Red Leaf Maple, 2003

Red Leaf Maple, 2003

Mappa Mundi, 2018

Mappa Mundi, 2018


The great challenge of our time is to build and nurture sustainable communities.
    —Artists play a major role in forming a city’s cultural vision and future.

Topologies is a studio/theory seminar providing critical thought within the broad range of cartographic possibilities topologies suggests. While inquiring first into the historical forms of pictographs or picture writing, the course moves quickly into the complex territory of contemporary issues —namely the varied structures of topologies, their possible groupings, subsets, distortions or transformations. Given the speed of current (radical) social, economic, environmental and technological change, if we are aware of our individual patterns, how may we as citizens effectively contribute to the quality of future global community life?

With an emphasis on research and personal mapping, students guide their work by tuning the reciprocal exchange and relative scale between “listening in” and “looking out.” Course praxis, employing any visual media, is based on (de)scribing experiential representations of interior and exterior places and spaces. These environments may include natural/manmade places or imagined/symbolic representations of the world. The influence modes of transportation have (i.e., walking, taking the bus or train) must also be accounted for as velocity and systems of movement impact perception and cognition.

Since maps are miniature in scale (a scale that relates to the human body), maps inherently become stand-in-sites for referencing the physical and psychological spaces we inhabit and navigate. By exploring a city on foot, without an official map, physical experiences are relayed and amplified throughout the body. Often evoking associative memories and desires, sensations coalesce and preparing a sensitive film-like substance where feelings and perceptions merge. These subjective representations can then be (re) imagined, openly questioning: How do we navigate and potentially transform the terrain and conditions of specific places in which we define ourselves as passing through, belonging to or departing from?


A range of topological map forms and short assignments initiate the process for locating and collecting fragments, tracks and traces. Final projects engage and enlarge intrinsic qualities found within complex, organic, biological, non-linear and self-making systems, which (re) cycle or (re) generate over time. Three required texts* and a comprehensive reader provide topical insight to support transdisciplinary dimensions/perspectives.

*Fritjof Capra's Web of Life, Calvino's Invisible Cities, Guattari and Deleuze Rhizomes.


topologies was first offered as an interdisciplinary seminar at the san francisco art institute © 2002