The flow of things

sm_VancouverSara Graham, StreetFinder: Vancouver, 2012, LJT40 Print mounted on dibond, 32 x 48″

I recently started reading Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information  by Manuel Lima. Although the book was recently published (2011) Lima has had  a very interesting website which I have been following for awhile.  As I have written previously in this post, this one and this, mapping has been a central concern within my artistic practice.

In the summer of 2012, I also wrote about my move across the country. This relocation necessitated a re-location, that is, I had to locate and orientate myself to my new geographic specificity. This investigation instigated my reflection upon  a series of work I made entitled StreetFinder fifteen years ago. StreetFinder consisted of mapbooks in which I physically excised everything but the major road systems. Rand McNally, an American company, only published eleven Canadian city mapbooks, most likely because of the marketability and population of each city. The deliberate choice by Rand McNally to print maps for only eleven Canadian cities made clear to me the social and economic agendas behind commercial maps and thus began my critical exploration of mapping. I mention this because I have developed a new series of large scale photographs based on this older series  for an upcoming exhibition in Toronto also entitled StreetFinder. Each photograph depicts the first page of the book, in which all of the information of the map had been removed except the expressways, highways and major roads. What remains was a complex, abstract latticework of road networks that are layered on top of each other. By manipulating the map itself, I have intervened in the logic of the city, constructing an alternative geography as well as a providing a different perspective of the city.

sm_OttawaSara Graham, StreetFinder: Ottawa, 2012, LJT40 Print mounted on dibond, 32 x 48″

While my aim is to construct an alternative geography based on one of the most recognised systems of flow, I have also provided a different perspective of the city. In Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information, Lima is presenting ‘information visualizations’ that also provides a different perspective of the city. Lima defines information visualization as a process of compiling complex patterns and data and ‘representing’ them in a highly designed format so that the viewer can easily decipher the data. While I am deliberately trying to confuse the viewer with StreetFinder, the artists, designers and geographers in Visual Complexity are trying to enlighten.

I thought it would be interesting to include some maps (that I have been compiling over the last couple of months) that are very interesting and enlightening.


Larissa Fassler, Regent Street ⁄ Regent’s Park , 2009. The image illustrates the different signage along London’s Regent Street.


fisk map detail5These two maps uses color to depict the different courses of the Mississippi River throughout history.


This map shows you the wind flows over the US and if you go to the wind map website you can see it the currents animated.


759_big02Elijah Meeks has produced a series of experiments depicting databases in diverse styles. The images show here are mapping the top contributors to the Catalogue of Life and their associated species, references and databases.

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 3.11.41 PM

A map of part of the northern hemisphere of Venus, based mainly on radar data from the Russian Venera 15 and 16 orbiters as well as data from the Pioneer Venus orbiter and Earth-based radar telescopes. Colours correspond to surface features, including volcanoes (light red and pink), mountains and ridges (purple, green and blue) and plains (yellow and light green).


lombardi2Artist Mark Lombardi uses dotted lines and broken arrows to chart the paths of illicit deals and laundered money, keeping track of it all in a handwritten database of 12,000 index cards.

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 3.11.05 PMThis is a geologic map of the far side of the moon based on data from the Apollo space missions, Lunar orbiter spacecraft and Russian Zond spacecraft.

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 2.02.35 PMA map of Paris during sunrise based on open data

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 3.27.39 PMThe map represents an estimate of the total annual building energy consumption at the block level and at the tax lot level for New York City, and is expressed in kilowatt hours (kWh) per square meter of land area.

8 responses to “The flow of things

  1. Pingback: The flow of things « #landuseissues·

  2. Pingback: Narrative Atlas | citymovement·

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