[MAP Office] Asia ... is a point of arrival and departure. [D10] Numbers of buildings, starting from a checkpoint, are already welcoming visitors who want to apply for a passport and become its residents. [H06] Voices of ‘Yes, sir! No, sir!’ are heard. [J03] Those generic places with no defining characteristics apart from the smoothness of the necessary zones of frozen temporality are the antechambers of anticipation of something, somewhere, about to happen. [I04] From the surface, all Asian metropolises have a lot in common, beginning with the compulsive use of media devices, LED screens, and lights transforming the skyline into a luminescent body. [G01] Understanding the complexity of a city/territory is a difficult task, where one can lose him/herself within his/her own search and wherein the subject of this exploration can eventually also disappear. [C12]
Our naked body is our first territory. [E06] A personal atlas of the world includes one’s individual interpretation and experience. [A04] New organisations and new horizons of a personal universe are consigned to miniature representation. [E09] Finalised to the last pixel, the image idealises a territory close to perfection. [A08] Bringing attention to the smallest hidden details, it distorts a simple documentary into a complex fiction. [D02] A personal empire starts from the strength of one’s imagination and materialises in a symbolic dimension. [H09] Tools are transformed into toys and routine into ritual. [I05] The transposition requires movement from one dimension to another and is the subject of many interpretations and fantasies of the cartographer/ sculptor. [G09] How to collect? What to collect? [B06] Blind people are also travelling. [C07] Photography, found objects, encounters, and collections of any kind are the materialisation of a voyage. [C03] Adding one element after another, documentation and interpretation are achieved through the construction of a visual and performative atlas of a society in its complex sociologic, political, and psychological definitions. [K06]
Imposing their rules on the difficult sea, the Moro pirates have threatened trade and colonial aspirations. [C13] Forced and unfair trade has been commonly practiced over the last centuries, leading to the establishment of colonies. [J05] The trade of primary resources, such as cotton, wood, silk, tea, porcelain, opium, and slaves charted new maritime routes between different continents. [J04] For centuries the Southern hemisphere was seldom sailed due to a lack of maps and resulting navigation challenges. [F06] The North Pacific Ocean corridor is populated by vessels linking one side to the other. [J01] Beginning a long sea journey driven by anxiety requires a mixture of both courage and desperation. [D03] Maps are the primary instruments used to navigate oceans as well as the main managing charts for business. [J02] Dynamic geographies are defined as the way we endlessly evaluate the world around us and continuously readjust to it. [F09] Americanisation from the 60s shaped young Asia Pacific populations with the development of a mass society – mass production, mass consumption, mass media – a new pattern for a traditional society left alone to reconstruct a memory of the present into nostalgic imagery. [D09] Abandoned detritus shaped by years of war resembles pre-historic fossils populating the no-man’s land. [L02] War memorials often fail to carry the messages they are made for. [K05] The remains of America’s secret 2,756,941-ton bombing campaign during the Vietnam War, bomb craters are now peacefully scattered in the rubber plantations, left unnoticed to the foreign eye but still very present in local residents’ memories. [K08] In reminiscence of forgotten wars, the villagers and the soldiers engage in violent occupations. [D11] Marking a territory often means taking possession of it. [H07] The partition is the simplest approach to marking and emphasising differences. [L08] State symbols along the route include colour codes related to different political colours. [J07]
It is true that territories like mountains, oceans, jungles, and rivers are more populated by strange creatures than by humans. [C11] Fisherman without sea will meet them on the new land, wandering around in a mirror-like relationship. [K03] Myths, legends, fictions, stories, histories...as many narratives as possible are required to define the contours of a territory. [C08] Geography and epistemology on the road as territories on the move are amongst the best training. [B03] Everydayroutes, like going from home to work, can take on various characteristics depending where one lives. [L04] Following an oil pipeline, one eventually reaches its end and can reconstruct the world from a new perspective. [A06] The variety of mountainous landscapes has given birth to a multiplicity of languages and identities. [C10] Mountains are a location for finding deeper meaning in human life; they are often sacred, full of superstitious beliefs from various religions. [D07] The planned flood, submerging the entire valley, will gradually move the boat to the top of a mountain, where it will remain after the water is gone. [H05] Tsunamis, earthquakes, and typhoons are frequent in Asia. They are tragedies that deeply affect the population, the ecology, and the economy of a region. [I03] Along the riverbanks, forced migrants became the subject of this tragedy brushed by the artist. [D05] Water can be contained in numerous ways. [F02] A rainbow may be seen later, when the sun dares to appear. [E01]
30 metres deep under water, a collection of structures forms well-organised geometries with parallel lines, provoking the scientific world to question whether this is the ruin of an ancient Asia Pacific super-civilisation older than Egypt. [D06] The legend of a giant mermaid measuring 165 metres from head to tail landing on the beach was the foundation myth for constructing the Sea Goddess Palace Temple. [C09] Only its traces remain in the memories of its inhabitants as part of an artistic construction. [B10] Staring at the water flowing in a river makes people nostalgic. [E08] Here, villagers live their lives following the rhythm of the seasons. [A07] Their friendship remains a key to its fundamental value. [H03] The idea of a village is defined by the reality of a community as a form of social organisation. [A03] Clothes, books, kitchen tools, and toys are arranged with the same compact rational organisation as when in transit. [B01] Chinatown is a frozen territory. [B09] Day after day, month after month for several years, the artist’s blog has provided a significant