In Conversation: Alice Bain, Laura Edbrook, Julia Wylie
Discussing MAP's history, its identity as a publishing platform and newly digitised archive.
Alice Bain, co-director at MAP
map mapping mapped MAP
The Penguin Dictionary (third edition 1979) definition of map: (map) n representation on flat surface of all or part of earth’s surface > PDG; similar representation of relative position of stars as seen from earth, or of the surface of other planets; off the m. inaccessible; (coll) unimportant; put on the m. make famous~ map (pres/part mapping, p/t and p/partmapped) v/t represent on a map; m. out plan in detail.
MAP, a quarterly contemporary art magazine, based in Scotland, was first published in print, in Edinburgh, on 14 February 2005.
The title: a flat surface—key lines and descriptions of art practice investigated, navigated and interpreted.
Relative positions drawn.
Some content inaccessible, off the map.
Territory, new and old, local and international, explored and mapped.
On the map—public acknowledgement, even fame for some.
Artists represented and the magazine plans in detail its future predictions and collaborations from the artistic community under scrutiny.
The internet: in 2005, still in the process of refining its global reach and influence.
map.com was taken by someone in Australia. map.co.uk was ours.i
Design created the visual starting point.ii A decorated room.
The idea to publicise and promote a Scottish art perspective internationally was achieved, but there was a sense from the beginning, that the magazine, like others before, could act as exhibiting pages for work, carry the voice of the artists in multiple.iii
The website: essential from the start, but still pioneering territory in 2005, the year of the first four issues of MAP. Following two incarnations, mapmagazine.co.uk, alongside its print sibling, was redesigned in 2010 to make ‘journeys in contemporary art’ in publishing partnership between print, online and archive. In summer 2011 the print magazine closed with a body of work gathering a story of Scottish art practice in an international context within its 25 issues. Full sets of this collection are now rare. The website remained live and in 2012, was adapted to create a renewed platform for MAP commissions, which include regular online publishing of artists’ images and writing, moving image and curated performance and research events.iv The foundations of this, the original MAP in print, remains available and attached as an online archive which continues to connect new content with past.v
Selection from the MAP archive:
Certain of Nothing: Francis Alÿs (MAP Issue #1, Spring 2005)
Ian Hamilton Finlay (MAP Issue #2, Summer 2005)
Feminism: A Question of Readership (MAP Issue #16, Winter 2008)
A Feminist Chorus
Laura Edbrook, co-director at MAP
For six years (2005-2011), in print, MAP charted the biography and careers of many Scottish and international artists. During this time the internet, of course, mushroomed into the extended real-space we now share our lives with. Along with every other print-based media, this radically altered MAP’s subject and readership as users customed the internet as a mass medium. In response, in 2012, MAP sought to digitally archive the magazine alongside launching a new pathway: an expanded model for publication encompassing material and immaterial works of art and writing, conversations and events, exhibitions and bookworks so that the project now functions as a publishing platform, archive, artist project and curatorial platform.vi
MAP, now operating as a post-internet project, works closely with artists, writers, curators and designers to stage projects of creative research and publication that collate by way of a kind of digital and physical drift.vii Recent MAP projects embody relational forms of production and circulation where meaning and inquiry is sustained and developed between a cacophony of various registers.viii A chorus of over thirty women gather and speak in the Glasgow Women’s Library: the event is documented and aired on the MAP website and the score is bound in printed form for future choruses to restage. A group of readers meet in the CCA, Glasgow: their candid conversations are undocumented but marked by the development of a corresponding events programme and reading curriculum. Substantial generosities, companionship and networks of intellectual collaboration have supported MAP to shape, and continue to shape, as platform for generative production and discourse around the conditions of creative practice. Now Claire Walsh and Suzanne van der Lingen’s ‘Footnoting the Archive’ programme invites artists, writers and curators to author and co-author, to write and citate, projects which move on-and-offline to weave together the developmental, the revisionary and the re-inscribed, the commentary, and the staged and published.ix
Selection from the MAP archive:
Sick Sick Sick
In the Shadow of the Hand
MAP Screen: Reading in the Dark
Julia Wylie, archivist at MAP
My interest in working towards making the MAP magazine archive available online was in the transformation of the tangible (the print magazine) into the intangible (the digital archive).
While working on the archive one thing that struck me was the change in movement that occurs when working with the print archive and the digital archive. We think of reading and being online as non-physical, inactive pastimes. Yet, it is more of a question of subtlety of movement. Leafing through the print archive is a physical action along the horizontal axis whereas scrolling through the digital archive involves a movement through the vertical axis.x
Archives are formed around traces, it is never possible to capture something in its entirety, we can only attempt to document it.xi Trace suggests incompleteness and sadly as with all archives there have been losses here.xii While the writing and images contained within the magazine have been transferred to the digital archive we have lost certain visual and haptic elements. The change in graphic design across the issues cannot be seen and the change in type of paper and the thickness of the magazine cannot be felt.
Selection from the MAP archive:
Record, Restore, Reconstruct? (MAP Issue #3, Autumn 2005)
Seeing Things (MAP Issue #3, Autumn 2005)
Cyprian Gaillard: Recycling the Ruins (MAP Issue #16, Winter 2008)
Images in Search of Lost Time (MAP Issue #18, Summer 2009)
i J to A: How has character of the website developed with the changing nature of the Internet from a formerly static, single location access point, to a more fluid multi-aspect omnipresence?
