Mobility Horizons


I’ve been working on ways of mapping infrastructure as “ready-to-hand”. Instead of registering the hardware of the infrastructure, I want to register it in terms of its use. At the moment I’m playing with Stefan Wehrmeyer’s Mapnificent  tool, which uses public transport data (in Auckland’s case from MAXX) to estimate how far you can get in a given time window. The tool exports in GeoJSON, which I’m then compiling using QGIS. A few things I’ve noticed: the initial walking circle is drawn without any knowledge of barriers to mobility (it’s happy to let you walk on water and through buildings). Secondly, there are large parts of the site where you’re more than ten minutes from a connection to public transport, so your mobility horizon is set solely by how far you can walk. Thirdly, bus stops and train stations are attractors — from a number of locations you can end up at these points, so they appear darker. Given the intensity of the road and rail infrastructure here, it’s odd to see how disconnected from the network you can be. I’m going to try cleaning this up a bit.

On Basket Weaving

Tim Ingold, in an essay “On Weaving a Basket” suggests that all making be thought of as a kind of weaving. He bases this on observing the way that basket-weaving proceeds very differently to something like making a clay pot. Making a clay pot apparently involves the application of form to a material matrix. The clay is at first shapeless, and more-or-less homogenous. The potter then shapes the clay, as if applying a pattern. The concepts of form and matter that derive from this model of making were particularly influential amongst ancient Greek philosophers, for whom sculpture was the archetypal art. We inherit these concepts of form and matter from this quite specific idea of a specific kind of making.

Ingold, however, asks us to pay attention to a different kind of making. Baskets are made of long flexible sticks, and are far less easy to shape. The weaver begins with a spiral, or a number of interlocking spirals, and the basket slowly develops in her hands. The idea of a form applied doesn’t fit well with this scenario, and Ingold suggests that what it resembles more than anything else is something growing. At any point in the basket’s production, the weaver doesn’t have anything like a free hand. The next move is not completely predetermined, but it’s highly constrained—by the nature of the material, and the structural necessity of the over-under movement. With skill, the shape of the basket can be manouevred through adjusting the tension of the strands, and by inserting or ending strands. The basket arrives as a highly formed object—there is no question of the basket having made itself, or happening accidentally—but the role of the basket-weaver is not that of the ancient Greek sculptor.

Ingold claims that to understand making properly, we need to dispense with the picture of making as form-application, and see making in general as having the character of weaving: as a process that unfolds, in which all the previous states of the thing being made exert constraints and pressures on it’s current and future states. The maker’s action is managing an unfolding growth, rather than reifying a pre-existing idea of form.

On Frascari’s Gut-Reactions

Frascari’s first exercise is to draw “a sequence of building details” using only “liquids, pastes, juices of powders that you normally eat, drink or use to spice and flavor your food” and various nibs and brushes. The objective is to cast specific attention onto the materiality of drawing.

Drawing, he believes, isn’t abstract or disembodied—it’s essential to recognise the various textures, smells, pressures, smudges, weights, consistencies and movements involved. This is deliberately at odds with the idea that drawing is a simple representation, a transparent code that describes something that exists or is intended to exist somewhere else. In the case of a set of construction documents, all parties agree that the lines and markings will be read as narrowly as possible, according to a set of prescriptive codes. In this case, lots of things are ignored about the drawing. The contractor’s set may become stained, torn, annotated, or photocopied, but this isn’t important, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the transmission of the required coded information. But the kind of drawing Frascari is advocating isn’t really about clean information-transmission over a pre-formatted channel. The drawing is a place where codes can be treated malleably and content not simply carried but devised. In fact, the distinction between the format and the content isn’t always clear.

By drawing with food, the embodiment of the drawer and the drawing are foregrounded. The marks and lines on the paper carry fragrant and gustatory cues. Attention is drawn to the material qualities of the drawing, and the gut-reactions of the drawer. Frascari’s strategy for escaping the reduction of drawing to information-transmission is to engage the body and it’s tacit knowledge. It’s precisely the point that drawing with wine, paprika and egg-white is unnecessary for effective drawn communication—the exercise invites drawing to be something other than  merely semiotic.