A sign alongside the Stanley Park Seawall alerts passersby, “You are now walking on the map of the world.” Straight, crisp lines have been drawn on the curving path, tagged with lengthy numbers indicating exact latitude and longitude.
The creator of this masterpiece is Ross Kelly, a UBC art history graduate, who is working on a land art project that involves creating a 1:1 scale map of the world. Using chalk, he traces actual map gridlines on public spaces.
“What I’m asking people to do is to look at a landscape … as a map rather than what they see every day, and hopefully that might make them think a bit differently about their surroundings,” explained Kelly, who has made maps at Stanley Park and Kits Beach in Vancouver, as well as more in Windsor, Ontario. He will be revisiting the Seawall near Second Beach in early September.
“It’s like a visual stimulus to try and make people think about their environment in a different way, but I guess also how they are connected to the rest of the world and how the rest of the world is connected to them.”
Kelly’s art emphasizes the idea of an increasingly globalized world, where people in one location use technology to interact with others worldwide. “Your presence is bigger than just where you are,” said Kelly.
He hopes to spark discussion within the public, asking an open-ended question rather than making a statement. As such, viewers are left to interpret the idea from their own perspective.
Kelly also stressed that the latitude and longitude grid plays an important role in our lives, although people rarely consider it. For instance, it creates political borders, helped guide early explorers and was a European construct imposed on native lands. Kelly noted that the question he is asking is complex, and most people won’t put in the effort to answer it.
“It’s an idea that requires unpacking, but there’s a lot there if you look into it, if you actually spend the time to think about it and you’re aware of any of these side issues or historical implications or political implications. There’s a lot of ways to use this to illustrate the way the world works,” said Kelly. “The more you think about it, the more interesting it gets. But that’s the thing: it requires the effort to actually think about it.”