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about the project

The 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