There's something intriguing about maps and our tendency to map every possible thing. This month the #areyoubookenough artists' book challenge had the theme 'Mapped', which gave me the perfect opportunity to further delve into an idea I've had for almost ten years now. The starting point was that I wanted to draw a street map of a city based on my memory of those streets. And now I've got this artists' book called A City, from Memory. It has three parts housed in a latched case - a scroll of nine hand drawn maps and two kaleidoscopes.
The city I chose for my memory maps is London. I've been to London over the past 11 years so many times I've actually lost count. It's a city I dearly love and where I feel at home, yet have currently absolutely no desire to live in. It's a city I love so much I've even made another artists' book about it before.
The maps were drawn using a variety of maps in London tourist guide books with some overlap: sometimes the same place was drawn several times, and the result was never the same. With the first of the nine maps I only drew the streets I remember having walked - everything else was left out, even when I knew I must have walked a certain route to get from point A to point B. If I don't remember the street, the street does not excist on my map. Later on I found my memories changed, or I remembered more streets, and added those streets to the map I was working on, but let the earlier maps stay as they were. I find this to be the very nature of remembering; memories come and go, and I like how the differences in my memory maps reflect the fickleness of my mind.
This method resulted in maps that in certain parts of the city were fairly complete, or at least look like they could be an accurate representation of a neighbourhood, but then there are lesser walked parts of the city were there's only a street here and there and they may not connect to one another at all because I have no recollection of the walk between.
The kaleidoscopes worked their way into all this as I thought about the tools commonly used with maps, and how they relate to my approach to mapping out memories. I couldn't figure out a compass that would reflect how I remember, but a telescope turned into a kaleidoscope quite easily! A kaleidoscope shows mere fragments, multiplied.
One of the kaleidoscopes I built is a traditional one, the kind that has colourful bits that form a series of different patterns forever changing as you turn the kaleidoscope. These fleeting colourful fragments describe my visual memories of London quite fittingly. The other kaleidoscope lets you view your actual surroundings in a new way - it's just mirrors that leave the majority of the world outside your field of vision and turn a fragment of your reality into surreality, which is something I feel is also a part of the process of remembering a thing over and over again.
The memory can grow or transform with time as it bounces back and forth in your head, and you may even start to consciously question the reality of your memory. After all, it's not really the original experience we remember at any given time but the memory we have of remembering it the previous time we were reminiscing. How much of a memory is just hopeful thinking, our own decorations added on a remnant of a memory? And how much of our experiences we forget immediately after? How do we decide what we deem irrelevant right from the start?
Some technical details of A City, from Memory: The largest of the nine maps measure 19x23cm / 7.5"x9.1". The case measures 13,5x24,5x5,3cm / 5.3"x9.6"x2.1". Materials: tracing film, handmade paper, gold metal leaf, cardboard, paper, acrylic mirror, acrylic, glass beads, book cloth, box latch.
You can find more photos on Instagram.