Une contribution de Becky Cooper
In Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, Marco Polo regales the emperor with tales of all the fantastic cities in his kingdom: cities that smell like elephants after the rain, ones in which desire is but a memory. After hours of storytelling, Khan asks this Venetian explorer why he's talked about all these cities in his empire, but never his hometown, never Venice. Marco Polo, without missing a beat, says, "I've been doing nothing but that." Is it that every city he saw was through the lens of his hometown? Or, were all these contradictory portraits in fact Venice, just from different points of view? I loved the idea of the latter – the myriad invisible cities we all possess, the hidden emotional topography of the city that makes it impossible for anyone else to truly visit, the idea of being a stranger to your own invisible city years later – and I decided to make a literal version of Calvino's fiction about my home town. "Maps are more about their makers, than the places they describe," I declared on the back of the letterpressed maps I prepared, though "map" is a generous term for the schematic outline of Manhattan island I designed, cut with a line for Broadway, another for Houston, and a rectangle for Central Park. I walked the length of the island with a shoebox full of these blank maps, approaching strangers, as diverse as possible. I asked them to fill out the map with whatever makes this place special to them. The maps came pouring back – ones that describe Manhattan in pools of fear and relief, others that mark the island's every exit opportunity, and some that distill life's complexity into a single, perfect moment: "Met my wife." The city is a collective, lived experience. It is a compilation of simultaneous individual experiences, and it is the overlap and flow between these private worlds. It is, then, much, much more than the streets and the buildings, which serve as the blueprint onto which the emotional experience of a place graphs itself. These maps, I hope, celebrate that dynamic truth of the city.
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