Week 1: Bus thoughts

I’m on the bus writing this: living in London means that I have access to so much, but it is all an hour away (the London Travel/Time paradox). This is an idle hour where I can read, sketch, think, do the cryptic crossword, email clients and submit invoices and even, yes, do a PGDip in Graphic Design.

Places and location aren’t just about how I get between them, and who I am and how I got here aren’t just separate points without connection. In some ways, I feel the connection between the four questions is just as important as the four questions themselves.

To get between places, I get the bus, run, walk, train, and the time I spend on those journeys (being about 10 waking hours of my life a week) also defines who I am.

Maps can take very different forms: political, geographical, transport, pictorial, word maps, mind maps; all are a visual representation. We often see a world map as a 2D image even though we live on a bumpy, mostly spherical ball, and our 2D projections (check out List of Map Projections) distort and stretch areas to present geographic location without breaking the image. Even spherical representations of the earth are flawed in that the Earth bulges out at the equator.

Maps don’t have to be geographically accurate either. The London tube map, as with most transit maps, distorts geographical location in able to represent the information it needs to give, lines and stations, in a clear and understandable way. The current tube map, first designed in 1933 by Henry Beck, is recognised all over the world, and designers have riffed off it and created alternatives (see londonist.com/london/maps/13-more-of-our-favourite-alternative-tube-maps)

Maps can also be between people, recalling the idea of six degrees of separation around the world. How my family, friends and work intertwine (and then untwisting them for a new friend) makes me smile.

I sew in my spare time, mostly clothes, but I have sewn world map quilts for my friends and a constellations quilt for myself. Whenever I look back on my projects it takes me back to who I was, where I was, and what I was listening to or watching when I making it. The stitches metaphorically take me back in time and create a connection with the previous forms of me.

Running is really important to me too. It’s something I tried to do in Belfast as a student, then when I worked back home and then when I moved to London, several times. It wasn’t until I had a foot injury last year, having not run for a while, and going through medical investigates that I realised how important it is to me. It gives me a sense of location that buses and other transport can’t. It means I can travel quickly and see lots of different locations and landmarks quickly, and makes me realise how close everything in London really is. It’s a way to temporarily mark my location when I go on holiday, and a way to get out of my own head because I am focussed on breathing and form.

This week’s project calls for a quadtryptich, and I will be presenting the four images in the shape of a tetrahedron, a 3D shape consisting of 4 equilateral triangles where each triangle touches the sides of the others. It will have a one side as a flap so that you can look inside to see a maze of threads connecting the faces in a red elastic. Red adds an element of the visceral body: blood, arteries, veins. The tetrahedron is my mental body, and the threads the veins, neurons and tendons between each part. Once the flap is closed, you will only be able to see the representations of me, and not the connections between them, as I feel all maps do.

I like the idea of elastic because it will create a tension between the places, and given that the base material of each triangle will probably be card, will pull and distort the structure of the tetrahedron. The maze and tension will also mean each string will have its own sonic pitch, and this is important to me as music was the first way I learnt to express myself creatively. The logo I created for my university orchestra was the first time I had used Adobe productions and the first time I thought, oh, maybe I can design.

In a dream world, I’d print one side of the map on a balloon. You know how when you get a balloon with a message, it’s all tiny and you can’t really read it? Then, when you blow it up, the Happy Birthday becomes clear. I love the thought that on a map, one point can be represented, but it never can show what it means to me: thoughts, feelings, memories. Only when you pull the rubber to expand it do you get a fuller picture. However, I’m not sure how to achieve this idea in 48 hours. Maybe I’ll learn how to break physics by the end of the course.

Today I’ll think what and how I want to include on the sides and create it tonight. I’m now at work, ready for some half-marathon training and will run past the US embassy to give a special one-finger greeting to Trump.

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