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Background:

There is a Haitian creole proverb, “tou sa ou we, se pa sa”, that literally means “all that you see: it’s not that”.  Or more equivocally translated, “Everything you see before your eyes it’s not what’s really here” (Wilentz, 1989 xii).  This proverb gets at the heart of the many problems with mapping.  Maps have historically been either realistic attempts at or actual views from above.  In an effort to make sense of our world on the ground we have visually depicted it from the one perspective we actually can not see with our human limitations.  In Medieval and Renaissance times, maps were creative fantasies with little grounding in reality.  With the advent of technology, we have a multitude of ways to map or draw a geographic area.  However, mapping is a complicated proposition.  What does it mean to see a place from above when you have never actually been off the ground?  What does it mean to see your neighborhood when visual images are scarce?  How does seeing affect how we think about our place and our construction of reality?


As the artist kanarinka states in her article that serves as a small format psychogeographic dictionary:


“The question now for artists (and likely for cartographers) is emphatically not how to make a “better” picture or a more “accurate” map.  The world, in fact, needs no representations at all.  It need new relations and new uses: in other words, it needs new events, inventions, actions, activities, experiments, interventions, infiltrations, ceremonies, situations, episodes and catastrophes.  We have departed from a world of forms and objects and entered a world of relations and events.  But we still desperately need art and maps.  Is it possible to think of a map not as a representation of reality but as a tool to produce reality?” (kanarinka 2006, 25)


Because any method of representation involves a creative act, then how does this creative act manifest itself in a country such as Haiti with little access to electricity and therefore fewer visual depictions of the geography?  How does incorporating technology influence that creative act?  Mapping is a tool for drawing what the mind’s eye sees.  Because reality exists in the mind’s eye, we can encounter that reality through a map. 


Proposal:

In collaboration with the geography department at UGA, I would like to explore these questions.  By using various methods of map making as an artistic practice in association with GPS technology as data, I will explore the reality of place in Haiti, a country ravaged by the immeasurable tole of politics and a massive earthquake.  I have traveled to Haiti three times since graduating from college and have been taken with the spirit of the country as well as the complexity of their history.  Not only does that history along with their economic circumstances place them at an interesting crossroads between geographic location and identity, but they have recently undergone a dramatic event that has had a huge impact on the physical landscape as well as the geography of their culture and people.


There are many different forms this type of data production and collection can generate.   I plan to develop a workshop that explores the physical landscape of Port-au-Prince before and after the earthquake. 


In conclusion, maps are inherently political documents.  Every decision that is made about what is included and excluded, the physical form the map takes as well as the personal identity of its maker influences its meaning.  A map is a creation of reality rather than a representation of it.  In working with the people of Port-au-Prince I hope to discover how art can help to form their present realities as well as to uncover a portion of their history. 

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