Dee Morris & Stephen Voyce

Counter map collection

Introduction, II: Making a Turn

Networked City
Adam Greenfield, "The Network City," 2009

The arrows that traverse Adam Greenfield’s “The Network City” not only pay homage to Debord and Jorn’s “The Naked City” but also suggest a cluster of arguments that grow increasingly persuasive as counter-mapping enters the digital age.  

William Bunge, the DGEI, & Radical Cartography

William Bunge and Robert Bordessa, “Region of Rat-Bitten Babies,” The Canadian A
William Bunge and Robert Bordessa, “Region of Rat-Bitten Babies,” The Canadian Alternative (Toronto: York University 1975), p. 326

In 1968, the year after Debord’s Society of the Spectacle appeared in print, a geographer by the name of William Bunge co-founded The Detroit Geographical Expedition and Institute with Gwendolyn Warren and, along with a group of young “ghetto residents” (Wood 166), undertook a series of experiments in radical cartography. Just as Dadaist, Surrealist, and Situationist artists had begun to experiment with maps, cartographers began to borrow from art in ways that both subtended and expanded the possibility of map-making.

Avant-Garde, III: Situationist Maps, Take Two

Guy Debord and Asger Jorn’s The Naked City (1957)
Guy Debord and Asger Jorn’s The Naked City (1957)

Situationist counter-maps are the product of drifts or dérives practiced by Guy Debord and his companions in post-World War II Paris.  Often collective rather than solitary, of no preset route or duration, and driven by intuition rather than calculation, a dérive is a ritual exorcism of the instrumental, efficient, and ratiocinative life Le Corbusier and other urban planners envisioned for post-war cities of steel-framed, glass-enclosed housing blocks; pre-fabricated, mass-produced office and manufacturing complexes; and networks of ring roads, shuttle stops, and pedestrian “circulation paths” designed to bind them together.

Avant-Garde, III: Situationist Maps, Take One

Debord and Jorn’s Guide Psychogeographique de Paris (1956)
Debord and Jorn’s Guide Psychogeographique de Paris (1956)

Embedded in the coterie journals, performances, exhibits, and spectacles that provided their contexts, Dada and Surrealist counter-maps were exemplary aesthetic documents, but their bold lettering, torqued scales, and attentiveness to contemporary events made them, at the same time, pedagogical and political.  In evoking the dynamics of nationalism, colonialism, and imperialism, Dada and Surrealist counter-maps worked to indict the attentive viewer.  Their effect, as Fredric Jameson put it in another context, was “to endow the individual subject with some new heightened sense of its place in the global system” (54). 

Avant-Garde, II: Surrealist Map of the World

surrealist map world
Anon., Le Monde au Temps des Surrealistes (The Surrealist Map of the World) (Variétés, Brussels 1929)

By the early 1920s, many of the Dadaists had moved on from their former centers of activity in Zurich, New York, Berlin, and elsewhere, while Paris had once again become a hotbed of artistic activity. The Surrealist Map of the World first appeared in a special issue of the Belgian periodical Variétés in 1929.  “Le Surréalisme en 1929” featured works by René Crevel, Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos, and André Breton alongside Belgian writers and artists Paul Nougé, E. L. T. Mesens, and others.