Cartographies of the Imagination explores the outer limits of what a map can be, interrogating the bit of lost land that falls between the pages of an atlas, journeying to places known, unknown, forgotten and fictional.
To map a place is to create a whole new one. Maps may begin as direct replications of an existing world order – from the tracing of a mountain pathway with your pen to the recalibration of your sat nav after a missed turn – but through the act of this tracing or recalibrating, new relationships are made that both belong to, and are entirely distinct from, their starting point.
Maps have the capacity to enact, translate, discover and create. To map is both a method of documentation and a means of understanding; a translation and a means of interpretation. As such, to map is not an exercise that remains neutral. Within this enactment lie fundamental questions of truth, subjectivity, control, ownership, and the navigation between the real and the imaginary. From artists and writers (Jonathan Swift, Jorge Luis Borges, Louise Borgeois, Guy Debord…) to cartographers (Grafton Tyler Brown, Gerardus Mercator, Shanawdithit..) to current projects like the Decolonial Atlas or UCL’s Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: the map has long been considered an object of power, projection and intent – as the terrain through which we journey between tangible and intangible worlds.
A few thousand years on from both the Greek mythology of Atlas and his celestial globe, and the first official map of the world (etched into a clay tablet with Babylon at its centre), humans keep drawing and redrawing the world around us. Far from being ‘fully-charted’, our environment continues to develop at an exponential rate, and we continue to expand our methods, tools, means of exploration and communication. Our desire to grasp the changing world and collapse it into a map – a digestible projection of an ever-changing and complex set of orders – is inexhaustible. Through redrawing the outside world, we redraw our relationships with it, and redraw the world within. Cartographies of the Imagination explores the outer limits of what a map – and thus the world – can be.
In 2018, two architects started out on a cartographic journey. In the spirit of the Situationist International, our journey had no destination in mind: a dérive through drawing. In all honesty, we expected a nip down to the corner shop rather than the three-year expedition it ended up evolving into, and having naively thrown overcoats on over our pyjamas on the way out the door, we found ourselves completely unprepared for the venture. We were lucky to meet some wonderful people en route who lent us the proper equipment: a pair of kaleidoscopic binoculars to the past, a pair of sturdy barefoot hiking boots, and a beautiful greenhouse in which to lay out our findings and unfold our new world.
Cartographies of the Imagination stemmed from our own individual drawing practices, workshops, exhibitions and PhD research over the prior five years. Our interest was in exploring the outer peripheries of cartography – interrogating the bit of lost land that falls between the pages of an atlas, the half-place between the real and the imagined. We wanted to engage with things that felt like maps even if they didn’t necessarily look like traditional maps. To explore how drawings that are freed from the purpose of documenting or orientating can translate and thus create whole new places.
Our journey brought us to Somerset, to the vast repository of architectural drawings that is Drawing Matter. Through our discussions with Niall Hobhouse and his team, getting lost in drawn gems by figures such as OMA, Guy Debord and Alberto Ponis, many of the ideas behind this project started to take a physical shape.
This was further solidified when we took our project to the RIBA award-winning OmVed Gardens in Highgate. Our project grew from a small exhibition into a month-long festival of drawing, and our conversations opened out to communities from all backgrounds, ages and disciplines. With them, we developed a host of collaborative workshops, talks, screenings and salons. Tucked away on Highgate Hill, OmVed Gardens is truly a place caught between this world and one of the imagination, and has become core to the project.
The resulting Cartographies of the Imagination project sets out alternative practices of charting not only physical places but also the means of mapping people, objects, memories, events, movements and narratives. It dwells between place and imagination, between objectivity and impossibility, truth and myth, the tangible and the ephemeral. Charting places that were, are, and could be. We explore how the discrepancy between the world in which we live and the means we have to represent it, provide opportunities for imagined space to take on its own agency. We see the act of drawing as world-building, as a process that allows us to bridge between our physical and perceived worlds.
THE FESTIVAL OF DRAWING
Cartographies of the Imagination is a month-long experimental drawing festival held in the RIBA award-winning Omved Gardens and Glasshouse in Highgate throughout July. The otherworldly setting forms the inspiration for a series of conversations, workshops, feasts and a growing exhibition exploring the world of drawing between the real and the imagined.
Curated by landscape and architectural researchers Kirsty Badenoch and Sayan Skandarajah and designed by PiM studio, the exhibition brings together the pair’s experimental drawings into lost land and cityscapes, alongside works from leading voices in visual art, film, technology and academia.
The glasshouse will be transformed into a three-tiered paper exhibition of experimental cartographies – mapping places known, unknown, forgotten and fictional. The three tiers are: Terrain, Cosmocartos, and Forum. Exhibiting artists include: Francesca Benedetto, Nat Chard, Penelope Haralambidou, Charnjeev Kang, Aisling O’Carroll, Saskia Olde Wolbers, ScanLab Projects, Mira Sanders, Doug Specht, Llew Watkins and Izabela Wieczorek.
