Yesterday I attended a lecture at Dundee University given by Dr Iain Biggs RWA on deep mapping, an emerging practical method of exploring and explaining our sense of knowledge of place. A deep map reaches beyond the understandable and straightforward landscape to embrace and embody that which is unseen; folklore, stories, weather, astrology, science. It studies the relationships between archaeology and waste, landownership and agriculture, community services and resources, bees, humans, non humans and the complexities of lived experiences.
Dr Iain Biggs, currently a visiting research fellow at UWE, Bristol, trained as a painter/printmaker/teacher. His practice now encompasses a web of methods including writing, drawing, site-specific performance and time-based work.
“Like my research interests, all this is largely oriented to exploring the relationship between people and ecologies of place, community, memory, and identity.”
Dr Biggs talked about the writings of William Least Heat Moon and in particular PrairyErth , a deep map account of the history and people of Chase County, Kansas. This monumental account of land and time and people, broaches on almost all elements of the topography of County Chase: the community, the people, the geography, the history, the vegetation, the infrastructure, and a map detailing the watershed of the area.
“When you’re travelling, you are what you are, right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”
– William Least Heat Moon
Dr Biggs presented a screed of artists, writers and ecologists (some I have listed below) who are sharing their ideas and insights and helping to shape the coming age of ecology. Nurturing the importance of the whole, deep mapping challenges our comfortable but unsustainable world-view and fosters a fundamental change of heart. It provides a platform for holistic thinking and for the bringing together of soil, soul and society.