Overlain

In my work at the moment we are intermittently delivered Ordnance Survey maps, and they arrive wrapped in off-cut sections of map sheets.  Some are regular map sections, but a few are misprints or overlays, and they are curiously fascinating.  Of the ones I brought home with me, one is remarkable for the density of lines and text.  The layers become hard to separate; the landscapes merge.  On another a  railway cuts mindlessly through an Orkney island on its way past Aberdovey.  Motorways glide over beaches and into the sea; roads meet in improbable junctions and cliffs rise out of arable land.  Place names become strangely juxtaposed.

There’s a fascination in trying to make sense of these peculiar happenstance worlds, to pulling apart the layers and then considering again the way they are newly aligned.  Imagining the situations, in all their peculiarity.  But the real interest is in how and why the maps are so disconcerting – through having the landscape so suddenly and completely altered, the rules which govern the way we settle and record the land are exposed.  The relationships between contours and paths, waterways and settlements; each has its own rhythm and logic, without which the sense of disorientation is profound.  It shows just how strongly we read maps, and through them landscapes.