Colorado Art RanchPhoto: David Peterson

Durango Artposium: Mapping in the Arts: Ways of Seeing
September 7-9, 2008

By Emily Wortman-Wunder

Lay a map in a public place and you can observe for yourself the magnetic pull of this old navigational art. People flock to it, but quietly, almost in slow motion. They will cross the room, tilting their heads, reaching out to run their fingers along the optical contours of the page. They’ll murmur place names to themselves as if remembering, or as if trying to place themselves. As we learned at the 2007 Durango Artposium, Mapping the Arts: Ways of Seeing, this is because maps speak to some of our universal human needs: not only Where are we? and Where’s the restroom? but Why are we here, anyway?

Durango’s spectacular geography and halcyon September weather served not merely to frame but to embrace this exploration of place and representation. Peter Turchi, author of the mind-blowingly fantastic and wildly appropriate book, Maps of the Imagination: the Writer as Cartographer, opened the Artposium with a discussion of how maps symbolize our basic human need to represent the world. All of the essential problems experienced by map-makers—which details to include? how to represent a messy three-dimensional world on a flat surface? do people need to know where the exits are?—are also experienced by writers and, in different ways, by artists. Both cartographers and writers seek to create a navigable facsimile of the real world.

This was the story picked up in the morning of the next day, as gallery owner Julie Saul demonstrated the vast subjectivity of the map and its ripeness as a genre in its own: what does the kind of map we make say about us? Throughout the weekend other artists, writers, and philosophers explored the tributaries and side canyons of this theme, examining how a structure’s affinity to nature affects how we live in it (Nikos Salingaros), how our inner self affects how we develop the pathways of community (Kulu Sadira and Steve Self), how we map friendships over time (Mary Ellen Long, Grace Cavalieri, and Kathryn Moller) and how each of us sees the same place in a slightly different way (Marj Hahne and the participants of her workshop). Along the way we each created our own maps of the Artposium’s events, from taking workshops with Turchi, Hahne, Paul Boyer, Louise Edwards, Bill Stoehr, and Gavin Maurer to wandering the streets of Durango on tours with Carol Martin and Shan Wells.

The map of my own Durango Artposium experience ended at (and became part of) Tex Jernigan’s nomadic public art installation, a work emblematic of the Art Ranch itself: nomadic, both formed by and forming each new place it goes, shaped by its past yet creating something new each time.

“Novelists draw up the map of existence by discovering this or that human possibility.”
-- Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel

“Like memory, geography is associative. In this process I call orientating we all carry a personal atlas in our brains.”
-- Stephen S. Hall, “I, Mercator” in You are Here: Personal Geographies (Katherine Harmon)

“I made the map of the island; it was elaborately and (I thought) beautifully coloured; the shape of it took my fancy beyond expression; it contained harbours that pleased me like sonnets; and with the unconsciousness of the predestined, I ticketed my performance Treasure Island."
-- Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

Let's start at the beginning:
Earth isn't the earth:
The map isn't the territory.
The territory isn't the map.

A map is an image.
A map is a way of speaking.
A map is a gathering of memories.
A map is a proportional representation.

-- Alberto Blanco, “Maps” (Copper Canyon Press)

"A map of the real world is no less imaginary than a map of the imaginary world."
-- Alberto Blanco, “Maps” (Copper Canyon Press)

"A map is an artistic manifestation of the fear
of the unknown."

-- Alberto Blanco, “Maps” (Copper Canyon Press)

"The map of you is like this, all lines, all
Words. So is the great, folded map of me.

All wrinkles. That's the map of us
The world gets, and then believes:

We are what the map is supposed to do.
We are the up and the down of things,

But a map has the folds drawn on, and easy enough.
Ours are earned and not flat at all.

-- Alberto Alvaro Rios, “What We’ve Done to Each Other”



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“I returned home with new ideas for improving my work. This is the first conference I've attended that did so much for me as a writer.”
Artposium Attendee

“The intellectual and creative stimulation at the Artposium offered in an atmosphere of openness and humor.”
– Artposium Attendee

It is the opportunity to see, hear, and experience interpretations of the theme through the creative minds of the presenters and participants that makes the Artposium so thought-provoking and stimulating.” – Artposium Attendee

“Artistic creation is a voyage into the unknown. In our own eyes, we are off the map.”
-- Peter Turchi: Maps of the Imagination


Else/Where: Mapping New Cartographies of Networks and Territories edited by Janet Abrams and Peter Hall

Julie Saul Gallery

Peter Turchi

You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination by Katharine Harmon: