What is one man’s heart is another’s equal-area pseudoconic map projection

Daily, I have regular encounters with two French ghosts in the CCEPS archive. One goes by Jacques-Nicolas Bellin and the other by his successor, Rigobert Bonne. I have never seen them but their presence is certainly felt in the maps. The whimsical part of me, perhaps a state induced by a windowless room thick with time, almost believes as if they are attempting to vigil me somewhere in their maps. They ebb and flow in my temporal moments without pretext or pattern. As hydrographers, they appear mostly on the coastlines. Just as the indigenous of Terra de Fuego, the shore is the contact zone of these merging worlds. For the colonists, it was that of mooring. For me, it is the grip of a page.

Bonne is the rather quite one, though his projections, the dépôt de la guerre or modified Flamsteed, have their say in cartographic history. In other words, his work speaks for itself. The projection articulates more accurate shaping around the prime meridian and standard parallel. It is perhaps of no small note which countries that central line passes through. Everything from that Franco-Anglo focus distorts in t-shaped dimensions, in circular contortions. Really, it looks like a heart. What is one man’s heart is another’s equal-area pseudoconic map projection. In fact, the heart was invented by Claudius Ptolemy about A.D. 100 but it was Bonne who really put it on the page. With that heart comes an overabundance of Eurocentrism. In the distortions are the “false easting” and “false northing.” It probably has no intentional implications to be fair. Still every heart has its meridian.

An example of the Bonne projection

Aside from Bonne and his distortions and heart projections come discourses and identities I’d expect from French geographers in the Enlightenment. Party to the Encyclopédistes and the philosophes, Bellin was in the company of none other than the likes of Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Baron d’Holbach. Over the course of his career he contributed over 994 articles. He was a man not of the heart, but of the mind. A serious enlightenment figure, his transition to a more rigorous and positivistic approach in cartography impacted far more than just mapmaking. In this time, the most influential members of a burgeoning history profession depended on and were enchanted by the developments in mapmaking. With these technologies of land order was deployed to solve conflicts such as the Sykes-Picot line. France and the United Kingdom, by their own means, divyed up “the orient” by drawing a straight line across a map. This is mine. This is yours. Surely there won’t be any conflicts resulting from it later. The maps reflected in the interpretation of land and space for historians and their celebration/formations of national identity. The scientific approach to mapmaking directly engendered culture and evidenced it. Remember, geographers like Bellin were at the employ of the King and the navy. The ink was drawn from that well. Draw the lines were they may fall, but the picture I see is a mapmaking of colonial legacy in historiography.

Least to say, our conversations muddle and froth. Ironically, Bellin often complains. He had always found his mapmaking efforts tedious and a burden. In a way, I can listen to Bellin and almost empathize with him. He was caught in the machine of the Enlightenment juggernaut. Cartography was a means of survival based on a skillset. I wonder if he ever reflected on his impact. I wonder if he questioned what his maps might do. Bonne, he’s got heart, which makes me more suspicious of him. That sort of application seems unreachable. I find it more difficult to breach his passion. But we are so thick of time here in the archives. There is little light and less windows. We ebb and flow in this space with little pretext or pattern

Specificity

I am pleased to say my semester at CGU ended on a great note. I am also pleased to say that Annette’s collection is in its’ final staged before it will be available for researchers. I thought in this post I would give a brief overview of some collection pieces that really stood out to me and why I think this collection is an excellent resource for anyone interested in fine art. One of the pieces that immediately comes to mind when I think of this collection is an interview transcript from 1977 in which Annette was being interviewed by Joan Murray for the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. In this interview she provides insight into her creative process and how she arrived at textiles as her preferred medium. Another collection piece that stood out to me were some pieces that were ostensibly used as a kind of artistic inspiration. These included vintage magazine clippings that shared an art deco theme, fabric samples that spoke to the value of abstraction and 35mm slides that catalogued the 9 months the artist spent living in Europe. The artist’s labeling indicates that this period was in the early 70’s, with the artist mainly taking residence in Spain. Though the slides indicate she may have spent some time near Istanbul, Turkey as well. Places like these, and others, captured by Annette’s artistic eye immortalize the spirit of the early 70’s. The images are unmistakably tinged with a spark of freedom and the warm comfort of nostalgia. These images are a resource for any persons interested in the visual arts. Lastly, the 35mm and photographs which bear some of Annette’s textile works and sketches are regarded as the ornate centerpiece of the collection. In these slides and photographs, the viewer can witness Annette’s evolution as an artist, the fluidity possessed through each epoch and the juxtaposed ability of the artists’ works to remain unique. Thus, it is this ‘centerpiece’ that captures the spirit of the collection as a whole.

Making Arrangements

300 some-odd maps, articles, magazine clips, receipts, and prints later, the survey’s complete. Now I’m toiling with direction. I yoke the plans.

A few days ago I was reading several articles which placed emphasis on the accessibility of material via description and order. I tried to get inside the head of a potential researcher. Who would approach this collection and why?

There were a few possible directions I could’ve gone: mapmaker, dates, regions, language, type of map, or place of production. Ultimately, it was decided between my manager and I to divide the series into maps and printed matter.

Within maps, the subseries were based off continents: South America, Africa, Southeast Asia/Pacific Islands. From there, I will focus on regions.

I do wonder how it will translate in description. English and French are the predominant languages. Do translations bode a particular value here? Of course. I feel there is something lost in combining them by region. Who produces and for what purposes would have great value in research.

There is a somewhat ironic knot to undo in the complications of homogenizing map producers based off the heterogeneity of their production.

Finishing Touches

As of this week I have started to put the finishing touches on Annette’s small but sweet collection. I have completed the front matter almost to it’s entirety, with just the proofreading left. Front matter included the scope and content of the collection, biography of the contributor, provenance establishment, date ranges and series level descriptors to aid in future research. When attempting to gather the date range Annette’s collection spanned, I was able to once again familiarize myself with parts of the collection that I had forgotten about. On the other hand, I was able to find new glimpses of the collection that did not catch my eye before. Though the date range of the materials is tentative, due to my wish to double check (to make sure everything is being catalogued with the highest accuracy), it appears the collection’s breadth encompasses 1963-2002. With that being said, Annette’s collection in it’s own way is a piece of living history. 1963 was the year that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and also the year my grandparents met. They would go on to marry 2 years later, as of 2022 they just celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary. All this to say, though much has changed since 1963, Annette’s collection serves as a relic of a past that gets further and further away in the rear view mirror of time. Collections like Annette’s, as well as others that are processed by CCEPS fellows, Special Collections and beyond, provide us with windows to bygone eras.

This may be my last post on Annette’s collection, as there is not much of the process left. However, I look forward to her collection becoming a part of the wide repository of research materials available to the Claremont Colleges, in which she can provide perspective to other inquirers. As for me, I want to thank Annette and her carefully curated materials for orienting me (even as a novice observer) to textiles, specifically quilts, as a medium for abstract fine art. It has been an absolute pleasure to process this collection as a CCEPS fellow under the direction of Special Collections and Lisa Crane. Lastly, thank you to my supervisors Lisa and Ayat, my experience with this collection and others has been a wonderful and formidable experience as a first year graduate student.

Claremont to Canada

As I get closer to finishing the archival process of preserving Annette’s collection, I can’t help but feel like I will always remember the way her pieces exposed me to an entirely new fine art medium. I had been familiar with textile pieces, but primarily tapestries. Until this collection I had never seen quilts serve such an artistic purpose. As I inch closer to finishing this process I can somewhat grasp the amount of finesse (Thorley) Françoise utilized in order to make such coherent yet striking pieces. While putting the finishing touches on the collection and assessing the scope of the materials I was rereading all of her accomplishments outlined in her CV and it reacquainted me with the breadth of her contribution to the textile fine art space. Her prestige is unmistakable, but in her writings and professional communications there is also an unmistakable humility. Despite many awards, published reviews raving about her work, commissions and exhibitions it is clear to me Annette never stopped seeking to evolve. Through that evolution she maintained her originality and novelty, a dexterous feat in which she makes fluidity appear easy, despite the many challenges humans face while attempting to grow.

This collection offered me the opportunity to experience something new, my guess is many observers felt this way in the presence of Annette’s work. This speaks to the many pieces’ longevity and consistency tantamount to being a fixture in the Toronto fine art scene. I am inspired by women like Annette, who put their own spin on an underrepresented path and truly make it their own. Some of my final thoughts while processing this collection revolved around how she was very much an artist cut from a different cloth, and how rare that can be in an epoch like this. While others strived to model masterpieces, she achieved optimal distinctiveness. In the same vein, I am reminded of an excerpt from The Great Gatsby when I think of this collection: “so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.

The (Front) Matter at Hand

This week entailed the end of processing Annette’s total items. Spiral bound sketchbooks were carefully separated and each page was preserved with interwoven tissue paper to uphold the use of color integrity. One sketchbook, that was not spiral bound but was actually bound more like a traditional book, instead had each page separated by a piece of tissue paper in between to protect the illustrative integrity. When looking through the sketchbooks it became even more apparent to me why Annette had chosen to be an artist as a career, there were various styles represented and each of them was attended to with great care. The sketches ranged from cartoonish with a slight edge to life-like abstractions of the human form that really made the viewer (me) think. Her range echoed her simultaneous fastidious attention to detail and her confidence in not being bothered to be confined to a particular style.

Next week I will put the finishing touches on Annette’s collection by double checking what I’ve inventoried and numbering boxes and folders accordingly. Subsequently, it will be time to work on the front matter! In the front matter I will be assessing things like the abstract of the collection, inclusive dates, some biographical information on Annette to include for researchers and the scope of the collection. I look forward to summarizing what I have found in Annette’s collection, though words will not do it justice, it’s truly a collection one has to see for themselves. I encourage anyone with an interest in textiles as a medium for abstract art to take a look at this collection in some capacity, the knowledge extended posthumously by Annette is very much worth gaining.

Contours of Impression; Cartographies of Knowledge

I tend to dwell on the content of the maps. But today I had a revelation, one that may have a more of an impact on my archival efforts down the line. Today, I wondered about the sport, perhaps, or rather the technologies of the actual mapmaking. How are the prints differing? What are the processes and stylings of cartographic practice? I imagine their production is important for collectors. Somehow it was not for me until today. Maybe this was a form over function thing all along. In fact, if it wasn’t for the overwhelming focus on South America–particularly the Strait of Magellan–I would really question if I made a serious error in not recording the maps’ typology in this auditing process. Luckily, ancillary material indicates that my focus on the content is the correct approach to this.

But in that brief anxious episode, I went exploring. I wanted to chart mapmaking in the era of these maps’ production. The 18th century signaled a period shift in mapmaking. Gone were the salacious mermaids, fanged whales lunging out at hapless sailors, reptilian figures lurching over the shoulder of an unknown island spraying fire from their nose. Factuality was fore; flair to the cartouche and border. This was the beginning of Enlightenment remember. Maps served science. Everything did.

With industrialization dawning, technologies proliferated and cartographers gained access to more and more tools and skills. They had telescopes and this thing called a chronometer that would chart more accurately ones positions longitudinally. Most importantly though, came the beloved survey, a technique deployed all across Europe’s most stately nation-states. The precision of data becomes the veritable counters of knowledge production industrialized, manufactured to scale.

Derived from military practices, cartography remained highly specialized–if not even more. Technical planning of the maps involved choice of a counter interval (elevation separating contour lines, lines of constant elevation). Mapping step sequences, or operational phases, were determined by the most efficient technical procedures. A guide copy printed on several sheets of plastic coated with an opaque paint, usually yellow, imprinted these counters to be prepared for the negative engraving or scribing process. The scriber follows copy on the respective plates by engraving through the coating as an arc light can only pass through engraving scratches, which become the negatives for press plates.

Most finite lines, matrices, upon more grids of lines, some of which are 0.002 inches, or 0.05 millimeters wide, are intermediate contours engraved freehand. Yet heavier lines, the index contours engraved at 0.007 inch, required small tripods for perfect verticality. Boundaries and shorelines printed and etched on coated sheets, areas of woodland or water peeled off, leaving open windows for features. There, character can peek through the lines.

Despite these maps’ precision and multifarious means of production, only on a globe can maps retain fidelity. Maps, projected onto a flat surface as a method of production contain inevitable distortions. By light, impressions are guided by the choice of the engraver. With distortions comes perspective. What is my perspective? Perhaps its gnomonic, stereographic, or orthographic. I consider my projections in interpreting the material. I consider the contours of my impression of it. Archiving is a technology. All this psychodynamic cartography going on in the process of my task.

By Thine Own Hand

After a week filled with presentations and module 1 finals at CGU it was cathartic to be able to sit down with Annette’s collection again. This week all of her photographs were sorted and archived to completion and I began to embark on Annette’s sketchbooks, each seemingly with their own voice. In the photographs I came across photos of Annette’s commissioned textile work displayed in a lobby, using contextual clues from the other photos in the collection it appears to have been taken somewhere between the late 60’s and early 70’s. It wasn’t the natural warm tone of the film that caught my eye, or the soft pixelated grain characteristic of the epoch, it was the sliver of a bare window in the foreground that looked onto a sunny city street. Through this sliver one could make out light stone buildings that looked new despite their art deco features and wide boxy cars dotted the streets in front. Annette had such a keen eye even the faint background of her photos are interesting. At the time of this photo the president could have been Johnson, Nixon or Ford, maybe even my favorite President Carter, and it made me think about how things must have changed and how others had stayed the same.

In her sketchbooks I found a different story, these pieces weren’t necessarily reflective of a time or place like her photographs. Rather, they were timeless. One thing her sketches share with her quilts is the dedication to abstraction, which reinforces the notion that Annette saw things in her own way, on her own terms. Some of her sketches seem to have a Dali-like influence, others seem more inspired by Picasso, others seem akin to Kandinsky. However, what they all have in common is that Annette’s own originality never gets lost in translation.

Trayendo El Fuego

As I’m nearing the completion of this audit of the Drundel collection, I’m beginning to wonder if it should be called “Maps and ephemera of Tierra del Fuego and others.”

Why Tierra del Fuego? It is the first time I’ve heard of this land, but certainly not the first I’ve heard of its associations: Strait of Magellan, Patagonia, Chile, Argentina. As with really any coastal region in the fertile, precolonial South Americas, it became an immediate site of extractive enterprises. This was of no shock.

Perhaps one of the more interesting facts I learned about the island was in the nationality of the renown colonial entrepreneur in the region, Julius Popper. I’ve seen his name mentioned on a few of the maps, but hadn’t taken great note of them. Unlike most of the conquistadors, Popper was Romanian. Originally employed as a telegrapher in Chile, he set his sites on prospecting the little known metals of the island.

In the late nineteenth century, it was here he encountered the Selk’nam tribe and sponsored a genocide that lasted almost a decade. The tribe, once 4,000 individuals, were reduced to 500.

The Selk’nam were one of three tribes on Tierra del Fuego. They were hunter-gatherers and primarily situated in the northeast region, referred to as Onas by the other tribes. In the late nineteenth century, cattle farmers, gold seekers, and farmers instigated their extermination by means as brutal as deportation, hunting of members, and alcohol (Gardini, 647). “The pen hesitates to describe this systematic extermination,” writes Austrian Ethnologist Gusinde.

Gusinde himself, regarding them a “magnificent race,” was more than willing to ship their skulls to anthropological museums in Europe under the banner of science. But it was ultimately the cattle ranchers, favored by local authorities, who proposed and carried out the genocide with impunity.

Tierra del Fuego itself boasts surreal and enchanting geographical features. Each of the drawings and photos captured of the area portray a cinematic panorama without compare.

These astounding features being shaped by and characterized by the Andrean orogeny supplies a somewhat uncanny analogy to its cultural history and my role as a researcher. It is this idea of distance. I wonder often how distance can so readily lead to violence.

The name “Tierra del Fuego” derives purportedly from early conquistadors observing bonfires on the shoreline as they passed through the Strait of Magellan. The reports are that these indigenous tribes were staging an attack. What if it was a greeting? In fact, it probably had nothing to do with the colonizers at all. What if the the shore remained in shadow, never drawing the eye of the colonizers? There’s a melancholy in great events, both horrific and beatific, made probable when distance is brought to light.

Sources:

Gardini, Walter. “Restoring the Honour of an Indian Tribe-Rescate de Una Tribu.” Anthropos 79, no. 4/6 (1984): 645–47. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40461884.

Knowledge: A Map, An Island

For about 100 years, sometime after 1622, mapmakers portrayed California as an island. Among the history of cartographic errors this is always one enjoyed in US scholarship–becoming a comedic synecdoche in CA’s political history. Uniquely, and perhaps adding to the enigma of the story, the error has an origin. The culprit was Juan de la Fuca.

There is perhaps nothing entirely new in this bit of trivia. But in studying many of these maps, I am often left astounded by their detail. I fathom at the intricate and precise nature of these hand-drawn, works of art.

Without access to anything remotely similar to our cartographic technologies, how could they be done so well? I assume that many of the maps are palimpsest; or they build on a former version of the area. They are recursive. Like a sculpture fashioned over generations or by a multitude of hands, these maps arrive at a better understanding of the land through collective, historical paradox of iteration and revision.

Philosophically, this can send some into the deep end–maybe just speaking for myself. I think of simulacra in knowledge production. It seems ages and ages ago, but for over a century California was an island. That is a knowledge that would exceed my entire life. In a way, what we know, what knowledges we produce are islands. Then, over time, the map is redrawn.