Drawing Directions In an Age of the Ready-made Map

Rebecca Noone

In the early 1960s, artist Stanley Brouwn stood on a street corner in Amsterdam and asked people for directions. ‘Could you draw that out for me?’

Now, in the age of Google Maps and the always-locating app, I tried a similar exercise. I wandered around Toronto, CA, St. Louis, USA and Brighton, UK, and asked for directions to different places. ‘Could you draw that out for me?’

These disappearing events – flashes of a somewhat familiar encounter - may be considered an inconsequential moment of helpful pleasantries, resulting in a meandering collection of decontextualized sketches. But, these moments of spontaneaous drawing serve a more urgent purpose: to interrupt the ubiquity of the Google Map - that banal navigator and administer of space. Instead, what we see are the imaginative possibilities of how we draw routes, highlight landmarks, delineate shortcuts, reorient perspectives, disregard scales, and trace memories.

Here are some lines to help you get from here to there.

How to get from here to there

head north
hang a right
go through
go past
all the way down
keep going
take exit
cross over

a couple of blocks
follow the signs
continue on
around the roundabout
there will be a stop
just after

you’ll be on it for a while
under the overpass
beyond the light
that way
slight left

get off
stay in the lane
right to the end

you’ll see it.

Rebecca Noone, The Directions I Collected, 2017. Pen on Paper.  Permission of the Artist.

Rebecca Noone, The Directions I Collected, 2017, Pen on Paper. Permission of the Artist.

Rebecca Noone is a Canadian artist and a PhD student at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. Her work takes on the concept of the active-archive- that act of intervening in the everyday to collect situations and moods and thoughts that go past unnoticed; particularly, those banal futilities and the muted hopes implicit in our everyday encounters and interactions with information, systems, and technologies. In her work, Noone has asked theoretical physicists how they cope with the mundane, compiled maps of hand-drawn directions collected from helpful passers-by, archived detritus in demolition-slated homes, built an interactive library cataloguing/ poetry generating system, and bartered off the periodic table of elements at art shows. Noone has presented her work at academic conferences, art residencies, and project spaces in Canada, the USA, and Europe. Some venues include: the International Visual Methodolgies Conference 2015 (Brighton, UK); the 2014 iConference (Berlin, GR); NES Art Residency (Skagaströnd, Iceland); the Luminary Art Residency (St. Louis, MO); the Elsewhere Residency (Greensboro, NC); YTB Gallery (Toronto, ON); and the WRECK CITY Project (Calgary, AB).