Charting Escapism

Who made maps when they were young?

I used to make maps a lot when I was a kid, obvious pirate themed treasure maps, as well as imaginary fantasy maps, charting the land of some mythical creatures, a river flowing through the middle, a small village to the west, some mountains to the east, and a forest covering the top of the visible isle. Who lives where?

There’s a lovely idea of understanding how all these places we see day to day, or even imaginary places relate to each other in the larger scheme of things, Paula Scher says in All Maps Lie when reminiscing about her favourite map, one which showed the neighborhood they lived when she was a kid Looking at that map was like looking at a picture of my entire life. Everything was there”. You can capture an entire world through a simple diagram, like in Lars Von Trier’s Dogville, where there are no props, no set, just a map, a giant diagram of the village, and you have to imagine the rest. It’s also interesting to see how certain places change over time, buildings fall apart, new roads get built, forests get chopped down, islands drift further away, you can see the history of entire eco system, an entire world, through a simple blueprint of it’s details and landmarks.

2006am6072_map_wilderness

Anonymous, ‘Wallis’s New Game of Wanderers in the Wilderness’, 1818-47. Image courtesy of the V&A.

This hand-coloured etching published by Edward Wallis (unfortunately the artist is unknown) between 1818 and 1847 is a great example of the magic of which maps can convey, showing a foreign land as the most exotic world, full of life and lush vegetation. “Wanderers in the wilderness” it exclaims at the bottom, I want to wander in the wilderness of this island, it looks incredible, like something from The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, an unexplored and unexploited world you can delve into and live simply. The fact that it’s actually South America is regardless, it portrays an idea, more than a living, breathing reality. Maps can show you just how exciting somewhere can be, creating a type of magical escapism, and ‘Wallis’s New Game of Wanderers in the Wilderness’ is a prime example.

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