When MAP was set up, a website promised to be a tantalising vehicle for content. But in 2005, it was still technically difficult to grapple with. Everyone was trying to work out what it could do for this force in the process of taking over communications globally. As well as mirroring the magazine itself, from the start we were interested in publishing new content on the website, but that idea was initially linked to working with video and film. It was still the case that the magazine content was commissioned for print and copied onto the website. It was only when the print magazine no longer existed, from 2011 to date, that the website became the only site of publication for MAP and took on a new agency. It might now be impossible to imagine MAP returning as a quarterly print magazine.
ii L to A: I’m interested in the notion of a ‘visual starting point’ and how this is conceived in print—as Julia mentions; the materiality being a key concern—compared to how this is realised in a largely digital project?
Print and virtual are equally visual. We see, therefore we read, both images as well as words. The medium changes some aspects of our seeing, but not the basic sense. It is the ownership that changes from physical to shared virtual space. And of course, the technical computations that press image/word into service on page or screen, are different. Scale feels like one of the major comparitors: publishing onscreen has a giant freedom but sometimes overwhelming sense of infinity attached to its nature, whereas print has established more solid and secure limitations.
iii J to A: Do the layers of distance between the reader and the artwork play an important role, and how has this changed with the transition from print to digital?
While we tend to think of print as a static platform, it has the potential to be anything but. Printed content (though firmly located in a physical object) can be read intimately by multiple readers and its multiple copies (MAP printed between 1000 and 3000 each issue) shunted around the world in a distribution system implemented by people engaged physically in the tasks of parcelling, sorting, filing. All these tasks were carried out by members of the MAP team during the five-year print time. Each spring, summer, autumn, winter magazines were sent, not via airwaves, but by mail, delivered personally or couriered. Though a website existed, this was considered the most important act of dissemination. The outcome is the same: the gathering of an audience of many people to read, individually, published content. However, major differences, mostly to do with scale, are evident and ultimately mountain moving: physical object versus virtual interpretation, people versus machines, paying audience versus free to readers, the potential size of audience—limited in print to the print run, unlimited on the internet.
iv L to A: How might you describe the cartography of MAP’s publishing since the revised 2012 incarnation?
A process of renewed mapping and drawing. Open. Surprising. Bound to a collaged historical and regularly refreshed archive, with endless future possibilities. Contained and set but contradictorily set in a moving landscape.
v L to A: How might you describe the working structures of MAP now?
As in print, MAP’s main occupations now are to connect and disseminate, people and content. Performance has been added to the commissioning body, equally possible would alongside print, but now more resonant alongside online commission. The arterial structure however, is the same: it maintains the concept of people working together in community, individuals coming and going, all with the notion of creating contours of thought, idea and vision to be made available to others.
vi J to L: How does our interaction with intangible works effect our appreciation of the corporeal?
Shifts across digital and physical space can constitute a very material interaction. This movement allows for the reader or the viewer to become a participant, and often even part of the production. It also depends on how we conceive of something intangible—ideas, language, images, all shape a repository that works on us as much as we work on it. The notion of how we affectively engage with something immaterial, or intangible, is so unfixed—something doesn’t always have to be in our hands to feel it, or for us to be part of it—we respond because of an invested engagement whether we see it materially or not.
vii A to L: In what way does the internet/social media serve the archive?
Digital and social media presence expands the conversation and invites discourse. In their rapid and unfixed nature both serve to show thought lines and allow something that is sedimentary to be visible. Instances within and across projects get stacked up on top of one another and research and development is something that is as much as part of the end result as a final published piece.
viii J to L: Through the ‘cacophony of various registers’ how do we hear the voice of the reader?
The voice of the reader is very much a one, or many, register(s) as increasingly the role of the reader plays a significant part in the making of meaning. This voice is implicit in the development of MAP as a project as reader becomes writer and writer becomes reader and so on.
ix A to L: What makes an archive performative?
It’s a chance for the archive to act out, to become an agent in current production through a shared space—to take shape as part of MAP’s present as much as MAP’s past. A number of recent projects can be seen to be in conversation with texts published and concerns communicated up to ten years ago and this not only serves to nuance what’s happening now but it reconsiders or consummates those voices and practices and keeps them alive.
x L to J: How does the internet’s capability to capture both the past and the present in one site effect the chronology of a now digitised archive?
Navigation of a website is rarely linear, as our understanding of time has developed beyond this. The Internet exists in space-time and it is through a continuum that we interact with the digitised archive. Folksonomies allow for parallel and tangential jumps through time, tailoring our experience to our interests.
xi A to J: How has the general understanding of 'archive' been expanded in recent times, specifically in relation to artists' work and the MAP archive?
The ‘archive’ was often misunderstood as an old collection of textual documents, preserved and accessible to only a worthy chosen few. We can now understand what the ‘archive’ is through similar considerations to what is ‘art’. Everything holds the possibility of forming part of an archive, or being an archive in its own right. The archive is not stuck in the past but exists outside of time. It is curated, authoritative and inspirational in whatever form it takes, if only we take the time to consider it.
Artists’ often look to archives for inspiration, or create archives as works of art, and in doing so continue to unknowingly develop their own archive. Every recorded thought and action adds to the multiplicity of the personal archive.
The digitised MAP archive, allows us to only view one aspect, the written ideas and photographic images that formed the magazine. Our understanding of journalism and art criticism hints at the actions that enable us to read these texts and view these images, yet the process is inaccessible to us. The archive has become part of a larger whole, the website. As the website changes and grows, the archive will develop and expand, taking on a new character.
xii A to J: How does history collaborate with the archive, perhaps focusing on the idea of a 'contemporary' history of art in Scotland?
History collaborates with the archive by transforming our understanding and interpretation of it through the benefit of hindsight. Previously forgotten or discarded material now gains new significance with the growing interest in Scottish Contemporary Art. We question ideas of development, value and situation by looking to the past to help us understand the present.