A map is “a drawing that helps to tell us about a place.” (found in Art: Meaning, Method and Media, a first grade art text)
The 30 Days of New Life project is comprised of a series of performances in which a team of cartographers relocate to a new city for 30 days. During the performances the cartographers work with local residents to identify places and people that are personally, artistically, historically or culturally significant. The submissions/suggestions are thoroughly investigated and added to an interactive map.
Life as Art
Over the past 100 years and increasingly common over the last 50, artists have argued, and ultimately established, the validity of becoming their own work of art, “of totally losing the usual boundaries between ‘art’ and ‘life’ and ‘artist’ and ‘work’.” On the most basic level we understand that artist’s lives, notoriety or aura constitutes “some part of public reaction to [their] work.” However, more fundamentally and overtly, we recognize the direct actions of artists like Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, or Yves Klien as, or more directly integrated, with the art itself. Further, as is the case with Joseph Beuys or Andy Warhol, the artist’s life or living, however mundane or spectacular, was in large part, considered the work. Adrian Henri says of Beuys, “Equally his whole life is an art-work, of which the actions and objects are only the islands that show above the surface.
We consider our persons and all of the activities of our lives to be a part of this project. Who we are, who we become and what we do is a major portion of this work. The designated 30 day periods should only be understood as markers, the beginning and ending of our time in one place.
Artists such as Richard Long have actually melded life performances, conceptually similar to that of Klien or Beuys, with mapping activity as art and sometimes, merely as a form of documentation. Specifically, his work A Walk Across England, “investigates the interaction between a single man and a solitary landscape” by taking “mapping to its origins: feet connected to the Earth.”
But, as Katherine Harmon states, part of what makes the examination of a map interesting is the connection established with its maker: “considering that particular terrain of imagination overlaid with those unique contour lines of experience.” Fundamentally, we cannot help but envision how are map may diverge or overlap, how similar our “image” may be. “The coded visual language of maps is one we all know, but in making maps of our worlds we each have our own dialect.”
While authors such as Katherine Harmon, deeply rooted in the traditional definition of text, may refer to mapping as a “visual language,” contemporary cartographers are certainly not limited to this scope. In fact, as part of the reference to Long, it needs to be clarified that many of his maps, which he considers to be sculptural, are represented only through language.
The completion of an itineration of a 30 Days project does not result in a traditional map. However, the end “product” is essentially constructed the same way. Our maps are drawn from observation and investigation as directed by the individuals we meet along the way. They tell us what must be included and therefore greatly control the outcome.