(October 26th, 2018)
Maps, a few hanging on the walls. Some homemade and some much more official. A few years back, at the local neighborhood bookstore in a sleepy college town, I found a book of maps and old archaeological digs. It was the tale of the intricate trinkets found of a previously unearthed society, older than the more well-known post-inhabitants of the region. I was a bit shocked to find such things about a place I had grown up in, a place that I considered to know quite well. This past brought me closer to the location and helped me see and understand it in a new way. You could take a walk and still see the archaeological dig pits from the study, slowing filling back in after all these years.
Years before that - A good friend, who I grew up with, midst our conversations, we discovered that they had never been to one of these unique places, just 5 minutes from where we had spent most of lives. We visited shortly thereafter. Today, with the advent of social media, cell phones, and media shared instantaneously – I wonder if my friend would have found out sooner of such places.
Maps. Nowadays, usually if you hear of maps, one may think of boundaries, borders, states, nations, and oceans. Lines on a map. But what about a more anarchistic approach to the idea of maps, origins, and space? The anarchist tradition is richly steeped in geographers and related fields. The anarchist geographer of Elisee Reclus during the late 1800s, who also has a volcano named after them in Chile. From the decentralism of Petor Kropotkin during the same time period to the ideas around the 1960s of The Situations behind the dérive, or an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, in which participants drop their everyday relations and “let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrian and the encounters they find there.”
In the 1970s British architect and creative proponent of curious uses of space Colin Ward. To the late 1980s and 90s temporary autonomous zones of Hakim Bey. All the way up to today, with two popular anarchist geographers being Simon Springer, who recently authored the book, “The Anarchist Roots of Geography” and Alexander Reid Ross, a geography professor who also authored the book, “Against the Fascist Creep”. There is a cornucopia of popular examples of anarchists and their friends taking the ideas of geography and bringing them into the streets: the Freetown Christiania in Denmark, the Zapatistas of southern Mexico, La ZAD in France, Hambacher Forest in Germany, and Rojava and the Afrin region in Syria, to name only but a few of the more commonly known.
Close to home, one aspect of anarchist strategy I would like to see make a comeback are the ideas associated with the board idea of map making. Take for example, the Surveillance Camera Players, a group who used pranks or diverting bland or oppressive materials for subversive purposes. Bill “Not Bored” Brown, while not the best anarchist role model, had projects that mapped the surveillance cameras of popular neighborhoods way before the Internet 2.0 came along. There has to be some kind of app or something anarchists can design that would make it so easy to map these kind of things for other anarchists and our friends. This seems like a project that needs to make a comeback.
While the exact article’s name escapes me, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed – during their more regular publishing escapades had a call-up of sorts to research the finer points of one’s location, with an excellent follow up article about the west coast. Alternative guides or disinformation guides from anarchists have recently been published at some USA universities, for new and returning students and those living in the area – think Pittsburgh.
It’s an exploration into do it yourself map making. The special locations like best skate spots, places of interest of historical note for anarchists, like graves, the old haunts of Emma Goldman, or other hangouts for travelers and those seeking (fill in the blank). Escape maps from your anarchist neighborhood, best places to take a nap under the trees, and bringing your everyday life further outside the reaches of capitalism.
It’s alright. We’re on a road to nowhere.