picture of a society at a given moment. [F01] Deprived from its life, the house is a source of sadness but also the occasion of reconstructed memories. [I06] A house is the body occupied by our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves. [G08] ‘The home is a suitcase’ suggests another level of abstracting the concept of home. [B07] Its mobility allows thegarden to be located anywhere and everywhere, making its ubiquity possible. [B05] A community without land [E11]. Living in a sphere or a bubble is unusual as it allows for the possibility of constructing a limited world in a same way that exists for an island. [B02] Floating cities or simple cabins, they allow passengers to experience a disconnected moment of time. [C05] While displaced, war refugees tend to lose their identities, which are usually embedded within their lands. [K07] The imbrication of body and territory is never so intricate as when the flesh inscribes the contour of territorial struggles. [L05] In another approach, war takes the form of forceful resistance in order for a population to defend its right to the land, to the memory of its inheritance. [K01] An abandoned group of houses, new shells for the definition of the elsewhere, is a common situation that tends to make people’s lives part of a ghostly scenery. [B08] The first symptom of an occupation begins by laying out familiar and recognisable objects. [B04] Here and elsewhere, the need to be different, to learn from each other, is the basis of one’s identity. [E07] Un-claiming the rock, the nationalist flag is temporarily swapped by another belief in a possible reconciliation. [H01] To be well-behaved and have good manners is the basis of politeness; what is legal and illegal depends very much on the time and place of a culture. [E05]
Iconic architecture is connected by a massive infrastructure that recreates a meta-China ruled by massive capitalism. [H02] Another Babylonian tower in construction anticipates its own destruction. [G04] As this will always refer to a collective dream-like perception of the present time, it is most likely that the city of tomorrow will resemble a repeated scenario. Contrary to myth, history fluctuates in a conflicting appropriation of tangible traces and recognised facts. [C04] The staging of artificial nature is a perfect setting in which to unfold a variety of occupational scenarios: resort, golf, retirement center, prison, or military base. [K02] Palm trees, the horizon line, skyscrapers, and street scenes, the usual attributes of a tropical island, are viewed from the angle of an imminent drama. [K04] Its mountains will be erased, its buildings and bridges will collapse, its cities will be destroyed. [G10] The possibly forgotten city is disappearing within its sub-structure where the foundations are melting to the point of no return. [G05] Dark and wet, the underground is an ideal stage for detective stories or hidden bomb shelters. [G07] No sign of the once vibrant city actively dreaming to build an ‘imagined community’ after the Partition. [I01]
Islands are laboratories for building new societies but also for preserving old ones. [D04] The attraction of the complex island is embraced from one viewpoint. [G03] Disconnected from the continent, the island imposes another temporality of the everyday, an ever-interrogative place from which to question contemporaneity. [D08] A small pile of sand topped with one palm tree exists next to the gas stove, opening a new geopolitics of the household. [C02] Referring to the lost land, each image is taken on the site of a newly built wall or obstacle in the desert. [L01] The reflected image of reality would be perceived in an infinite reproduction of possible territories. [F08] Those mythic images, like the many layers of an archaeological site, have shaped our memories of this part of the world. [D01] Due to their (islands’) small dimensions, they are more subject to political shifts. [J06] A land of empty shells shining in the sun, a landscape of deliquescence where humidity reaches the climax of mugginess, the new square metre of territory is the perfect platform. [F04] Among them, Loveland is a theme park dedicated to sex exhibits, large phallus statues, stone labias, and an exhibition on the ‘masturbation cycle’ for the future health of the new couple. [E04] It is perhaps a new homeland for an unspoiled human geography. [C01]
Like the pieces of a puzzle, no territory could exist without those surrounding it. They form a network connected by the complex system of portolan, a navigational measure using triangulation. [AAA edition] Water is the earth’s biggest territory. [A05] Can we guarantee its security? [E03] What if the oceans were transformed into one giant island?
Land and sea are inverted, borders change positions, names and legends become arbitrary, topographies are replaced, and the center of gravity is shifted. [E02] Soon it disappears. [L03] Sounds from sugar lands extract sounds of the fabric of a new society. [J08] The sky is mirrored in the dormant water, accentuating this infinite dimension. [F07] It is a sign of existence and eternity placed here and there consuming any surface. [E10] A new ecology, bellowing for rebirth will eventually emerge from the dirty water. [A01] Phosphorescent polyps and fish glowing at night echo the shining stars in the sky. [F05] We all have a piece of sky [H04], before borders and other territorial constraints. [H08] Constellations are defined by groups of stars connected through lines-of-sight in permanent rotation around the earth’s axis. [F03] A globe flattened and sliced like an apple’s skin loses its three dimensionality. [I02] The projected linear man-made monument is the horizontal expansion of limitation, producing a mirror effect on either side. [L07] A bridge is a frontier between two sides of a span. [L06] Most of the contemporary and future human conflicts of the globalised world are/will be concentrated in this relatively small territory. [A02] Asia ... is everywhere and nowhere. [G02]
 Each of them ends with a code [XXX] leading to the hyper-linked page of each of the 111 territories and their classifications.
 The Atlas of Asia Art Archive is the result of a six-month artists’ residency at Asia Art Archive from February to August 2012
MAP Office is a multidisciplinary platform (Laurent Gutierrez + Valérie Portefaix), working on physical and imaginary territories using varied means of expression. This duo of artists/architects teach at the School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
- Sun, 1 Dec 2013
- Complex Geographies Mapping Asia Field Notes Issue 3