Category Archives: mapping

Silence has a presence

“Silence can be a plan
rigorously executed

the blueprint to a life

It is a presence
it has a history a form

Do not confuse it
with any kind of absence”
—Adrienne Rich

Orfield Lab’s anechoic chamber, a three-dimensional sound “sponge,” is the quietest place on Earth. It is designed to keep out all external sound and extinguish all reverberation.

When immersed in such silence, we hear our heart, breath and blood and conjure up music and voices that sound real. It seems we can replace the echo chamber with the anechoic chamber but we can’t get rid of the reverberations of our own memories.

Bushnell 02


Continue reading

Mapping and Sensing

Wireless High Speed Internet Access

Wireless High Speed Internet Access

The irony doesn’t escape me. Our capacities for remote sensing increase daily. Nothing is beyond our digital and disembodied grasp: the floor of the ocean, the depths of Antarctica, the surfaces of Mars, even our own lives, as bots scour the web for information for (and about) us.

We are captivated by what we see on the screen. And also, held captive by it—bound and contained in spite of our limitless reach. Forgetting to look at—much less hear, or smell, or touch—what’s around us.

More sensitive tools make our maps more accurate. But just as history is more than chronology, mapping is more than data. At the least, when we ourselves map, we represent where we are relative to somewhere else. We specify that we are “here” so we’ve attended, in some way at least, to what else is “here” and established a relationship with what is “there.”

In my mapping, I don’t want to just mark and measure. I don’t want to just declare a boundary and represent distance.

I want to touch, to hear, to empathize, to connect.
I want to be embedded. Enmeshed. Immersed.
I want to understand, as a human, the human landscape that is built and cultivated and divided and also the natural one. I also want to understand landscapes that flow and accrete, landscapes that change suddenly but also slowly and imperceptibly, landscapes whose diversity and fragility are often invisible.

I want to use touch to communicate, use sound to orient and navigate, use sight to document and investigate.

So I’m doing a kind of sensing. But it’s local, not remote. Visceral, not mechanical.

To quote Adrienne Rich:

I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images           for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind

Sidney Draw

draw: trace or produce a line or mark; pull or guide; extract
draw: a natural ditch or drain; a shallow valley

Last year I drove from Lincoln (Section 52 in my grid) to Scottsbluff (Section 37) to give a workshop as part of Picturing Nebraska.

[mapping] locator map with sections 4.001

As usual, I took the long way round—3 days and 629 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 1.12.53 PM

Leaving Sidney (Section 62) for Kimball and going west on Hwy 30, I saw Sidney Draw on the map.  Having drawn Sidney Draw I decided to explore it.

Continue reading

Prairie Skin and Alchemy

We must use what we have to invent what we desire. —Adrienne Rich

alchemy: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation or combination

Prairie Skin, a work in progress, is a life-size, reversible, pieced and quilted construction which is large enough to wrap a body.

Part of my Mapping Nebraska project, this piece is informed by my travels across the state and my memory of its prairies and grasslands.

I remember my first art teacher’s teacher telling me about a nomadic tribe whose cradles (carried on their backs) functioned also as “portable shrouds” because so many infants died. I want this Prairie Skin to also be portable and to have multiple functions: shelter and shroud, commentary and covering, record and map.

revised pattern and sample blocks

Continue reading

What the water knows – Part 1

How many creeks have I drawn on my Locator Map? Every one that I could see. I’d look at a topographic map and draw with pencil on 12 inch squares of Tyvek. I would branch off from a river and continue, my line growing finer and fainter, until the creek, and my line, disappeared.

Locator Map detail

Locator Map detail

I began to love those meandering lines, that tracery that became denser and then more spare, that branched past the towns and railroads, that stretched, yearning, into open ground.

Little Cedar, Big Cedar, Dry Cedar Creek, Clear Creek, Skull Creek, Bloody Creek, Ash Creek, Elm Creek, Box Elder, Silver Valley.

Continue reading

Mapping Nebraska

The traveler who has lost his way doesn’t want to know where he is. What he wants to know is “where are the others?”
— Alfred North Whitehead

I’m mapping Nebraska: making a stitched, drawn and digitally imaged cartography of the state where I live. Locating myself. And the viewer. Trying to understand the place where I am.

Locator Map. 15' x 5'. Graphite on Tyvek.

Locator Map. 15′ x 5′. Graphite on Tyvek.

I began by drawing all of Nebraska—95 squares stitched together to form a 15-foot Locator Map. My map records physical features—lakes and rivers creeks—and geographical features —railroads, parks and towns—and all are to scale (1″ = 2.75 miles) and in their correct relative position. It’s as accurate as I can make it.

I created this map of Nebraska for some of the same reasons we’ve long used maps—to see where I am relative to the other places, to get a sense of my surroundings and to try to comprehend a whole I can not see. The Locator Map tells me about borders and boundaries—county lines and standard parallels and the extent of the Nebraska National Forest and how far, in relative terms, Antioch is from Ellsworth. It gives me a geographical overview. It lets me know, if I’m drawing the area around Gaunt Lake, that I’m north of Oskosh and East of Alliance, in Sheridan county.

Detail of Locator Map, Sections 38-34A and 39-42A

Detail of Locator Map, Sections 38-34A and 39-42A

Continue reading