Representing Place

Ingrid Calame

Posted in student presentations by joshmehler on February 17, 2010

#231 Drawing (Tracings up to the L.A. River placed in the Clark Telescope Dome, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ)

From #231 Drawing (Tracings up to the L.A. River placed in the Clark Telescope Dome, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ)

Ingrid Calame is a Los Angeles-based artist whose work attempts to document “the lowly visual remains of human activity” by tracing everyday marks of human presence (Harmon 106).  In the examples shown here, Calame has traced the marks found in the Los Angeles river bed—including graffiti, stains, and other human marks—and has then overlaid tracings that record the regularized physical movements of people who work in the observatory. Calame has also done extensive tracings of skid marks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and areas of the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange. In all her work is an awareness of the passing through of human activity, driven by a desire to record human presence. At the same time, however, her work emphasizes the difficulty of capturing that human presence in various spaces.

My question then is: does this work fit in with a definition of “map”? Do these works count as “maps”?

Yes: Katharine Harmon seems to think so; she argues that Calame’s work fits into a definition of maps as “simplified representations of the Earth’s surface or depictions of relationships between the components of a space” and that it “documents the relationship between humans and their environments” (106).  Might Calame’s work also fit under the heading of “new cartography” that Deleuze has observed? That is: “a mode of spatial thinking that sought not to trace out representations of the real, but to construct mappings that refigure relations in ways that render alternate epistemologies and very different ways of world making” (Cobarrubias and Pickles 40)?

No: The artist herself claims that she does not see her work as “maps” but, regardless, it does arise from a “cartographic desire to know the world.” So should we then define a “map” as any document or work of art that arises from this similar desire? How is a “cartographic” desire different from any other desire to know the world?


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  1. Joelle Dietrick said, on February 17, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Different kind of tracing, especially important in relationship to your interest in graffiti.

    the subconscious art of graffiti removal (excerpt) from matt mccormick on Vimeo.

    • joshcompexplosion said, on February 18, 2010 at 12:48 pm

      Oh yes, thank you! I discovered this on Wooster Collective a while back and I love it–although I didn’t know who created it until now.

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