During our first week at SFPC, we were asked to map the surroundings. I’ve been interested in maps since I can remember, having many hung up on my walls and just staring at them, thinking about the relationship between a real, walkable, known place, and the graphical abstraction.
I grasped a meaningful sense at what mapping means when I understood the map() function in processing, and later using the source math in other engines. The function asks the programmer an input number and then a known reference for its minimum and maximum. You then set a new minimum and maximum. The result will be a new number but equal in scale. Although the original definition for the word relates to mapping geography into a piece of paper it has come crucial in understanding all types of information, simply by changing the scale at which we look upon things.
A beautiful read about maps is Borges’ “Del Rigor en la Ciencia” (On Exactitude in Science). It’s a story shorter than this post, you can read it here. It’s about a life size map, a 1:1 depiction of an empire, in the attempt to achieve pure exactitude. I’ve always pictured the people living and walking above the map, tearing it apart when they walk, staining it, and watching how it wrinkles after it rains.
I was visiting the New York Public Library when I stumbled on the maps section. It’s an exceptional place which I loved. I especially enjoyed “An Atlas of Fantasy”, a book about the art of depicting places that don’t exist.
While being at the library I remembered about my due assignment an I thought it would be a great idea to ask for maps of the Westbeth surroundings over the years. What came after that were piles of enormous books, and later links to them showing the urban census of the Greenwich Village over the years.
I learned a lot about the area, how different factories dwelled, how the port grew and the shrank towards the Hudson River, and the creation of the High Line, its decay and the efforts of the neighboring community to bring it back.
Back home, I downloaded as much of the digital catalogue as I could, labeled according to the years and threw it all in Photoshop.
After -not thoroughly- aligning them, I started working out ideas about how I could collage them to show past and present. I created mask layers for each and started scribbling on them. Attempt #2 did not result the way I imagined.
I’m preparing for attempt #3. For this, I’m thinking of allowing anybody to select an year and scribble over an empty canvas to draw and discover. A sort of scratch-off map that reveals and overlays a part of the story of this area.
Looking at all my attempts together, a prevalent idea comes forward: layers and coinciding. Dividing and regrouping, to create dialogue and relation through design.
[To be continued…]