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ThemesMapping and TextEditorial
Mapping and Text
Rudolf Frieling

From the outset, maps have surveyed and inscribed territories in order to take possession of them, to occupy and colonize them. So historically speaking a map was not just a cognitive instrument but primarily an instrument in the competition for economic advantage and power. This world survey narrative goes hand in hand with the invention and testing of better navigation instruments and timepieces. It was essential to establish an individual position in relation to traversed space. So the notion of symbolic, religiously determined representation of spatial connections was accordingly detached from an analogous and indexical structure that cross-referenced geographical space with cartographic representations gained from nautical and optical instruments. Cartographers in their turn worked with these instruments as if in a panoptic village, regardless of the fact that they had always been part of the traversed space they were ostensibly mapping from the outside. Here the map did not just represent abstract space, but also paths and routes, in other words, human practice in space.

Precisely this discursive aspect (derived from Latin discursus «a running about» [1] ) forms thestarting-point for a specifically artistic treatment of maps. This view of mapping creates a‹different› view of maps and ultimately of the impossibility of mapping the world. Linked with this is a particular fascination with encyclopaedic and universal or holistic approaches, as embodied in the vision of a database record of the world. The 1990s Internet boom and our growing awareness of living in a networked society have stimulated research from media artists as well as scientists and programmers to develop a new topography of the information society. There are mailing-lists and web sites dedicated to this phenomenon; the «Atlas of Cybergeography» provides a clear basis for exploring them. The corresponding text by Martin Dodge, «Seeing inside the cloud: Some ways to map the Internet», investigates the various functions and interests embedded in these new cartographies. Its title also refers to the condition of this terrain as a kind of cloud. But how can a cartographer survey the «inside of a cloud»? And what spatial construction is occurring cognitively in the cartographer's imagination? Dodge uses a large number of maps of the Internet to show how these are also based on a certain calculating quality. As well as this, the authors brought together here refer to the wealth of Internet projects addressing the conditions of browsers, proprietary commercial software and traditional representation methods in order to be able to devise technical or artistic alternatives and critical reflections. Hence Rudolf Frieling's essay «The Archive, the Media, the Map, and the Text» serves as an introduction to the various connections and perspectives associated with these issues. Its arguments extend from the expansion and increasing dissolution of fixed knowledge systems, then on into the 20th century with its databases that placed the encyclopaedic motif on a newly configured, dynamic and networked platform. Today the term ‹mapping› does not just relate to the new electronic territories that are in a state of permanent change and thus intend to convey a spatial sense of this field using new, time-based data-gathering methods and innovative imaging forms.

But it is the metaphor of space with cartographers navigating through it at all appropriate? Christine Buci-Glucksmann's philosophically orientedintroduction in her essay «From the Cartographic View to the Virtual» follows precisely these trains of thought associatively: «For, with Deleuze, the map as an artefact is a ‹plateau› with various layers and access points sketching a new form of seeing - and that is a projection of infinity in top view—and new kinds of abstraction, of abstractions as diagrams.» In contrast with this, in «Beyond the Archive: Bit-Mapping», Wolfgang Ernst insists on a mathematical and topological perspective, presenting digital mapping precisely as a field that goes beyond all spatial metaphors. «From the point of view of media archaeology, cyber‹space›is not about images, sounds or texts, but about bits.»

Particular interest is also taken in new ways of mapping visual or audiovisual documents: a technical innovative approach to searching for images with images is presented by Stéphane Marchand-Maillet in «Image Search or or Collection Guiding») while Graham Harwood, in «Nine(9) – Linker and other Subjective Mappings», has produced a collective map of a community in a project that was particularly concerned with the social interaction involved in handling new tools for the formulations and forms of a personal identity. The Net Art projects by Daniela Alina Plewe and Ismael Celis also embody the artistic approach to the theme of mapping text-spaces and also social relationships. These have already been published in the context of the «Survey of Media Art,» and were influential in the first phase of formulating the concept for this thematic area.

Whether their focus is historical, philosophical or artistic, in every case questions concerning the (precarious) relationship between images/sounds on the one hand and texts/language on the other are a thread running through this topic. The link with «text» in the title further refers to the important factor that theory and material related to the relationships between media and the arts have to be conveyed in the same context. Whatever media Modern artists were working in, they were operating with radical concepts of alterity and difference that have now found their contemporary form in the electronic media. Interest in databases, search engines, data visualization and cartography is a sign of artistic research in the apparently boundless field ofknowledge production. Walter Benjamin («Das Passagen-Werk») [2] and Aby Warburg («Mnemosyne-Atlas») developed models in the first half of the 20th century showing how contingencies and constellations can provide a different kind of access to conveying knowledge and insights textually and pictorially in a traditional terrain. Producing documents, artefacts, texts and images was well beyond the capacity of any individual even then. Today the dynamic and virtual configuration of archives reflects the quantity of data and also one of the production conditions for these data. In this perspective the archive does not just represent a passive store, but an active generator. Seen in this way the ‹data›, whether they are texts or images, are not just what is ‹given›, as etymology suggests, but something that is made, produced—they are ‹facts›. Tracking down these production conditions, historically, philosophically, discursively or algorithmically serves as a guiding thread through this thematic field.

The curatorial concept was considerably redefined by a series of lectures during a conference held at ZKM Karlsruhe on January 23 and 24, 2004, under the title «Media Art Net Lectures: Mapping.» [3] I am grateful to all speakers even though not every contribution could be selected for inclusion in the texts collected here, but Anne Nigten, Steve Dietz, Warren Sack and Brett Stalbaum provided important references and ideas for my introduction. [4] Warren Sack has developed a new online project, «agonistics—a language game», related to the topical field of «Public Sphere_s» but also addressing central questions relating to mapping, and so this co-operation has also generated fertile cross-links. The subject is far too extensive to be presented here in terms of its academic implications and applications in particular. [5] One remark may indicate the prospects for future research: in many classical and historical cases we repeatedly transfer images into texts, not least through our media or art-historical discourses, but the major role of our imaging processes today is to transfer data and theoretical models into images, thus making them comprehensible. The relations between data and images, between work and analysis, between geography and map, are central to the examination of this thematic field.

© Media Art Net 2004