Fundamentally, cartography is about mapping environments, experiences and information; or 3D volumes transformed to a 2D surface. It depicts various ‘realities’ to engage us in narratives of space. It’s a complex task that often resorts to certain conventions in communication theory that allows us all to participate. These conventions can create a more normative approach in representation. For example, rivers, roads and mountains are often shown in readily understandable styles to ensure they are understood by as wide an audience as possible and actually function as maps—they have a job to do!
Our imagination, together with modern tools, opens up the possibilities for new visualisations and representations. However, we must take care to recognise and distinguish between an approach that is purely artistic, reflecting only the personal aims and desires of the author/artist alone, as opposed to an approach centred on design conventions, functionality and a client brief. It’s a fascinating and alternative field of work that is equally relelvant—one that allows us to re-evaluate and re-frame our perceptions of space and place, both internal and external, and the agency of mapping.
We are particularly interested in map forms created out of ‘generative’ methodologies; the outputs of custom algorithms and routines of programming languages, plotted out digitally or via (analogue) pen plotters. There is often a discernible and captivating pattern and sense in the seeds of randomness. At the same time, this also seems to hint at possibilities for the evolution of cartographic practice which may be revealed through artificial intelligence (AI) in the design and production of maps.
A new website, Map Art Studio, dedicated to map-like and generative artworks, will be launched in the autumn/winter of 2022.