Even today, more than eighty years after Oort’s bold guess, we still don’t have a clue what this dark matter is made of. We know it exists. We know where it is. We have maps of its presence within and around galaxies throughout the universe. We even have stringent constraints on what it is not, but we have no clue what it is. And yes, its presence is overwhelming: for every one kilogram of ordinary matter made out of neutrons and protons and electrons, there are five kilograms of dark matter, made out of who-knows-what.
― Christophe Galfard, The Universe in Your Hand: A Journey Through Space, Time, and Beyond
Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.
Maybe we are all prospective migrants. The lines of national borders on maps are artificial constructs, as unnatural to us as they are to birds flying overhead. Our first impulse is to ignore them. If we stay where we are it is not because the instinct for migration is entirely absent from our nature, but because friends, family, home, opportunity — or fear, laws, inertia, laziness — keep us from moving. For me, as an immigrant, recognising that those already resident in the place to which I have immigrated often themselves wish to emigrate suggests a giant circle of human motion and potential motion of which I am a part.
Yin Xiuzhen is an installation artist exploring the impact of globalization and technological advances on society and the individual. The demolition and reconstruction in her native Beijing illuminate and inspire her work and help her capture the social change caused by both sudden and gradual transformations in physical space. As cities evolve, along with our ways of experiencing and navigating them, memories of the past become more distant and more precious. In China, where large numbers of rural citizens are being forced to move into new urban housing, this ache for the past is accelerated and exacerbated, but it can be found in any modern city. Xiuzhen uses her art to map these cities and the memories behind them.
Xiuzhen’s Portable Cities are three dimensional maps of actual cities made from articles of clothing and fabric modified and arranged in suitcases. We get the idea that the city is made up of the people who live and play there, not just the structures themselves. People leave their mark–just as we may spot a label, collar, or other adornment decorating these miniature cityscapes. The suitcase is a bold metaphor as well, connoting both the mobility of modern technology and its capacity for isolation. Can it be that the city is carried with us as we travel, insulating us from other experiences? There is a sense of fragility and impermanence here as well. You can see more of these clever and unusual Portable Cities in this lovely photoblog from Beautiful Decay.
I speak to maps. And sometimes they say something back to me. This is not as strange as it sounds, nor is it an unheard of thing. Before maps, the world was limitless. It was maps that gave it shape and made it seem like territory, like something that could be possessed, not just laid waste and plundered. Maps made places on the edges of the imagination seem graspable and placable.
Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.
You can’t map a sense of humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know that There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs.
― Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic