Sunday, May 12, 2013

Demonstration of the Earth's Sphericity in the 13th century
Gautier de Metz
(Eduardo Galeano - Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone)

Arab maps still showed thes outh on top and the north below, but by the thritenth century Europe had reestablished the natural order of the universe. 
     According to the rules of tha torder, dictated by God, north was up and south was down.
     The world was a body. In the norht lay the limpid countenance, eyes raised to heaven. In the south lay the musky nether parts, populated by filth and by dark beings named antipodes, the reverse image of the luminous inhabitants of the north.
     In the south, rivers ran backwards, summers were cold, day was night, and the devil was God. The sky was black, empty. All the stars had fled north.

Two years ago, I was walking from a pub in New Haven, after having shared a beer with a colleague. We were talking about cartography and the reformulation of time, space and knowing.

"What if, instead of north/south/east/west, the axis of space was red/green. What if time was simply marked by pockets of space and vice versa?"
"You must be smoking."
"No, I'm not actually."

I think, looking back, that what he couldn't believe was that I was suggesting that time and space - cartography - is not the only substance of itself. That these elements are perhaps deeper than history. I was thinking about elders who talked to me about the east being north - that the sun marked the direction of time - and the moon its habits. I was thinking about my own experience of time as seven year cycles, in which geography widened or shortened as dust, trees, hills and valleys see fit. I was thinking about my own discomfort at having to live within the confines of Imperial Cartesian planes: time and space according to colonialists and the Catholic Church - and the zero set to London. I was thinking about how entire cultures are eliminated once you have extinguished their center, their north, their language for time and their geographic space markers.  I was not, actually, smoking.  I was thinking about the process by which time gets reconfigured - shaping our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our memories, our relations to new rhythms. I was thinking about the metronome and the flattening of sound. And, how sound is color is vibration is light. And yeah: what if we understood ourselves in a whole other way? Which some of us do, in fact.

Then today, I stumbled upong Galeano's story, a small selection of a much larger collection of made up stories based on "truth". Another kind of history. Something he is really good at doing. And, I thought to myself: If it's been done before, it can be done again - right? What will time and space and the world look like 100 years from now? Where will its center be? And its edges?

Mappa Mundae (date unknown)