Walking and Mapping


Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers

Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013.

From Guy Debord in the early 1950s, to Richard Long, Janet Cardiff and Esther Polak more recently, contemporary artists have returned again and again to the walking motif. Debord and his friends tracked the urban ambiences of Paris to map the experience of walking at street level. Long trampled a path in the grass and snapped a picture of the result (A Line Made by Walking). Cardiff created sound walks in London, New York and San Francisco that sent the audience out walking. Mapping is a way for us to locate ourselves in the world, physically, culturally, or psychologically. Debord produced maps like collages that traced the psychogeography of Paris, while Polak and her team equipped nomadic Fulani herders in Nigeria with GPS devices and developed a robot to map their itineraries in the sand.

Today, the convergence of global networks, online databases, and new tools for mobile mapping coincides with a resurgence of interest in walking as an art form. In Walking and Mapping, Karen O’Rourke explores a series of walking/mapping projects by contemporary artists. Some chart “emotional GPS”; some use GPS for creating landscapes made of data –“datascapes”– while others use their legs to do “speculative mapping.” Many work with scientists, designers, and engineers.

Karen O’Rourke offers close readings of these projects–many of which she was able to experience firsthand–and situates them in relation to landmark works from the past half-century. She shows that the infinitesimal details of each work she considers take on more significance in conjunction with others. Together, they form a new entity, a dynamic whole greater than the sum of its parts. By alternating close study of selected projects with a broader view of their place in a bigger picture, Walking and Mapping itself maps a complex phenomenon.

MIT Press.


Violaine White, « Ce que la carte dit dans l’art », Acta fabula, vol. 14, n° 7, Notes de lecture, Octobre 2013.

Simon Ferdinand, Review of ‘Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers’ by Karen O’Rourke Cartographica 48:4, 2013, pp. 338–339 University of Toronto Press doi:10.3138/carto.48.4.rev06.

Angeliki Sioli,  A review of Karen O’Rourke’s Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers, published in 2013 by the MIT Press. Montreal Architectural Review, Vol 1, 2014. Full Text: PDF.

Phil Smith, “Walking and Mapping” Book Review, Mythogeography.

Joel Weishaus, “Book Review. Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers”. By Karen O’Rourke. Cambridge, MA. MIT Press, 2013.” Arts 2014, 3, 298-302; doi:10.3390/arts3020298

Tania Vladova, «  Karen O’Rourke, Walking and Mapping: Artists As Cartographers », Critique d’art [En ligne], Toutes les notes de lecture en ligne, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2016, consulté le 25 juin 2016. URL : http://critiquedart.revues.org/17629

Jonathan Brettell, “Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers. By K. O’Rourke“, Cultural Geographies July 2014 vol. 21 no. 3 537-538 doi: 10.1177/1474474013519580 http://cgj.sagepub.com/content/21/3/537.extract

Roy Christopher, “These Books Were Made for Walking“, Roy Christopher Reviews, March 4th, 2014.

Jeff Thurston, “Book Review: Walking and Mapping“, 3D Visualization World Magazine, November 13, 2016.


One Response to Walking and Mapping

  1. Pingback: The Gift of WAM | karen's projects

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