Thursday, September 20, 2012

From A to B

"We live in tension between what we were and can think and these new things that we are unable to represent."

Yesterday I went to an astounding exhibition on contemporary cartographies at Barcelona's Caixa Forum. It was a beautifully curated selection of maps ranging from the physical to the emotional - each striving to translate and codify the human experience.

I love a mind map (or spider diagram). Though mine often resemble the crazed scratchings of a mad person, they nonetheless help me get my thoughts down and literally map out the issues - and possible solutions - at hand. From work to personal challenges, there's very little that a mind map doesn't tease out and bring structured thinking to. So it was inspiring to see how other people navigate both their real and metaphorical landscapes.

Zarina Hashmi's series, 'Cities I Called Home', are minimalist aerial views of various cities. Their raw, etched nature reflect her ingrained knowledge of each city, but also the tenacious nature of memory. How easy it is for the mind maps of one's environment to deteriorate out of context.

Perhaps the most impressive work in the exhibition were Mark Lombardi's 'narrative structures'. His sociograms document financial and political frauds and were, according to Wikipedia, his way of transcribing the thousands of index cards which constituted his research. Evidently unable to cope with such vast quantities of information, Lombardi hand-processed them into a format which reflected his thinking style, rather than simply the linear nature of the facts. At the risk of sounding horribly pretentious, Lombardi's "narrative structures" strongly reminded me of Sol LeWitt's wall drawings: The hand of the artist (or in LeWitt's case artists) creates a near-mechanical output that are at once rigourous and beautiful.

The exhibition was especially poignant for me as all my maps get updated with new cities, new journeys and new memories. But while the physical journey from London to Barclona has been linear, the breathing space this break has provided will loom large and bright on my emotional map for sometime to come.