Following on from my exploration of the Solway I wondered if I could make an object that captured the way it was a real objective place, but was open to a number of subjective impressions.
For a while I have experimented with weaving Ordnance Survey maps, with the grid squares becoming the warp and the weft of the created object. In the past it has been two different maps, but for this I wanted to experiment with two maps of the same place, but shift them so the Solway became kind of extended and ambiguous. Like it is. So I made the object above.
It will never win a Turner Prize but my interest is not in creating ‘Fine Art’, but in using art-making to explore ideas and express experience. What I wanted to express was…
Blurring the boundary between England and Scotland.
Showing how the Waths crossed this boundary.
Make something that looked recognisable from a distance but changed before your eyes as you approached it.
Make you kind of wonder what it was, a picture, a map, some weaving or needlepoint.
Shifting your sense of time. The Iapetus Ocean was the water between the two tectonic plates that mashed together to make the Borders. The Solway is all that is left. I liked it as an archaeological object.
To also have bits of it that were from the time it was made. I liked it as a contemporaneous object as well.
To work with text and image and object and colour as things to stand in for something else.
Sometime I would like to return to making this as a more aesthetically sophisticated object. But as a starting point, it is a good place to start.
An interesting article using interactive maps showing how the landscape has changed over time. See here.
And two other good online map sites worth looking at are the UK Government Magic Maps, which can overlay all sorts of environment-related information and a National Library of Scotland site which lets you look at land with maps from two different times with a sort of spyglass effect.
Interesting programme suggests that our sense of identity and our memories are linked to a sense of place and connect the capacity to tell stories about ourselves at a physiological level through the hippocampus. If we learn to know where we are in space by using a map (as opposed to sat-nav) we have develop better of agency. We know where we are in life. The hippocampus is kept healthy by novelty and shrinks when we let our life become routine, or get too much screen time. Experiential learning (ie making mistakes and learning from them..) slows down alzheimers. Exploring and getting lost, keeps us healthy.
Who uses paper maps to get around anymore? Smart phone apps have taken a lot of the stress out of navigation. But at what cost?
In a trip across London, Timandra Harkness teams ups with London cabby Robert Lorden to scrutinise a technology that we now take for granted. How is sat nav changing our brains? Does it affect the way we think?
London taxi drivers are excellent navigators, having to memorise thousands of street names and mentally visualise hundreds of journeys. This impressive cognitive map is evident on an MRI scan – an enlarged part of the brain called the hippocampus.
But for the rest of us, Timandra discovers, scientists are finding that an underactive hippocampus could have wider implications for our health and well-being – particularly in child development, mental health and dementia.
While taking turn-by-turn instructions from a GPS device, we could be losing a vital sixth sense that we do not, as yet, fully understand.
Contributors include Prof Hugo Spiers, director of the Spatial Cognition Laboratory at University College London; Maura O’Connor, author of Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World; Prof Veronique Bohbot, cognitive neuroscientist at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Producer: Dom Byrne
A Greenpoint production for BBC Radio 4
For 112 days Sara Morawetz retraced the 2,000 kilometre journey of two 18th century astronomers, tasked with defining the length of a metre.
On 24 June 2018 artist Sara Morawetz started walking. In sturdy leather boots and a broad-brimmed, blue felt hat, she headed south from Dunkirk, France’s most northerly town. For 112 days, over 2,000 kilometres, Morawetz negotiated exhaustion, monotony, blisters, anxiety, self-doubt, 100-kilometre-per-hour winds, 37°C heat and the Pyrenees. She walked from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. On 13 October, she arrived at her destination: Barcelona.
Sara-Morawetz, étalon, 2018, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist
The walk (étalon, 2018) is a performance in homage to an earlier journey. In 1792 Napoleon ordered two French astronomers, Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre and Pierre-François-André Méchain, to determine a new universal standard unit of measurement. They journeyed from Dunkirk to Barcelona in order to measure the curvature of the earth. It took them seven years. The new unit was a direct result of the data the pair accrued and the calculations they made: one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the Equator, one mètre-étalon, one metre.
Delambre and Méchain worked in partnership, and throughout her walk Morawetz was accompanied by a succession of artists and writers. Each day, Morawetz and her collaborator took measurements using a GPS receiver, a laser range-finder, and a purpose-built target made of alternating black and white segments. ‘A metre is a distance between two points,’ explains the artist. ‘Throughout the walk is this idea of two points of contact that need to be maintained.’