Think about a map. Think about how many times you consult a map, or use GPS, or depend on a landmark to find your way. Maps give us direction and put locations in context, emphasizing certain things more than others—usually transit routes or major tourist attractions. We could even say that maps are representations of a collective reality: in some ways, maps create the places they mean to represent. A map of a city, in other words, becomes the city. Take a look at any standard map of your home city. What do you see in that constructed city, and what is left invisible?
To make a map, one must oversimplify; things are by necessity left out in the process. Most traditional maps, in their quest for objectivity or scientific exactitude, sacrifice representing the lived, sensory experience of a place—an inevitably subjective experience. Recently, there has been a push to create maps that capture this sensory experience, prioritizing emotions over science. Radical and affective cartographies are those that subvert the traditional conventions of cartography and place importance on subjective descriptors to create maps that are not meant to be objective, but are meant to show a specific quality of a place during a specific time.
This alternate cartography was the aim for students in Dale Hudson’s Fall 2012 class, “Maps.” Students mapped the city according to subjective considerations, in an attempt to give Abu Dhabi more meaning—to transform it into a “place” rather than just a “space.” Unlike mere “spaces,” a “place” has personal, subjective meaning, because it is tied to the memory of a sensory or emotional experience. A map depicting “place” therefore aims to tell a story, and to transfer the memories of the cartographer to the map user. Like Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, in which the author compiles several seemingly disparate descriptions of imagined “invisible cities” that ultimately serve to describe his home city, Venice, these maps are an attempt to expose some of the “invisible cities” that exist in Abu Dhabi—representations that together help to give a more varied collage of perspectives on the city, instead of just the one you’d find in a tourist map.
The maps that we will present in this series examine such different locales as fish markets, the restaurants, parks, and churches. All attempt to capture a fleeting, individual experience, and in doing so make an argument about some aspect of Abu Dhabi not necessarily considered in “official” maps.
In Part 1, we present maps of the fish market at Al Mina Port and the restaurants inside an Electra Street superblock. (Click on a map to enlarge it.)
THE FISH MARKET, AL MINA PORT (BY TYPE OF FISH)
THE FISH MARKET, AL MINA PORT (BY TYPE OF COUNTRY OF ORIGIN)
[Maps by Corey Meyer, Robert Moroch, and Anthony Murray, Nam Nguyen]
RESTAURANTS AND CAFES IN THE SAMA SUPER BLOCK
[Map by Alberto Manca, Rory McDougall, Haley Smith, and Luka Vasilj]