What is the strongest sense of â€˜placeâ€™ an artist can conceive of? What makes this word more complicated, mutable and fluid than terms such as space, site, location, or even landscape? These two highly reflective questions have guided my practice-based research as I explored the recent attempts of cultural geographers to encapsulate their multi-layered and thoroughly interdisciplinary experience of place with the methodological term â€˜deep mappingâ€™.
Framed by an unsettlingly powerful childhood encounter with the abandoned Riccarton Junction Station, remote in the Scottish Borders, (which I have defined as an unknowable â€˜experience Xâ€™) my project has examined the ways in which an artist can accommodate and move beyond deep mapping. My studio practice, which involves a quest to trigger X-like experiences, centres upon the distantly remembered and imagined sense of place that is deepened by manipulating paper maps. Alongside my practical work, my thesis offers a critical assessment of other artists whose practices might function as deep maps. I also use my father’s (a geologist) archival engagement with the dereliction of Riccarton Junction as a case study, in which alternative forms of representing a fully temporal experience of place are evaluated.
By combining studio experiments with the theory of deep mapping I have sought to demonstrate that the erasure of topographical knowledge, particularly cartographic data, generates a profoundly unstable strength of feeling that is closer to experience X than the socio-cultural enrichments promoted by geographic theorists. Consequently, the outcome of my research provides a platform for expanding the definition of deep mapping in order to encourage further participation by the visual arts community, whose diverse approaches have significant potential to reframe wider understandings of both the perception and interpretation of that complicated term â€˜placeâ€™.