By Gabrielle Allain and Catherine Poitras Auger
~to create a mark by pressing against a surface
~to cause (something) to stay in your mind or memory
A picture, a reflection in a mirror, a print: All of these are representations, and interpretations of reality. When gathering the textures, the imprinter is invited to interpret the environment. The resulting patterns cannot be the same: Different factors such as pressure of the hand, the exact place where the texture will be imprinted, and the movements of the graphite will produce a different outcome. With the exact same guidelines, an Imprinter’s Map will always end up being a unique collection of patterns and textures.
The same directions would have a slightly different outcome from person to another, since the imprinter will accidentally leave his or her fingerprints across the booklet’s pages. Like an IP address for a computer, a trace of the imprinter will be left while he or she is navigating the space in search for the right textures. Human beings are made of texture, just as the environment, and an Imprinter’s Map shows the continuity between bodies and space. This idea goes back to Henri Lefebvre, for whom bodies cannot be completely separated from the space. Jason Farman summarizes in these words: “Instead, space is constructed simultaneously with our sense of embodiment. The two are indelibly linked, never to be separated’’ (Farman, 2012, p.18). One might feel like a drop of water in an ocean, and experience humility in the process.
The imprinter gathers information about the material world, with the help of a rudimentary technology. In our digital world, one can gather information with a touch of finger. Our map is digital in a more rudimentary way, with a chalk and paper. Farman’s definition of “virtual’’ has to do with simulation in a non-physical or disconnected space. The prehistoric cave paintings of buffalos and other animals were simulations of reality for human beings 40,000 years ago. Can we call these paintings virtual animals? If we say so, then the imprinter is also creating a virtual Hall building, on paper, using the digital medium of chalk and paper.
While gathering the texture, the imprinter might experience the feeling that what she or he is doing is an act unfamiliar and strange. The objects out there in the world were not conceived for being imprinted, although some textures are deliberately designed in a certain way. The kitchen table example for Ahmed is a symbol for queer phenomenology. It is a space that is associated with cooking, but it can also be used for other purposes (for example, writing philosophy). However, spaces shape bodies through habits (Sarah Ahmed, 2006, p.14). While gathering the textures, an imprinter might encounter obstacles such as suspicious gazes of security guards, and confused witnesses. It is a social experience to follow the instructions, because they use the space in a different way than what is commonly accepted. It may be a conversation starter. It is, in itself, a phenomenological experience.
The act of imprinting also allows the imprinter eternalized impressions of places they have been, a tool to recall the sensory memories of details that construe spaces. While a building’s urban life span might end in demolishment, a person can keep a booklet of imprints and use it to revisit the memory of the building as long as they live. Artist Sophie Calle speaks of an unconventional form of art appreciation she calls “disparition,” which requires the absence of the art in it’s physical form. Calle’s method involves the actual theft or vandalism of certain artworks in order for them to disappear or die, representing the search for parallels in life, environment and memory: “Instead of just setting up contrasts between life and death, art and life, and memory and forgetting, Disparitions manages to overcome them, demonstrating the vivid conjunction of ideas, details, tastes, spaces, and emotions provoked by the works and maintained in memories of them […]In their absence, the works’ spaces are reconfigured and saved from stasis by the memories of them.” (Nigel Saint, pg. 135, 2011). The same way that Calle might take away a piece of art from a museum, the imprinter may take away an impression of an tangible space they go to. To Calle, the memory of a space holds the most weighted and mysterious value. An imprint captures this essence in a physical form and provides a sensory memory tool for the imprinter.
Of the five sense, our sense of touch may be the one we use least when experiencing the environment around us. It is fair to say that the average student who visits Concordia on a daily basis probably has never touched more than a handful of surfaces they see everyday, such as the escalator railing and bathroom door perhaps. Most people rely on visual and audio sensory information and memory to direct them where they are going; If one is lost trying to find something, one might refer to a map, a sign, or ask a personnel at the security desk. However, what were a student to do if she or he were blind? Granted, Concordia has braille numbering in the elevators, how would one find their way from place to place without visual stimuli? Most maps and signs do not have braille or audio guides. An imprinter’s map is designed indeed for a person with a visual impairment. It is a way by which a person who cannot use visual cues to follow directions, can use physical sensations to guide their paths and keep track of the places they have been. All that is needed is a pencil and a travel sized booklet, and one can forever encompass the places they have visited in a meaningful way. Imprints are both visual and physical (you can see the textures as well as touch them), and they do not require auditory information, so they can serve all people. Imprinting is more than experiencing a space: It is allowing the body to blend and fuse with it’s surroundings on a tangible, yet continuous proportion.
Anonymous. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imprint Accessed on February 9th, 2015.
Ahmed, Sara. (2006) Queer Phenomenology Ch. 1: Orientations Towards Objects, section “Inhabiting Spaces” (51-63). Durham: Duke University Press.
Farman, Jason (2012). Mobile Interface Theory Ch. 2 “Mapping and Representations of Space” (35-55) London: Routledge.
http://mobileinterfacetheory.com/ch-2/ Accessed on February 9th, 2015.
Saint, Nigel. (2011). Space and Absence in Sophie Calle’s Suite vénitienne and Disparitions. L’Esprit Créateur, 51(1): 125-138