Each and every one of us in a certain part of our lives, to find our way, have used some traditional papermaps. Either to adventurously explore new places during our trips or simply not to get lost. However, nowadays people prefer to use navigation devices or mobile applications that ask of us to share our location, or most of the time we do it without even being asked so the people we share our lives with on the social platforms can know where we are. Has our quotidian walk through the streets in the city we live in lost its privacy? Does it reflect the city in the manner we live and can the path of our daily roaming be esthetically beautiful as well?
Madrid based architect and illustration artist Carlos Romo Melgar‘s automapping project Cosmographies tries to answer these questions.
-How did your relation with the maps start? What triggered you to make your first personal map?
It is difficult to mark how or when I started using or making maps, because when I was a child I spent hours at my grandmother’s house reading world atlas and planning trips. I studied architecture and I spent much time dealing with plans and maps.
I’m interested in graphic language from Early Middle Ages, so I’ve been doing research in medieval cartographic systems. I am amazed how personal their maps used to be.
I got a request from a French artist collective, which asked me to do an exhibition about inmaterial heritage. As I always make location-based projects, I thought that it would be nice to have a personal project using some medieval codes and contemporary topics.
-Why did you called the maps Cosmographies?
There are two reasons for that. Cosmography is a graphic representation for the universe made since Ptolemyon in the 2nd century, and Cosmographies were a series of transatlantic ‘travel’ maps in 16th century in Spain. I wanted to represent on a map format a personal inheritance, a personal cosmos.
-Do you believe that we would eventually get lost without a map in our lives?
Strict maps usually make people get lost, there is some orientation basis that people should have in order not to get lost. I think spatial guidance is going to change a lot in the coming years; we are walking towards improved street view (or augmented reality) systems rather than improved 2D map systems. My maps are fully personalized, I guess they are not useful to get guided through a city. I see them as a tracking system.
-Every person has his own way of experiencing the city, what’s your Madrid experience?
I see Madrid as my hometown although I wasn’t born here. I’ve been living in Madrid for nine years, and it is a very complex city. I love Madrid. It has many ways of living overlayed, and it is really nice to have such a rich experience of a city.
-If someone asks you to make his/her own Cosmographies will it be possible? What do you need to know about that specific person in order to do that?
It is possible but somewhat difficult. As it is not strictly a tracking system layed out on top of a standard map, there should be a lot of conversation before the graphic work could actually start. I’m working on some ‘on-demand’ cosmographies, and it is real hardwork. I have to know people’s experiences, the good and the bad ones. I also have to know how that person moves through the city, if they walk or take the metro, what they see, what attracts them.
-In the end aren’t your maps a personal experiment not to forget your dear memories?
I see them more as a project than an experiment. Cosmographies are a personal graphic system which I want to improve with some more maps, they are not an enclosed experience. In the different scales of the existent cosmographies, there are different kind of experiences represented. In the closest one, there are more street conversations, street memories, and in the furthest one, there are more concepts, prejudgesand judges of memories abroad. I also want to work with feelings (both emotional and organoleptic) and personal spaces, such as a house, or a park, square, etc.
-Since your Cosmographies look so beautiful, in general do you care about the aesthetic side of the data in your information design works?
Information design makes visible complex assets of data. For me, it is important to reach the emotions of the viewer through user friendly graphic systems and common language. Cosmographies are somewhere between information design and illustration, so they don’t really follow strictly how an info graphic project should be.
I don’t really care about aesthetics in the process, but I work with color palettes and geometry. Also, I care about print quality and durability during the actual realization.
-Do you have any new infographic project similar to Cosmographies in the future?
I’m working on different projects, most of them illustration. Cosmographies is an open project, so I’ll also continue to work on it. I belong to a collective called Gmn which works with information and location-based projects. We are working in two editorial projects right now for this summer, and two installations which will take place in Chile.