While our new smartphones track our every footprint with self-generating maps — see James Bridle’s recent book of iPhone maps that pinpointed his location over the course of a year — Carlos Romo Melgar’s “Cosmographies” goes in the opposite direction with some necessary view-from-his-world corrective. They’re a map/infographic hybrid, like if Nicholas Felton’s annual Feltron Report got processed through Saul Steinberg’s “View of the World.” The maps are a record of Melgar’s own movements and favorite places, a mental scan of the city in which the planimetric is personal.
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In the image above, gray flags denote friend’s houses — Ceci, Juan, Elena Alvar — and blue flags, for the gym, locate his regular hot spots. Chamartin, a little-admired train station by the Spanish architect team Corrales y Molezun, is highlighted because it’s Melgar’s hometown stop on the train. Speech bubbles appear throughout the city neighborhoods, filled with comments that Melgar has heard or experienced over the years there. Some museums, like the Reina Sofia, are highlighted while others are ignored completely.
Melgar says that this kind of cartographical representation, which he calls “own-cartography,” allows one observation point to influence all the relationships and distances. The maps aren’t user-friendly, but that isn’t really the point. And besides, you can find a user-friendly map anywhere, so the actual usefulness of this kind of map is more qualitative and less measurable. But that doesn’t mean his life is an open book. The text spot near Brazil on his World Map translates, “My experience with Brazil its a complicated topic. Don’t ask.”