Mapping the Unmappable

The fifth issue of Dissolve is the result of a particular collaboration: across geographic lines, through images and text travelling as electric impulses across oceans and airspace, and disseminated through two different languages. It is the result of a transnational collaboration sparked by similar interests and objectives; a constant effort to turn friendships, conversations, and ideas into relevant projects that allow us to further understand the modalities, spaces, connections, and intersections that shape our lives.

“We crucially need to map our repression, our fragmentation, and our alienation—the way in which the state does not permit us to say ‘the whole’ of our masses.”[1] - José Esteban Muñoz

  Anti-palindrome. Courtesy of Felipe Quintero Botero (2017). From Paula Mendez’ essay, The Haptic Revolution of Cartographies

Anti-palindrome. Courtesy of Felipe Quintero Botero (2017). From Paula Mendez’ essay, The Haptic Revolution of Cartographies

What are the boundaries that define our time and place in the world?

A geographical map outlines the most rudimentary of features—two-dimensional lines that denote where a mountain range begins and where a lake can be found. A national map denotes where one state or country ends and another begins. How do we maneuver around topographies of power, drawn by capitalism’s henchmen: colonialism, race, gender, heteronormativity, patriarchy, etc.? It is when we chart the peripheries—a blurry field of (dis)connections—that we begin to overturn structures of knowledge and posit alternate perceptions, putting in motion the possibility of change.

  El Espectador, December 4th, 2016. From Manuela Ochoa’s essay, When Memory Surrounded Justice

El Espectador, December 4th, 2016. From Manuela Ochoa’s essay, When Memory Surrounded Justice

History works not backwards, nor forwards, neither up nor down, but is a web of rivers flowing at different paces and in different direction. Structures of power only flow in one direction, and foreclose knowing beyond the binaries that most often define us. Cartographies all too often neglect the spaces between such dichotomies, as they are always bound by the end of the (observable) universe. How can the invisible and ephemeral be conceived of beyond our standard modes of understanding and affecting the world—how can they be understood, sensed, and conceived of outside of history’s limitations?

The contributors in this issue mark the fleeting and the unmappable, from multiple spaces of enunciation: linguistically, geographically, and ideologically. All of the following articles were either originally written in English or Spanish, and translated into the other language. This provided a way to not only expand Dissolve’s readership, but it was also a means to explore the common and uncommon spaces between two languages, and between two geographical locations. The process of translation itself has pushed us to linger in the in-between-ness of words— in the the fissures and incongruencies. This process of linguistic mapping has pushed into the peripheries of words, to seek meaning beyond their most direct and obvious application.

How have those at the margins and left off the map found a voice to signify who they are?

Halim Badawi, director of the newly established Arkhé: archivos de arte latinoamericano (Latin American Art Archives), confirms the prejudices that have excluded queer documents and ephemera from being part of official archives. The archive challenges a system that regulates our shared past by creating an archive that includes pornography, images of gay nightlife, and LGBTQ artists. The act of questioning what is considered worth preserving is echoed in Manuela Ochoa’s story of mothers as victims of the Colombian Civil War in her piece, Memory Envelops Justice, and how they mobilize popular art as a way of coming together as political agents in a state that fails to recognize their needs and desires.

  International Bambuco Trans Beauty Pageant. Courtesy of the Akrhé Foundation. From Halim Badawi’s essay, Pink memories: The Archives of LGBTQ History

International Bambuco Trans Beauty Pageant. Courtesy of the Akrhé Foundation. From Halim Badawi’s essay, Pink memories: The Archives of LGBTQ History

Paula Mendez traces similar topics, but from the perspective of an urban architect, who sees in traditional cartographies a limitation to understand our actual experience of public space. These three works come from a specific place of enunciation within the Colombian context, engaging the necessity of reimagining the plurality of conformed identities, citizens, and social space directly related to significant shifts during a 50-year-long civil war.

Moira Roth contributed two enigmatic, imaginative texts on abstract applications of map making, describing the appearance of astronomical phenomena and the paths of sleeping minds. Both are taken from her project The Library of Maps, presented in conjunction with Joanne Easton’s new work: an art object and book in which Easton threads together telescopic images of deep space, cycles of growth and regeneration, and paradoxical combinations of seemingly unrelated structures.

Kylie White charts the landscape as both an artist and as a geologist. As an artist, she draws in what digital mapping fails to capture—the sterility of its precision making it blind to the ephemeral quality of the atmosphere, for example—while the geologist’s obsession with the earth’s material lineage deepens her relationship to the natural world. By tracing the limits of geology, as one “cannot draw the clouds,” she begins to collapse the fields of geology and art, expanding the potential of each practice in the process.

For our cover, Paula Morales created a video in which she explores the theme of the exchange between San Francisco and Bogotá, using her glitched-realities aesthetics. Her work explores migratory patterns and their connections to digital and material space, exploring research on animals, people, and cultures through uncanny digital landscapes. Her artwork speaks directly to the themes we propose in this issue, visually tying together the multiple narratives that flowed back and forth during the editorial process.

Ultimately this issue attempts to trace spaces that contest the oppressive landscapes in which reality is portrayed and understood. Art, maps, texts, photographs, and films contain this potential, always poised to be contested, (re)interpreted, changed, and (re)signified. It is only when we foreclose the possibility of seeing something else, when we allow the proverbial ink to dry on the map, that we fail to see the horizon.


  1. Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York University Press, 2009. 55  ↩


Juan Pablo Pacheco is an artist, curator and researcher based in Bogotá Colombia. His work generated reflections on the archive, memory, and the materiality of digital space. He obtained his BA in Film and Cultural Stuies from Connecticut College, and received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. He has devleoped research, artistic and cultural projects in the United States, Senegal, France, Spain and Colombia. He is currently a professor of visual arts at the Xavierian University of Bogotá, and he is the coordinator of Plataforma Bogotá, an interactive media lab on art, science and technology..

Harper Brokaw-Falbo is a writer and cultural producer working at the intersection of Art History and Urban Theory, and a co-founder of Dissolve. She recently completed the Whitney Indepdent Study Program in New York as a Helena Rubinstein Fellow in Critical Studies. She holds a BA in Art History from the University of Oregon, and an MA in the History and Theory of Contemporary Art from the San Francisco Art Institute.