Decolonial Mapping Toolkit
Faultlining New York, presented by Frontview and the Decolonial Mapping Front, is a series of participatory walks proposed as an experiment in decolonizing cartography. Taking Nakba Day—May 15th, commemorating the displacement and resulting exodus of Palestinians after the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948—as a nexus for international decolonization struggles, Faultlining New York aims to invoke an embodied understanding of New York City’s history of colonization in the context of global struggles against ongoing colonial practices and legacies.
Featured in the program will be two different yet complementary walks guided by artist Moira Williams (Paradise Glossed) and historian and organizer Rebecca Manski (Unsettling Wall Street). The walks will unfold and reorganize our bodies in relation to the political space of the Financial District, from the organic contours of Battery Park, to the fraught structure of the Museum of the American Indian, to the historical and contemporary violences of Wall Street. Throughout these walks, participants will be prompted to decolonize their relationships with the city through movement, activities, discussion, and gathering.
Moira Williams’ Paradise Glossed: The Circular Language of Ownership unravels pasts connected to the Hudson Valley through embodied, sensory walks in order to confront the divergent yet entangled histories of the land. From the colonists to the Hudson River School of painters to the Underground Railroad, American histories of exploration, excavation, and escape have resulted in romanticized cultural narratives that celebrate the U.S. landscape while negating a multiplicity of bodies and narratives. Paradise Glossed aims to undo these understandings of the land, decolonizing our senses through embodied dialogues with both human and nonhuman histories.
For Rebecca Manski’s Unsettling Wall Street, we will walk along the walls, ruins, and foundations of New York to Palestine and back in honor of the Palestinian act of remembering as a form of resistance. We’ll be looking at the Wall Street area from all angles, but especially from the ground, up. Manhattan, like Al-Quds and other centers of the world, is a place in a state of near constant construction, where one can easily miss, but cannot escape, the evidence of destruction. This is true even in the case of one of the largest and well-funded sites of memory in the world: the 9/11 memorial. In our participatory history, we will see that the Twin Towers generated a void well before they were destroyed, even in the earliest moments of construction, as workers in hardhats first excavated the World Trade Center's foundations. We will visit that void and see that it's not just in their destruction that the Twin Towers came to be connected to the Middle East: even before they were built, the foundations of the World Trade Center itself impacted people from Middle Eastern countries, in an immediate sense. And yet this will not be a walk into the void itself. Crossing the bounds of Wall Street, looking beyond the ruins of the Twin Towers, from pushcarts to thin air, you will rediscover another kind of marketplace—a place made not of profit, but of people.
PARTICIPATORY WALKS SCHEDULE
10:30 am: Meet at Battery Park City Esplanade (Hudson River waterfront between 1st Place and 2nd Place)
11 am: Paradise Glossed: The Circular Language of Ownership by Moira Williams
1 pm–2 pm: Lunch picnic in Battery Park
2 pm: Unsettling Wall Street by Rebecca Manski. Meet at National Museum of the American Indian
Faultlining New York is the first in a series of gatherings, walks, and workshops that will aim, through participation, to produce a variety of media to be presented on a dynamic, ever-growing online map. In creating this map of participant experience, subjective histories, and collective knowledge, Frontview and the Decolonial Mapping Front hope to construct a template for the decolonization of cartography.
Space is limited and RSVP is encouraged. Please wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water and snacks. Political and historical discussion will be encouraged; the intent of the walks is to create safe spaces of collective education. Discrimination or disrespect of any kind will not be tolerated.
We will be recording video and audio of the walks in the effort to collect media to present on the resulting online map. Independent recording through audio devices, cell phones, photography, artmaking, and notes is encouraged. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or concerns.
The routes and sites of interest, including the National Museum of the American Indian, are ADA accessible. We will do our best to accommodate people of all abilities. Please contact us at email@example.com with other inquiries and needs.
This project emerged from a series of workshops hosted by Frontview at the Pratt Center for Community Development, Bluestockings Bookstore, Sunview Luncheonette, NEW Inc., and De-Construkt Projekts. Special thanks goes to our hosts and participants.