The exhibition sets the stage for a month-long drawing laboratory: a set of drawing workshops inviting groups and individuals to participating in the creation of a new living collaborative map of the imagination: ‘Cosmocartos’. A host of parties, supper clubs and tours will invite guests to meet, talk and celebrate throughout the festival.
02 – 31 July – Exhibition (open Tue-Sun)
02, 15, 16, 25 July – Drawing Laboratory: Community workshops
10 July – Forum
14 July – Webinar
17, 18 July – Drawing Laboratory: Student workshop
21, 25 July – Bookable artist tours
22 July – Drawing Laboratory: Salon
29 July – Foraging Dinner
30 July – Cosmocartos: Closing party
10 July: Forum
A day of drawings, films and performances exploring alternative practices of cartography; featuring voices in architecture, landscape, art and geography that are exhibited in the collective exhibit.
In collaboration with Drawing Matter, the multi-disciplinary forum explores the half-place that exists between place and imagination, between objectivity and impossibility, truth and myth, the tangible and the ephemeral; charting places that were, are, and could be.
The forum presents a day of conversations, anchoring around the exhibition alongside a hand-curated selection of original drawings from the Drawing Matter archive, including works by Zaha Hadid, Peter Wilson, Guy Debord and Madelon Vriesendorp. Participants from the worlds of architecture, landscape, painting, geography, technology and film will share perspectives and possibilities of drawing as world-building. Talks, discussions, performances and film screenings will move through the gardens and greenhouse spaces throughout the day.
£66: buy tickets
22 July: Salon (Drawing Laboratory)
An evening of experimental drawing in the greenhouse, we explore the gardens around us and the outer reaches of our imaginations as the sun sets. During this magical evening, all creative minds – artists, architects, students and visionaries are invited to participate in the collaborative drawing project – Cosmocartos – and to explore and redraw the worlds that exist between reality and our imagination.
Our dusky explorations into map-making will experiment with how we perceive and translate space through weird and wonky drawing processes, using found materials and natural inks made from the gardens themselves. Led by landscape and architectural researchers, artists and curators Kirsty Badenoch and Sayan Skandarajah, together we will explore quick-fire, large-scale and experimental expressions in mark-making, working intuitively and sensorially with the spaces around us. Anticipate the unexpected and to chart the uncharted, we invite you to get messy and expand your own drawing processes.
£16: buy tickets
29 July: Foraging Dinner
An intimate evening of creative food and conversation set within the magical paper exhibition, greenhouse and gardens at Omved.
Set within the exhibition, greenhouse and gardens, we invite you to embark on a culinary collaboration between Jo Marchandise – Omved’s resident creative chef – and curators/experimental artists Kirsty Badenoch and Sayan Skandarajah. Together, we will take our tastebuds for a stroll around the produce grown, harvested and fermented in the magical gardens of Omved. A vegetarian/vegan menu will be picked, strung and served from the seasonal offerings of the garden, and installed throughout the spaces.
Savouring flavours, smells and pigments from the plants, fruits and roots that grow around us, the traces from our plates, pickings and conversations will add to the ongoing drawing project that evolves and is displayed throughout the exhibition. Anticipate unexpected chances to get up close and smell, taste and touch the nature that surrounds us.
A unique chance to view the exhibition and RIBA award-winning greenhouse in private, the chef and artists will be present all evening to talk about their methods and processes. Proceeds from the Feasts will go towards the funding of the exhibition and community workshops.
£66: buy tickets
Image credits (from top):
1. Sayan Skandarajah, Scenes from another Kyoto, detail (1/6), 2017. Digital drawing. Courtesy the architect.
2. Kirsty Badenoch, The Garden Transcripts: Walthamstow Wetlands
3. (left) Sayan Skandarajah
4. (right) Kirsty Badenoch
5. Guy Debord (1931–1994), Guide psychogéographique de Paris. Discours sur les passions de l’amour, 1957. Lithograph, 595 × 735 mm. DMC 2302. Courtesy of Drawing Matter
6. Alberto Ponis, Yacht Club Path, 1965. Coloured inks over print base on yellow paper, 365 × 1007 mm. DMC 2921.2. Courtesy of Drawing Matter
7. Peter Wilson, Eurolandschaft – A Derive, 1998. Mixed media, 182 × 242 mm. DMC 2945.18. Courtesy of Drawing Matter
8. (left) Photography courtesy of Thomas Broadhead
9. (centre) Photography courtesy of Thomas Broadhead
10. (right) Photography courtesy of Will Hearle
This article is part of ROOT MAPPING, a section of The Learned Pig devoted to exploring which maps might help us live with a clear sense of where we are. ROOT MAPPING is conceived and edited by Melanie Viets.