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How to Visualize Overlapping Territories?

28 January 2016
filed under: research

Starting a new research on the representation of overlapping territories.

If we reconsider the definition of territory as:
what on which we depend to subsist
what is limited by other territories (not necessarily by contiguous borders)
what may be represented
to what we are attached
what we are ready to defend

Can we morph traditional base maps to stop denying overlapping territories?

Watch the video of Bruno Latour’s lecture at LSE (October 2015) - and especially from 00:38:21 to know more -, and feel free to make suggestions at any kind of work (art/design/maps, etc.) that could be considered as an attempt to answer to our question.

Bruno Latour. Millenium LSE London October 2015 from AIME team on Vimeo.

You can also read this excerpt from Face à Gaïa, kindly translated by Gabriel Varela and Timothy Howles :

[...] Such is the primary import of the terms “planetary limits” and “critical zones”, concepts which, like that of the Anthropocene, were invented by scientists as they came to appreciate that the notion of limit includes law, politics, science – and maybe even religion and the arts. Everything that allows us to become sensitive to the feedback of beings. What they are reinventing with these hybrid terms is a geo-tracing activity, which only serves to remind us in the end of the old definition of geography, geology, geomorphology, that is, the writing, the inscription, the graphicalising, the processing and the inventory of a territory. Nobody can belong to a soil without this activity of tracking space, processing of plots and tracing lines, all those Greek words – nomos, graphos, morphos, logos – of the same , Géo or Gaïa.

Sadly, if there is a crisis of representation, it is not only because we’re hesitating to give a voice to the things that concern us. It’s also because our imaginations are limited by two-dimensional maps, with delimited borders, that are very useful, as we know, for “waging war (42)”, but totally insufficient if we want to grasp the geopolitics of territories in conflict. If we finally wish to have a realist vision of where we belong, we’ll need a geography of territories that are discontinuous and overlapping. Something like a geological map with its three dimensional vision, with its multiple layers embedded into one another, with its dislocations, ruptures and entanglements, the whole complexity that geologists have been able to master for the deep history of earth and rock, but which unfortunately geopolitics has not (43). We don’t know how to figure these encroachments, even though they are the only way to take up anew the question of sovereignty. The networks, alas – It’s my job to know it! – remain difficult to read (44). When we project them on to a base map , we find ourselves inside of the limits of an ancient form of cartography, without having moved much.

Geohistory needs a visualization capable of rivalling the ancient representations of geography and history, finally merged. Everything is happening as if simultaneously every limit, every border, every landmark, every encroachment, in short every loop, has to be told collectively, traced collectively, replayed and ritualised collectively. Every one of these loops records the unexpected reactions of some external agent that complicates human action. Because of this reactivity, what is meant by a “territory” is being turned upside down: it is no longer the old, well-delimited, pastoral landscape where harvests grow slowly and predictably to maturity – “Et in Arcadia ego.” The Landnahme celebrated by Carl Schmitt, far from being an “appropriation of the soil”, is rather the violent re-appropriation of all human titles by the Earth itself. It’s as if “territory” and “terror” shared a common root.

The Earthbound have to trace and retrace the loops constantly by all means at their disposal, as if the old distinctions between scientific instrumentation, the emergence of a public, political arts, and even the definition of a civic space, were in the process of disappearing. Those distinctions are far less important than this strong injunction: make sure that a loop is traceable and publicly visible, for without this we will remain blind and deprived, without a ground on which to establish ourselves (45). We would become foreigners in our own country. With such loops, it’s as if the threads of tragedy are being weaved not only by the Olympian gods of old, but by every single agency. This is the story told by the Anthropocene: a real Oedipal myth. And, unlike Oedipus, who remained blind to his deeds for so long, faced by the revelation of past mistakes we must resist the temptation to blind ourselves anew and be prepared instead to confront them directly, such that we might be able to open our eyes wide to what is coming towards us.

External Resources/Bibliography

Latour Bruno, Face à Gaïa: huit conférences sur le nouveau régime climatique, Paris, France : Les empêcheurs de penser en rond : La Découverte, 2015, 398 p.

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