project by Alessandro Carboni

Mappings for Hidden Geographies is a site-specific interdisciplinary mapping project. The project took place as part of Extreme Environment Project: Vietnam Tu Lan Caves Expedition. Along 35 km journey, Alessandro applied em:toolkit, his mapping tool for performance – to extract environmental data using embodiment performance practice. The project, presented by School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, has been displayed in the exhibition Fade to Black Extreme Environments: The Vietnam Caves. 03 – 13 June 2015, The Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre, City University of Hong Kong.
Production: Formati Sensibili 2015

Mappings for Hidden Geographies
Alessandro CARBONI
(delivered as text for the exhibition catalogue)

“Who needs to know my location? Strangers do, outsiders, others. Location is always about others. It’s about me to them. It’s about them to me. It’s about them to each other.”
(Denis Wood, A Place Off the Map: The Case for a Non-Map-based Place Title, 2011)

Where am I? I am still and motionless. My body is crouched, I am on my knees. Silence. I listen to the space around me: the sound of the underground river overlaps with the drops that fall next to me, one after the other. The air is dense and moist. A musty smell penetrates my nostrils. I see a distant light in the darkness between the walls. Maybe it belongs to one of us, who slowly walk between the rocks. I remain motionless. I am somewhere in the world. I am in a cave between the north and south of Vietnam. I do not care to know where I am, there is no map for these places. I am in a place off the map. There is no precise location, only my temporary position. I have no reference around me. There is only my body, waiting to move in the dark. I light the lamp placed on my head. I try to find a path, a way to reposition myself in the space. I cannot find one.

I decide to use my senses. I touch the walls. I listen to my steps that generate the echo in the spaces. The lamp illuminates some portions of the wall. I see small shining drops ooze from the wet stones. They are streaked, jagged, slippery. I observe the morphology of the rocks, their conformation is similar to anatomical folds. The walls are smooth, soft, like the folds of the skin of a body. I begin to walk. I measure the distances between the rocks using my body as a measurement unit. I analyze the distances between the shadows and the tunnels that penetrate the walls. I walk, I stop, I observe, I analyze: whenever I find in the rock a form similar to my body, I position myself in it. Step by step, placing my body between the folds, each action becomes a measurement of space.

My body and the rock become the same thing: a hybrid anatomical texture, similar to an ancient fossil. One after another, my positions become an archive of places. My body becomes the tool to create a subjective map of the cave. Where am I? Silence. Darkness around me. I look at my body. The lamp lights the scrapes on my arms. Lines and bruises, blemishes and cuts are etched into my skin as the marks left by my measurements. I assemble these signs, turning them into a map inscribed on my body. Each action is extracted, kept and reenacted: somewhere else (1).

“Who needs to know my location?” No one. My place is my body. Where I am, here, is not the same thing as my location. My body is the map of a hidden geography.

(1): The actions in the caves have been generated applying em:toolkit, a mapping tool for performance practices, designed by Alessandro Carboni

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