Archives For Space

 

“Feet on the Ground and Hands in the Dirt

A review of
The Map As Art:
Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography
.
Katherine Harmon
and Gayle Clemans.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.


The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography.
Katherine Harmon and Gayle Clemans.

Paperback: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.
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Maps can tell us a lot about the world; they are, after all, wayfinding devices. But beyond indicating locations in the physical world, maps also tell us a lot about who made them, and what they fundamentally view the world to be like.

Recall, for instance, the Western mapping of Lewis and Clark when compared alongside that of Native maps: the Corps of Discovery brought with them the post-Enlightenment maps we’ve all become accustomed to: views floating somewhere above the landscape, looking down. When asking directions of Natives along the way, Lewis and Clark were presented with completely different conceptions of space as it related to time and familiarity with actual places. Different methods of map-making indicate equally different epistemologies and ways of being in the world; the shift in meaning afforded by nuanced cartography has been well-developed in the last decades by artists, and many approaches are gathered together in The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography by Katherine Harmon and Gayle Clemans. As they write:

Is there any motif so malleable, so ripe for appropriation, as maps? They can act as shorthand for ready metaphors: seeking location and experiencing dislocation, bringing order to chaos, exploring ratios of scale, charting new terrains. Maps act as backdrops for statements about politically imposed boundaries, territoriality, and other notions of power and projection… Like artworks, maps are selections about what they represent, and call out differences between collective knowledge and individual experience… (10).

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“Distinctively Particular Ways of Thinking
About the Spaces We Inhabit

A Review of
The First Six Books of The Elements of Euclid

By Oliver Byrne.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.


The First Six Books of The Elements of Euclid
By Oliver Byrne.

Two Volume Set in Clamshell Case: Taschen, 2010.
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Oliver Byrne - EUCLID'S ELEMENTSA dozen years ago this Fall, I was just starting my graduate studies in philosophy of science, working toward a PhD.  I was particularly interested in the ways that humankind has historically understood and talked about the spaces that we inhabit.  But as I got further and further into my research, I grew increasingly frustrated with the depth of layer upon layer of abstraction inherent in contemporary systems of geometry and physics.  Eventually, I got to the point at which I could no longer continue to be so heavily invested in these abstract worlds and I had to take a break from my graduate studies for my own sanity.

One hundred and fifty years before my graduate school experience, a little known Irish mathematician and surveyor by the name of Oliver Byrne had a similar experience.  Byrne’s frustrations – aimed particularly at the way geometry was taught – led him to craft one of the most elegant geometry books ever printed.  And now thanks to Taschen Books, Byrne’s book The First Six Books of The Elements of Euclid, is back in print. As its title implies, Byrne’s work is an adaptation of Euclid’s Elements, but its novelty lies in its use of color to identify specific figures.  Consider, for instance, the following proof which Byrne offers in the book’s along with its parallel in the traditional rendering of Euclid to demonstrate the contrast between the two methods:

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Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Edna St.Vincent Millay

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.