Lessons in Cartography
Lessons in Cartography is a selection of cartographical curiosities, comprising a handmade Book of Blank Maps and found and handmade compasses, displayed in a museum case. It was shown at Phoenix Gallery, Brighton, 2004, in a group exhibition "Voyager II: Lost Highway", a collaboration between artists from Maze Studios and artists from Picardy, France.
As the book’s blurb says, we are all mapmakers:
"Maps help us to construct our world and make sense of our place within physical, cultural and emotional spaces.
Maps can be commemorative, religious, spiritual, romantic, thematic, literary, satirical, allegorical, utopian – of real or imagined places. Whether geographical or thematic, they can be used to control, inform, guide, deceive, reassure, amaze.
We all read from different types of maps, work to different scales. As we work within self-defined boundaries, our maps will be subjective and simplified. This little book provides you with a few boundaries and pointers. Its instructions are cursory; its intention modest: to encourage you to reconsider the potential of map-making and begin to draw your world."
I have . . . had some concerns about the use of systems of signification which exist in the world and which have then been imported into work in some way. I think this is largely because it is an easy way to intellectually reference notions about and of the world, but I found June Nelson's work very convincing and beautiful. There seemed to be a sensibility about the look and feel of the work, which complemented the ideas the work seemed to be articulating. There was a sense of now and history, and the balance between the two was delicately handled on both a figurative and abstract level.
Peter Jones (painter, curator, and founder of ‘Turps Banana’ Magazine)
If the concept of ‘nature’ is, in reality, wholly subjective, it is not surprising that the (supposedly scientific) pursuit of cartography can seem similarly untrustworthy. Strictly speaking, geographical maps are a fiction created through our desire to simplify and understand things on a manageable scale while always ensuring, consciously or not, that they propagate our entrenched beliefs. (Just look at the medieval Mappa Mundi . . . where, reflecting a Christian worldview, Jerusalem is placed firmly in the centre.) The vagaries of mapmaking have been astutely summarised by the collection of compasses and maps in June Nelson’s Lessons in Cartography. Drawing on a range of cartographical curiosities, Nelson illustrates the variety of approaches in mapmaking and navigation and thus how the practice is inherently personal. Cartography is an apt metaphor for how we steer a course through the complexities of everyday life and it is unsurprising that when Ptolemy, writing in the 2nd century BC, wanted to define geography, he chose to compare it to the art of portrait painters.
Pryle Berhman (writer and curator)