Ewen Chardronnet, born in 1971 in Quimper (France). He lives and works in Paris and Porto (Portugal).
Benjamin Cadon, born in 1974 in Orléans (France) where he lives and works.
Metamap.fr is an on-line cartographic tool that makes it possible to create subjective maps by adding multimedia content: photos, videos, sounds, texts, links, location points and paths. It is then possible to consult this data using a transverse geographical or thematic approach. In the context of the Metamap project carried out in Bangalore, we’re making a series of subjective maps to explore the complexity of the world of communication technology and the way it can influence our behaviour and sensations. Here are some of the key ideas behind ‘Bangalore: Subjective Cartography’.
There are many ways of talking about technology and its effects on human society. In the ‘culture of disenchantment’ (2) upon which industrial society is founded, adopting a rational attitude implies rejecting the principles that prevail in traditional myths, whether they be linked to a ‘magical’ approach to unexplained phenomena, an alchemistic or energetic approach to the body, a spiritual and cosmological singularity, or the power of symbols in relationships between people and their movements in the terrestrial sphere. However we can observe that the explosion of information and communication technologies and their consequences in terms of the multiplication of artificial electromagnetic waves can cause changes to occur in the psychological activities and symbolic imaginations of the people who use them.
The endless debate about whether or not to implement a ‘precaution principle’ relating to the health effects of these waves is symptomatic of a rationalist approach that implies seeking scientific validation before any political decision is made, instead of trying to move forward in harmony with science using a more subjective approach. Age-old traditions based on subjective methods where the starting point is a mental conception that raises a certain metaphysical principle from which it makes deductions, have made it possible to develop empirical knowledge on the effects of the environment on our bodies. In 1907 Henri Bergson wrote in L’évolution créatrice (3): ‘What is visible and tangible in things represents our possible action upon them’. In this sense, then, anything that enriches our perceptions with a view to acting upon reality is worthy of our attention - even if this means using subjective methods whose results are not considered to constitute proof. Subjective detection, where it is used systematically and in parallel with the results of technical measurements, leads to areas of knowledge that could not be attained via theoretical scientific exploration alone.
Globalization has accentuated the uniformization of human relations and behaviours in urban space (from the way we relate to food to our ideas and ways of life). The new infrastructures of communication technologies, artificial electromagnetic waves, noise and pollution produced by industry and human activities in general, thus become potential subjects for investigations into the most contemporary forms of psycho-social urban conditioning. The post-war sociologist Henri Lefebvre (4) accorded considerable importance to art, which he approached not as something autonomous but as the means to an aesthetic experience capable of demonstrating the unfounded nature of conventional daily ways of living. He considered the city to be at the heart of an aesthetic insurrection against the everyday. Human beings, he believed, have anthropological social needs that are neglected by theoretical approaches to the city, and in particular urban planning theories. The need for imagination is ignored by urban design, and imagination is thus absent from the facilities it produces.
The artistic work we have undertaken in India also uses a method that is empirical and autonomous. We use all the arts and technologies that enable us to define subjective maps of the city that highlight the transformations of the psycho-social urban framework, confirming and supporting, via intuitive methods, the various points of view that motivated our inquiry. We build our subjective maps by combining different methods: photography, film, and sound recording; we use home-made tools and sensors to explore the visible and invisible electromagnetic city; we make measurements by taking water from street vendors and performing DIY biological analysis (with webcams made into microscopes); we adopt psycho-geographical approaches in exploring territory, defined as the study of ‘the precise effects of the geographical environment, consciously developed or not, acting directly upon the emotional behaviour of individuals’(5); we produce expressions of personal subjectivity; and we have meetings with experts and witnesses. For example we have collected testimonials from people who complain about the fact that telephone masts have been erected near their homes. We have also met scientists from the National Centre for Biological Sciences who talked about the growing awareness of the negative influence of electromagnetic fields caused by mobile telephones (more than 10 telecom companies and as many transmitters) on the meditation of ancient sages. These ancient practices and this ancient knowledge are threatened by the ever more rapid deployment of electromagnetic technologies. All these elements have gradually enlightened our project.
Technologies that are designed to make communication more comfortable not only reflect a new social relationship between people, entirely mediated by publicity images that make the possession of these objects into a necessary condition for well-being; they also potentially suppress ancestral mediations thanks to which space became visible and tangible. We must preserve this ability to act upon things.