Counter Mapping

What is counter-mapping? 

Counter-mapping is the process of creating alternative representations of space that contest and bring into picture realities that won’t be found simply when looking at maps produced by big companies.

Step by step

Step 1

Select an area around you: this can be your street, your neighborhood, your borough. Take a few sheets of paper and draw this out from memory. Don’t look at your Map app just yet! This map doesn’t have to be accurate but should represent how you remember this area. 

Step 2

In the map you’ve drawn, mark out sites of importance to you: where you played, where your friend lives, where you go to school. Ask your family for places that are important to them and ones they go to frequently (such as the grocery store etc) and mark those too. Label the streets, the parks, the highways – but with names connected to your memory of them: such as “Ankle Twist Park”; or “Loud Dog Street”. You can be as crafty as you want in marking them (use sticker papers, coloring materials, paper clips, etc.)

Step 3

Choose one thing that you’ll use your map to find: this can be a sound (such as the sound of songs from radios, or the sound of construction), it can be an object (such as security camera, or abandoned shoes), it can be a plant or an animal, or an architectural element (such as graffiti or closed gates); or people (such as the homeless, security guards, or even statues!). 

Step 4

Ask your family for permission to go out, wear a mask, maintain social distancing and walk around a part of your map and mark these. Take pictures during your walk to later add on your notes. Do this as many times as you like, choosing a different object every time. Don’t worry if your map gets messy! 

Step 5

For each object you choose, make between one to three notes on why you chose it – does it have a memory attached to it? Do you like how it looks? Did it surprise you to find it?
Make a note of how many of any of these objects you see: what does this number tell you? What does where you find them tell you? Paste your map on the card stock paper to extend the borders of your map and to make more space for your notes.

Step 6

Take a photo of your original map, and another with you holding it. Send these to a friend in the neighbourhood and ask them to find something using the map – but don’t tell them what it is you want them to find yet! Let them work it out for themselves! Tell them to add something in your map for you to find too. Do this as many times as you’d like.

The Forest Curriculum is an itinerant and nomadic platform for interdisciplinary research and mutual co-learning. It proposes to assemble a located critique of the Anthropocene via the nature cultures of zomia, the forested belt that connects South and Southeast Asia. The Forest Curriculum works with artists, researchers, indigenous organizations and thinkers, musicians, activists.

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