Deep Mapmakers as ArtistsPosted by Laura Danielson on Jun 26, 2012 in Blog, Spatial Humanities | 0 comments
The editors of the book The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship (Indiana University Press, 2010) ask that aspiring deep mappers “move the user from the GIS world of observation to one of habitation where the material world is experienced through our own embodiment and sense of ‘being in the world.’” These ideas of habitation, experience, embodiment, and being put the “deep” in “deep map.” They also pose some of the greatest obstacles to the production of deep maps, due in large part to the spatial determinism and mathematical topology of GIS.
Those who wish to produce deep maps of religion face an additional burden to represent the immaterial, supernatural, and metaphysical features of not just “being in the world,” but “being in other worlds.” Curiously, participants of the NEH Advanced Institute on Spatial Narratives and Deep Maps at the Polis Center cover the fields of history, geography, archaeology, anthropology, GIS, and religious studies, but they do not include the visual arts, performance arts, and creative writing. Perhaps it isn’t enough for geographers and historians and anthropologists to make the leap—if indeed a leap is deemed necessary for deep mapping—from the material to the immaterial, from the immanent to the transcendent.
Paul Schrader, made most famous as screenwriter of Martin Scorsese’s films Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, might help us consider how to (ought we to?) extend deep maps into immaterial worlds where gods and demons and heavens and hells and angels and miracles manifest themselves in the subjectivities of religious adherents. In his book Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (University of California Press, 1971), Schrader defines “the Transcendent” as “beyond normal sense experience, and that which it transcends is, by definition, the immanent.” Furthermore, “human works” [certainly a film and perhaps a deep map] cannot inform one about the Transcendent, they can only be expressive of the Transcendent.” Style, as the form and structure and aesthetic of filmmaking, is key to expressing the Transcendent, for, according to Schrader, “there is a spiritual truth that can be achieved by objectively setting objects and pictures side by side that cannot be obtained through a subjective personal or cultural approach to those objects.”
Making films and making maps (particularly deep maps) are not dissimilar, especially if we take seriously Schrader’s insistence that “although transcendental style … strives toward the ineffable and invisible, it is neither ineffable nor invisible itself.” Rather, “Transcendental style uses precise temporal means—camera angles, dialogue, editing—for predetermined transcendental ends.” In other words, making maps is like making films, in that telling visual stories is informative as well as evocative, immanent as well as transcendent, objective as well as subjective, technical as well as artistic. The question, then, is whether deep maps are about religion or (at least potentially) are religious.
- Michael Pasquier