25 March 2010

Mental Map of Lurgan

If you’re out and about you might come across a free once-off publication called The Floorsucker. It has been produced by young people living in different parts of Northern Ireland. The Floorsucker is a disparate collection of words and images but has an overall theme of promoting mental health awareness amongst the youth. It features maps of Lurgan and Bangor drawn by young residents. They say; “Maps often present an image of a place that doesn’t fit with our experience. For an alternative to Google Earth, Ordnance Survey and the rest, try these …”

Map of Lurgan, detail.

In artistic or academic circles these maps might be called mental maps. It is a fashionable term used to discuss the charting of inner experience as opposed to the outer topography. At least I hope these are mental maps, could there really be so many skulls littering Lurgan?

Map of Lurgan, detail.

I think applying “mental” to “maps” is fine activity. I do it myself. However in a brilliant short essay in The Floorsucker Fionola Merideth suggests that we should take care when applying “mental,” and words like it, to people casually. “… every time we call someone a ‘looper’ or ‘nutter’ – however lightly and jokingly – we’re buying into a discourse which ghettoises and ridicules the people who struggle with the horrible reality of mental illness on a daily basis.”

The Floorsucker is colourful and thoughtful. I was glad to see the young people involved were introduced to the idea of using maps for creative expression. The democratisation of cartography is important. We need alternatives to Google Earth, the Ordnance Survey and the rest.

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