The Cartographer Tries to Map her Way to Deptford

A woven canopy hangs above the heads of diners at Deli X. Although apparently abstract, the lines and knots map out the location of power networks in Deptford, stretching from the Thames to New Cross Road. At dusk as darkness creeps over the courtyard, a network of glow-in-the-dark fishing-floats glimmer in the web. This network matches up with the location of constellations above the courtyard at the end of September.

The net is woven using macramé, a technique of making textiles through knotting rope and a crude form of lacework. Macramé has a history intertwined with notions of trade and travel – invented by caravan traders to keep flies off their camels, it was later spread by sailors who wove nets and hammocks in spare hours on board – later trading them on shore. This material history relates to aspects of Deptford’s maritime, outward-facing heritage.

The public intellectual Charles Leadbeater believes that cities are made up of systems and empathy. The woven canopy appears to link the intricate and pragmatic messiness of what lies beneath our feet with eternal astral movements above. Do systems serve us, or do we serve the System? Is the canopy a shelter, or a netted cage?

“You’re part of a system that is wondrous and on which you depend…for most religions, it’s not about trying to control the world, but seeing that you are dependent, part of a bigger system…” 

– Neil MacGregor on Living With the Gods

Notes

During June 2017, I took part in the British Council’s fellowship programme in Venice. During this period of research I chose to learn macramé weaving, a technique of making textiles through knotting rope, as a means of mapmaking that is more equivocal, capricious and unstable than traditional cartography. Read an interview with me on the British Council blog here.

The project is presented as part of Deptford X Fringe, a contemporary visual arts festival taking place since 1998 in galleries, shops, streets, and public and private spaces within a mile of Deptford Station.

The title of the piece refers to the 2014 Forward Prize-winning collection of poems by Kei Miller, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, in which a Cartographer and a Rastafarian dispute the properties and capabilities of mapmaking in asserting control over territory.