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Maps colour our perception of the world and ourselves

My old friend and colleague, the sculptor Gareth Jones, came to stay for a few days last week, on a rare return to the UK from his home in Providence, Rhode Island.Although there are often up to 18-month gaps between our meetings, the conversation, aided by interim transatlantic phone calls, always picks up as though we frequently shared drinks and food.

In the course of a good Pauillac, the subject of life drawing came up and Gareth related one of his early works concerning this subject.

He explained how he traced a model when she was rolled in tracing paper.He literally mapped the main features of the body onto a two-dimensional model, which, when unrolled, became an image of the body as a Mercator-type projection of the planet earth.

More recently, one of the students at the Slade discovered that when you place sticky tape on the skin and peel it off, a print of the skin is left embedded on the film.She then taped up her whole body with 35mm tape, removed it and fixed it to a 35mm clear movie film.The result, when projected, was indeed a new type of close-scrutiny map.Of course, the marks and blemishes are difficult to read, but what interests me in both areas is that they represent an act of exploration or enquiring that allows us to view ourselves in a new and exciting way.The challenging images interact with our sense of logic, allowing us to see the world differently.

The way we map tends to colour our perception of our environment.Personally, I can spend hours staring at maps, but most of the time they are places I do not know. It is possible to build up complete images of a place in your head, which at some point in the future can be compared with the reality.Very often, though, between staring and actually visiting, things have changed, throwing your old map into a new category on the bookshelf, as it is filed under 'archival perspective'.

The possibility of mapping time and movement interests me.The usual Ordnance maps are a snapshot of time and do not reveal easily hidden secrets regarding the movement of people. I know from first-hand experience that many of our seaside resorts are full of the aged, who tend to retire to the place they associate with happy holidays.

They buy the retirement home of their dreams quickly to discover that they have no friends and their friends from their former hometown tend not to visit as often as they promised.One of the couple soon dies, followed by the other from a broken heart.As a consequence, there is a significant turnover of bungalows and more crematoria in these areas than normal. I would like to stare at a map that showed the migration of retirees.

As far as I know, there is no mapped information available on the annual movement of the people who travel in convoys in 'Airstream'mobile homes. It would be fascinating to know what places and what mileage these Geriatrics At Play (GAP) do on their endless gap years.An atlas of how people spend their time would change our perception of the idea of city, country, roads and future need.More importantly, it might change our ideas on housing provision in terms of its desirable lifespan, and allow builders and councils to focus on homes as projects that would sustain the elderly people's interests by helping to modify heavily or create their retirement homes.

Their friends would certainly visit because change makes compulsive viewing.

Gareth's map of the female form reveals new perceptions on the figure.Time and movement in maps gives us new insights into possibilities.

WA , Room 106, Noga Hilton, Cannes

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