Mis-guide: An Imprinter’s Map to Concordia University’s Hall Building

By Gabrielle Allain and Catherine Poitras Auger

Imprinter [Im-print-ter]~
~to create a mark by pressing against a surface
~to cause (something) to stay in your mind or memory
(Merriam-Webster dictionary)

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.
Farman, Jason.

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

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4 comments

  1. We had selected The Imprinter’s Guide, to sample and review. The purpose of this mis-guide was to follow the instructions provided, and visit the ten different spaces on the list. Upon reaching the destinations, we were instructed to use a writing utensil to “etch” the surface of each location. As required, we recorded our feelings when visiting each location. Here were the results:

    1. Its cold and windy out so we feel frustrated because the paper is flapping everywhere and there’s snow around the base of the tree so it’s difficult to maneuver ourselves in order to do the etching. There’s a man in a car watching so we also feel like crazy people doing this task.
    2. Our marker is almost dead so its a bit tedious doing this imprint. We’re still a bit frustrated but glad to be warm inside again without the problems the weather caused outside.
    3. We don’t have any sense of direction in terms of north, south, etc. So we just picked a random locker and feel silly making an imprint because its smooth metal so the imprint is just flat.
    4. We’re much more at ease doing this one because we are alone where no one can see us in the staircase so we don’t feel as silly.
    5. Went into the office and there were 6 or 7 people working who were surprised to see us there on a Sunday night looking for a speaker phone.. Feeling pretty awkward and silly about that one.
    6. Feeling annoyed and hot.
    7. Losing patience especially because this wasn’t easy to find.
    8. This locker has the same texture as the one from be for so we’re feeling like this is useless.
    9. Wishing we didn’t have a coat on for this because we’re really hot and grumpy and it is eerily quiet here alone at night.
    10. Glad to be done. Because we’re in this environment so much that we found this redundant.

    Unfortunately, the mis-guide does not take into account the potential degree of, or in our case, lack of knowledge in regards to orienting. We were very unfamiliar with which direction was north, south, and so on. Throughout the venture, we felt as if the creators did not take into account the current weather conditions, or difficulty in finding some of the destinations. Later on though, when reflecting, we realized that these two aspects were a couple of the factors that made the mis-guide more realistic, in the sense of obtaining the true Concordia experience. Yes, it was cold while etching the tree outside the Hall building, but enduring the cold is something that Concordia students who wait for the shuttle bus at that destination each day. The same point is relative in regards to the difficulty of finding certain spaces. Sometimes classes, vending machines, and offices are difficult to find, and the frustration associated with being lost is a feeling that students feel each day.
    In regards to the etches required, we did not feel as if etching the spaces’ surfaces provided us with further insight into the selected spots. Although it was a very interesting idea, allowing us look at a different aspect of spaces; their surfaces, we did not feel as if we learned much about the places themselves by performing this task.
    Lastly, note to future users of said mis-guide: BRING EXTRA WRITING UTENSILS!

    -Nick & Dori

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! You didn’t know where was north/south etc.? We should have written North: towards Sherbrooke, South: towards Maisonneuve, West: Makay. I thought we did. 😦 And we meant the tree INSIDE the hall, not outside!! We did not wanted you guys to freeze! I am very sorry it didn’t worked out. Our initial plan was to have some kind of chalk, we should have had that instead… and the speakerphone was outside The Link’s office, on the left. We definitely should have provided more details, or even an actual map of the building. Apologize!!!

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      1. No apology necessary! Our lack of orienting skills and time spent outside definitely made the entire experience authentic. I’ve waited at that spot for the bus so many times in the cold, and gotten lost looking for rooms plenty haha. Great job! Didn’t let me post the Pictures here, so we’ll show you in class (y)

        Liked by 1 person

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