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07 NOVEMBER 2014

Songlines: How Indigenous Australians Use Music to Mark Geography

"There are many different methods of pre–literate navigation that have been documented around the world. One of the most unique, a fusion of navigation and oral mythological storytelling, originated among the indigenous peoples of Australia, who navigated their way across the land using paths called songlines or dreaming tracks. In Aboriginal mythology, a songline is a myth based around localised 'creator–beings' during the Dreaming, the indigenous Australian embodiment of the creation of the Earth. Each songline explains the route followed by the creator–being during the course of the myth. The path of each creator–being is marked in sung lyrics. One navigates across the land by repeating the words of the song or re–enacting the story through dance, which in the course of telling the story also describe the location of various landmarks on the landscape (e.g. rock formations, watering holes, rivers, trees). In some cases, the paths of the creator–beings are said to be evident from their marks on the land (petrosomatoglyphs), such as large depressions in the land which are said to be their footprints (parallels can certainly be seen in some North American First Nation creation stories).

Songlines often came in sequences, much like a symphony or album today. By singing a song cycle in the appropriate order could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior (a fact which amazed early anthropologists who were stunned by Aborigines that frequently walked across hundreds of kilometres of desert picking out tiny features along the way without error). Each group had its own set of songlines that were passed from generation to generation so that future generations would know how to navigate when in neighbouring tribes' territories. The extensive system of songlines in Australia varied in length from a few kilometres to hundreds of kilometres in length crossing through lands of many different Indigenous peoples. Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of some songlines were in different languages corresponding to the region the songline was navigating through at the time, and thus could only be fully understood by a person speaking all of the languages in the song."

(The Basement Geographer, 21 October 2010)

Fig.1 "What are song lines?" Colin Jones, lecturer in Aboriginal History, talks about his culture, his history and his art. Queensland Rural Medical Education.

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Aboriginal mythologyancestral beings • ancestral heroes • animist belief systemAustralia • Colin Jones • creation narrative • creation spirits • Creator Beingscultural memory • cultural webs of memory • dreaming (spirituality) • dreaming tracks • earth motherFirst AustraliansFirst Nations • genii loci • geographical point • Indigenous Australians • kin-grouping system • kinship • landmarkslandscapelocationmappingmarkers • mythological storytelling • navigation systemnavigational methodsoral historiesorientationorigin myth • paths • petrosomatoglyph • place • point-to-point • pre-literate navigation • pre-literate societiessequences and spatial practisessmooth space • song cycle • songlinesspatial literacyspatial narrativespiritualitysymbolic placeterritorytimeless timetopology • totemic ancestors • voice map • watering holewayfinding

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
19 SEPTEMBER 2014

New York City Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual

"In the 1960s, the New York subways were a mess, sign–wise. Station names and metro lines were spelled out in a hodgepodge of sizes, shapes, and styles. The original mosaic tiles had been joined by cut stone and terracotta–all of which clashed with newer enamel signs. They were not only inconsistent in terms of style but also in where they were placed, so straphangers didn't know where to look for directions on how to get from point A to point B.

In 1970, following the merger of the IND and BMT lines, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) hired Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda, designers at the firm Unimark, to put an end to the typographic chaos. The system they devised still informs signs made today and is painstakingly outlined in a 174–page manual"

(Belinda Lanks, 15 September 2014, Businessweek)

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1960s1970Bob Noorda • Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit • Christopher Bonanos • clashing design • communication designdestination identificationdirectional information • directions • fastidious detail • graphic communicationgraphic designer • Hamish Smyth • Helvetica • hodgepodge • inconsistencies • Independent Subway System (IND) • information design • instruction manual • International Typographic Style • Jesse Reed • Kickstarter • letter combination • manualMassimo Vignelli • merger • metro line • metro station • Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA • Michael Bierutmodern design • modernist graphics • New York City • New York City Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual • New York subway • Niko Skourtis • official font • organisation and communicationPentagram Designrationalisation • reissue • sans-serif typefacesignagesignage designsigns • spacing • spatial orientation • standards manual • straphanger • style guidesubwaysymbol system • system signage • train station • typographic chaos • typography • Unimark • wayfinding

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
12 JUNE 2014

Handwritten directions from strangers used to map Manhattan

"A map of Manhattan composed of hand–drawn maps by various New York pedestrians whom the artist asked for directions.