Moira Williams works in bio art and performance as a lived experience. She has spoken at Elastic City Walks, Open Engagement, SFAI 140 Water Rights NM, interviewed by C Magazine. Her works have been supported by iLAND, Flux Factory, ABC NO RIO, Cornell University, Articulating Space Research Centre UK, The People’s Museum UK, Denniston Hill Artists’ Colony, Buffalo University, GENSpace NY Santa Fe Arts Institute, BioCultra NM, Ghetto Biennale Haiti, Coalesce Center for Biological Art, Artists Alliance, Centennial National Park Tennessee, New York State Council on the Arts and NY Department of Cultural Affairs. Moira is a Laundromat Project Alumni, Nielsen Foundation Spinal Cord Injury Fellowship recipient, a Creative Capital On Our Radar Artist. She holds a BFA from School of Visual Arts a Graduate Certificate in Spatial Politics and MFA from Stony Brook University.
Rebecca Manski is a street-level Educator specializing in the history of the Wall Street area, currently based at the South Street Seaport Museum. She first became intrigued by Lower Manhattan during her years with Occupy Wall Street's Press Working Group. Before moving to New York, Rebecca lived in Palestine, doing media and advocacy work for five years. Having lived her first five years in Jerusalem as well, Rebecca never didn't think in terms of walls, borders, liminal spaces, zones of indistinction, and the Commons.
Frontview is a curatorial collective consisting of Patrick Jaojoco, Lalita Salander, and Mohammad Golabi. Frontview thinks of itself as a new form of art institution that actively responds to present concerns and practices through artistic, scholarly, and public intervention. With each project, the collective aims to create spaces that give artists, scholars, and activists to speak freely and create new elements of visual culture addressing the most pressing topics of our era. We believe in working collectively. We think of ourselves as a house that can host artists, thinkers, architects, activists and others to engage in collaborative projects where the ideas are greater than the individuals themselves.
The Decolonial Mapping Front, originally organized and facilitated by Frontview, is a collective of artists, scholars, students, and activists that will be organizing and coordinating Faultlining New York. The individuals involved have many different experiences, including teaching, academic writing, community organizing, participatory planning, curating and producing contemporary art, and more. The individuals involved represent diverse experiences of international colonialism and its contemporary trajectories.
The necessities of a new age require a radical shift in norms and standards of operation. Frontview operates within the ruins of today, telling the untold histories of the past and looking to the future in an effort to create cohesive and promote new and fundamentally different modes of living. The Decolonial Mapping Toolkit is one such way of reenvisioning our relationships to the world, and revealing the political implications of our visual structures.
Maps today are increasingly technological, and mapmaking tools are increasingly in the hands of the Western, capitalist, colonial hegemony. From the so-called “discovery” of the so-called “New World,” to redlining in New York City, to urban planning in the Middle East, to the desecration of forests and the communities that inhabit them, mapping has been an important tool used in the colonial process. It has, for hundreds of years, been a literally top-down way of building the world. It has, in the same amount of time, become more and more ubiquitous, creating a visual apparatus that is structured by way of drones and satellites, and controlled from government offices.
From this arises the questions: what would a decolonized map look like? How would radically altering the mapping process benefit the project of decolonization? How would it look like in different regions of the world? Is there a basic set of standards and questions that can be activated collectively to create a decolonized map?
The goal of producing and disseminating this set of standards and questions drives The Decolonial Mapping Toolkit project. Through interviews with decolonial thinkers, architects, and theorists; a series of citizen workshops; and, ultimately, a booklet design process; we will produce a first iteration of a Decolonial Mapping Toolkit that will be distributed internationally— for free—and activated by local communities.
It is important for us that this process be continuous and iterative. Every workshop/activation of the toolkit to produce a decolonial map will be asked to provide feedback on the toolkit itself, mirroring the continuous and self-critical nature of decolonization at large.
Phase 1: Research & Development
Frontview will be recording interviews with activists, thinkers, artists, writers, and other cultural workers in an effort to build a public knowledge base around decolonizing cartography. These interviews will be published as part of Frontview Sessions, Frontview’s media publishing program.
Phase 2: Citizen Workshops
Frontview is proud to announce a series of semi-public workshops in January co-organized with visual activist Nicholas Mirzoeff and Decolonize This Place. These workshops will aim to collectively identify and process issues in decolonization, mapping, and activism. Please contact us if you would like to join.
Phase 3: Toolkit Design
From our collective research, we will collaborate with designers, artists, and writers to design and publish the first iteration of the Decolonial Mapping Toolkit. This toolkit will take the shape of a publication to be disseminated online and in print at a sliding scale to be activated by continued decolonial mapping workshops around the world.
Phase 4: Dissemination, Continued Workshops, and Feedback
From each workshop, Frontview will request feedback on the toolkit’s design and content in a continuous effort to be comprehensive, inclusive, and self-critical. Further iterations of the toolkit’s design will be informed by this feedback.