the project was to observe each map as a portrait
of the individual who created it; whether they meticulously add every
picketed railroad line and stop sign, or quickly dash a couple of quick
marks across the page and hand it to me with a bashful smile and comment,
"This is a real work of art, eh?"
Jim Warfield, the creator of my map of tiny Mount Carroll, Illinois,
comments that he sees the maps as a "psychological profile of how
they [the mapmakers] see themselves and their "place" in this
world (usually as defined by everyone else)."
"You live in a small house, you must not be important."
"You live in a concrete drainage tunnel nunder the highway, you
will be important as the world comes to an end: everyone will be seeking
YOUR knowledge of how to live like that!"
In the act of assembling over 4 years' worth of maps together, i have
discovered many new dimension to the piece: one example being a very
personal account of the places i've been, and the people i've encountered
while navigating through many environments. In an attempt
to study the maps uniquely as personifications of their creators, i
have discovered a greater portrait of myself: commonalities in the types
of places i seek out, and documentation of the locations and people
who have touched my life in varying degrees, or just helped me along
the way. Also, when I follow the directions from a map gleaned
from someone else's lived memory, I am experiencing both their subjective
version of physical space, and my own success in navigating the crossroads
between this mental and physical space. This leads me either
to the desired destination; or an entirely new place.
Conventional maps, travel guides, and the internet contain such a vast
amount of information, one could easily assume that there has not been
one square foot of land that has not already been discovered and documented.
This could not be farther from the truth, and strictly depending
on such readily available information can serve to hinder one from seeking
his/her own personal discoveries. There are as many versions
of maps and organisations of space as there are people who house them,
revealed in their diagrams of the places they have known and experienced.
Through the Mapsproject i have discovered that however fragmented and
transient many people find their lives, a close examination of the places
to which one connects and frequents, as well as the information that
one provides and omits when asked to draw a map, is a keen and telling
guide towards a true discovery and understanding of oneself.
-lori napoleon. 2006