RVW | Other Maps Are Such Shapes
An exhibition exploring measurement and mapmaking
Other Maps Are Such Shapes
By Laura DeVito, MFA CD ’13
The Littman Gallery’s exhibition Other Maps Are Such Shapes was a mix of grids, measurements, and representations of human perspective. A handout accompanying the exhibition noted that, “During translation things are lost, or understood. The map is 1 to 1. The ruler is personal. The idea is made concrete. The region erased. Color becomes sound.” But what does it mean for a map to be 1 to 1? Does this reference the thinly veiled truth that a map is not a fact at all, but rather a man-made representation? That each attempt to portray experience on a map will always be a lie, regardless of how “factual” the data used to make it? These are some of the questions which seem to be at the heart of the six artists’ works on display in the Littman Gallery.
Matt Hilgar’s 60 bricks, traffic accident investigators stencil, gaol, untitled (frame) seems to examine life changes and how humans react to them. I was immediately reminded of a photo I took while living in China of a patched-up wall. Both images explore the ways in which humans decide to interact with a given context, be it another culture, or what appears to be a typical Portland sidewalk.
Sean Schumacher draws inspiration from the history of urban planning in Portland. The artist “…mapped the site of what was intended to be the city’s first permanent structure—a small shanty situated at the northernmost edge of the grid—and reprinted the landscape at its actual scale, representing the place that is itself the last piece of evidence of the lost map as its own map.”  This indication of otherwise “lost” information is an interesting way to instill a sense of place within Portland’s past.
The texture of Perry Doane’s archival ink-jet prints is revealed by illumination from a low standing podium. The exhibition handout suggested that the work “examines methods of processing visual stimuli in relation to the American institution.” The reference to visual stimuli was clear, with repeating motifs in varying sizes and types. The concept of “the American Institution,” however, seems at best too subtly addressed, and at worst completely unclear.
Stephanie Simek’s Untitled (Musical Sweater for the Blue Whale) was an actual digital sweater that if somehow could be worn, would fit a blue whale. Each pixel of this woven digital textile makes music as well. 
Last but not least is Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen’s work, which focused on how “knowledge moves through bodies and discourse,” through Object Stories. The Object Stories are compilations of objects set in a frame, and the photos of these framed objects are printed on archival inkjet print. One piece depicted guns and a mask along with other objects, while another work featured bread and various wooden tools. A third was quite sparse, featuring only a stick and a rock.
Each artist in the exhibition explored the idea of measurement in his or her work. As humans, we collect. We are averse to the idea of loss, and constantly keep tabs on who has what, how much, and for how long. The human who had and knew the most would survive. Today, our tendency to collect and count remains, transmuted to a culture of excess. What remains once everything has been measured?
1. Website of Sean Schumacher. http://stuff.seanschumacher.com/post/49194393127/an-unexplored-region-is-now-up-on-my-site.↩