Response to the Exhibition
We invited Ken Josephson, head of UVic's Community Mapping Initiative in the Department of Geography, to lend his perspective to the exhibition and to write a response to our theme. Ken was a cartographer with the Canadian Hydrographic Service for eight years before joining the university in 1980. Community mapping and engagement has been his passion for the past decade. His interest in graphics and using participatory community art as communication and engagement tools also led to opportunities to work with fair-trade craft cooperatives in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in job creation programs and product development. He recently co-led a course with Dr. Brenda Beckwith called the Art of Place: The Role of Community-based Art in Academia, and is often called upon to guest lecture on community mapping and cartographic integrity.
The Artist, Mapper and Geographer in All of Us
As a cartographer, scribing charts of the western Arctic and southern BC in the 1970s based on Canadian Hydrographic and old British Admiralty surveys was fascinating, but ultimately left me wanting. I had never visited or experienced most of those "geographies." The physical "facts" within those charts did not reflect the smells and sights, the sounds and colours, the spirit and space of their respective places... all things I wanted to know about and to record. Some of the old British Admiralty surveys contained small vignettes or sketches of elevations, but they had no place in our modern charts.
This "wanting" led me to community mapping, which attempts to document a collective "sense of place," mapping what we value, what we cherish and our visions for the future. The communities define themselves in many ways by neighbourhood, region, culture, geography. The process of "mapping" recognizes and celebrates alternative ways of knowing and being, empowering and giving voice to those who are often unheard. It is the artists, poets and storytellers among us (and within us) of all ages who go beyond the physical "facts," visualizing how we connect with, love and respond to our geographies. A number of printed maps have been published, as well as ongoing participatory interactive online maps. They incorporate stories, artwork and colloquial and First Nations place names. Information about various projects can be found at mapping.uvic.ca.
We are all mapmakers, with stories rooted and grounded in the lands we call home. Read as maps, the objects in this exhibition re-present a place-based dialogue the artists have with various landscapes. They are sensory and emotion-rich, conveying far more than superficial observation. C. J. Collings not only illustrates a watershed with river, snowmelt and glaciers; one can almost feel the damp, cold air and vastness of space held within those mountains. Katharine Maltwood shows the geology, architecture, mass and weight of mountains towering above the tree line, something one cannot glean from just contours on a map. Other pieces in the exhibition present traditional indigenous food systems and sacred, mystical, spiritual places in both wild and manufactured landscapes, reflecting their colours, light, textures, rhythms, sounds and smells.
Seeing these geographies through the artists' eyes deepens our appreciation for the sacredness of this land and our sense of stewardship toward it, hopefully persuading us to move forward with greater care, thoughtfulness and compassion.
Cartographer, Geography, University of Victoria
Community Mapping Initiative, mapping.uvic.ca