Pretending to be a tourist by wearing a souvenir cap and carrying a shopping bag of Century 21, a major tourist shopping place, I ask various New York pedestrians to draw a map to direct me to another location. I connect and place these small maps based on actual geography in order to make them function as parts of a larger map."

(Nobutaka Aozaki, 2012)

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2012around us • asking for directions • cartographycity maps • draw a map • geographical locationhand-drawnhand-drawn mapshand-scrawledlocation-specificManhattanmapmapmakingmappingNew YorkNew Yorker • Nobutaka Aozaki • outline drawing • pedestrian • personal cartographyphysical geographyphysical spaceplacerandomness • shopping bag • souvenir cap • spatial environments • tourist • urban mappingwayfinding

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
13 SEPTEMBER 2013

Mapping Manhattan: a public art project mapping personal experience

"Becky Cooper, a 24–year–old cartographer and writer... asked New Yorkers–and visitors–to map their own versions of Manhattan. She took to the streets, distributing 3,000 copies of a hand–printed outline of the island and encouraged participants to "map who you are or where you are; the invisible or the obvious". All copies were self–addressed and stamped so they could be mailed back to her.

Cooper says around 10% of the maps were mailed back and Mapping Manhattan features 75 of the best contributions. Some are heartbreaking (one person mapped key places in his life, from the first apartment he shared with his wife to where she later died); many invoke humour (a map of lost gloves, pictured above); some are confessions (a student who shows how she funded her studies with work at various strip joints). Some are handscrawled in biro, others are collages, and a few use watercolours."

(Vicky Baker, 15 May 2013, The Guardian)

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2009 • Adam Gopnik • around us • Becky Cooper • belongingbirocartographycity mapscultural memorydaily activitydiversity of experienceshand-drawnhand-drawn maps • hand-printed outline • hand-scrawled • heartbreaking • juxtapositionlocation-specificManhattanmapmakingmapping • Mapping Manhattan (project) • memoryNew YorkNew Yorkeroutline drawingpathpersonal cartographypersonal experienceplacepublic artqualitative descriptionsrememberingspatial narrative • strip joint • territoryurban mappingwayfinding

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
23 OCTOBER 2012

Explore Nottingham through the Sillitoe Mobile Trail iPhone 5 App

"The Alan Sillitoe Memorial Committee are launching a Mobile Trail App and Handbook–(a book with a digital heart) at Nottingham Contemporary on Saturday 27th October [2012]. ...

The mobile trail features the work of leading contemporary writers revisiting the themes and spaces of Sillitoe's Nottingham and is the culmination of our work with The Space – the experimental digital arts platform commissioned by Arts Council England in association with the BBC."

(2012 Sillitoe Trail)

Fig.1 "Sillitoe Trail Nottingham: Al Needham – Life through 21 Pubs", Published on 13 Jul 2012 by thinkamigo.

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19582012 • Al Needham • Alan Sillitoe • Ann Featherstone • appArts Council Englandaudible informationaudioaudio guideaudio storiesBBC • Billy Ivory • British Pub • contemporary writers • David Sillitoe • Derrick Buttress • digital arts • experimental digital arts platform • Frank Abbott • Goose Fair • iPhone • iPhone 5 • iPhone app • James Walker • kitchen sink realism • LeftLion Magazine • locations • Michael Eaton • mobile trail • mobile trail app • navigate • Neil Fulwood • NottinghamNottingham Contemporary • Old Market Square • Paul Fillingham • Pete Davis • pub • Raleigh Bicycle Company • Raleigh factory • River Trent • Saturday Night and Sunday Morning • Sillitoe Trail • spaceThe Space (service) • The White Horse • Thinkamigo • UKvirtual heritagevirtual tourwayfinding

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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