“Greenland’s Hand-Sized Wooden Maps Were Used for Storytelling, Not Navigation”

 

 

Left: a wooden map of the East Greenland coast, c. 1885.; Right: umiaq and kayaks, Ammassalik, East Greenland, 1908, by Th. N. Krabbe.

 

“For these seafaring people, geographic knowledge was something remembered and shared through stories and conversations of travels and hunting. “The drawing of charts and maps,” Holm wrote, “was of course quite unknown to the people of [Ammassalik], but I have often seen how clever they were as soon as they grasped the idea of our charts. A native from Sermelik, called Angmagainak, who had never had a pencil in his hand and had only once visited the East coast, drew a fine chart for me covering the whole distance from Tingmiarniut to Sermiligak, about 280 miles.” They also provided him with incredibly detailed descriptions of terrain, flora and fauna, and, in some cases, local weather patterns and lunar and solar cycles. To pass some of this knowledge on to the curious, acquisitive Holm, one hunter presented him with a set of unusual maps that have been, by turns, overlooked, discounted, misunderstood, and, eventually, admired.”

Left: a wooden map of islands off the East Greenland coast, c. 1885; Right: ice field, Ammassalik, East Greenland, 1908, by Th. N. Krabbe.

“But woodcarving was a common activity among the Tunumiit and Holm mentions that carving maps was not out of the ordinary. The Inuit people have used carvings in a certain way—to accompany stories and illustrate important information about people, places, and things. A wooden relief map, would have functioned as a storytelling device, like a drawing in the sand or snow, that could be discarded after the story was told. As geographer Robert Rundstum has noted, in Inuit tradition, the act of making a map was frequently much more important than the finished map itself. The real map always exists in one’s head. Though the maps themselves are unique, the sentiments and view of the world they represent were universal to the culture that made them.”

 

…Much more including annotated manipulatable 3-d models on this great post from Atlas Obscura.

The future, in fiction, is a metaphor.

“All fiction is metaphor. Science fiction is metaphor. What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be its use of new metaphors, drawn from certain great dominants of our contemporary life—science, all the sciences, and technology, and the relativistic and the historical outlook, among them. Space travel is one of these metaphors; so is an alternative society, an alternative biology; the future is another. The future, in fiction, is a metaphor.

A metaphor for what?

If I could have said it non-metaphorically, I would not have written all these words, this novel…”

 –  Ursula K. Le Guin, 1976 Foreword to The Left Hand of Darkness (via Nearlya)

“Stop Motion Animators Are Amazing”

“Animation is an in-depth, moment-by-moment exploration of space and time, of motion, both conscious and unconscious, of gravity, of weather, of material, of action and reaction. It asks, how does a leaf falling differ from a person falling? It looks at what I do with my hands when I’m worried, how I hold my shoulders while I’m waiting, where my eyes look when I’m sad. It asks, how do I position myself in relation to someone I love. Animators are observers and psychologists. They are actors inhabiting characters from the outside. They are physicists and engineers, first studying how things move in the real world, then figuring out how to represent that in an artificial one. How does a football bounce when it hits the ground? How does snow fall on a windy day? When you rub your eye, how long does it take to reposition itself properly in its socket? That’s one we explore in Anomalisa.

The thing I especially love about stop motion animation is that it has to figure out how to accomplish all this simulation in real space and actual time. A shirt has to be suspended in multiple positions in space as it is tossed toward a bed. How does it tumble as it’s tossed? All the different types of animators need to understand that trajectory, but only stop motion animators have to make it tumble in a real, albeit tiny room onto a real, albeit tiny bed. It has to be lit with real, albeit tiny lights. If the object tossed onto the bed is heavy enough—a suitcase, a person, for example—the bed has to react to the weight. Maybe the object has to bounce a little after it lands. How would it bounce? Straight up and down? Off at an angle? The animator must know. All this action has to be broken down into still photos, 24 of them for a second of screen time. Being involved in Anomalisa has made me more observant and more thoughtful about movement. I watch people walk and ask myself what it says about them. I watch myself fidget and ask the same questions. I notice gestures. I pay attention to the crazy movement of leaves in the breeze on the tree outside my window. I try to understand how those seemingly haphazard movements might be simplified but effectively represented. I realize we’re all moving constantly, in relation to others, unconsciously revealing our secrets, our fears, our attractions and repulsions, consciously trying to hide them, protect ourselves, make ourselves less obvious, less vulnerable.

Stop motion is an old fashioned, maybe even antiquated method of animation. And I love that about it, as well. I love that it is done by hand and that the “fingerprints” of the animators remains present in the finished film. You can see their presence in the slight chatter of clothing and hair, in the occasional awkwardness of a silicone body resisting being moved into a certain position. These are the flaws that make stop motion sing.

Lewis Hyde wrote a poem entitled “This Error is the Sign of Love” that resonates greatly with me. It begins:

This error is the sign of love,
the crack in the ice where the otters breathe,
the tear that saves a man from power,
the puff of smoke blown down the chimney one morning, and the
widower sighs and gives up his loneliness,
the lines transposed in the will so the widow must scatter
coins from the cliff instead of ashes and she marries
again, for love,
the speechlessness of lovers that forces them to leave it alone
while it sends up its first pale shoot like an onion
sprouting in the pantry,
this error is the sign of love.

As we move into an increasingly virtual society, I find solace and comfort in the hands-on, human imperfection of the stop motion process. It is to me both heartbreaking and beautiful. The imperfections of the humans who create these works make it so. And, oddly perhaps, because of this, these puppets make me feel more connected to those sweet aspects of us as human beings.”