MapCarte 86/365: Everything Sings by Denis Wood, 2010


Cartographers are very much used to making maps of human and physical features in a landscape. They are also very good at communicating statistical data through thematics. Here, though, cartographer Denis Wood challenges us to consider maps as emotional, personal and, even, idiosyncratic devices. Everything Sings is an atlas but not in the traditional sense. It’s filled with fascinating images that reflect Wood’s mapping of Boylan Heights in North Carolina US during the early 1980s. These maps are designed to offer a narrative that conveys experience of a place as he sees it. it’s a very personal cartography of the sometimes mundane, unique and bizarre fabric.

Here, two images represent the work in the atlas. The first is a map of all the jack-o-lanterns he saw around Halloween. A pitch black background with the images of the carved faces representing location of that particular lantern. The faces illuminate through the darkness reflecting the sense of Halloween. The second, of concentric circles representing the location of wind chimes but with symbology that gives us a strong sense of their audible character. other maps are of stars as seen up through treetops or light pools of illumination from street lamps.


This collection of maps conveys a sense of place, of a very personal geography, like no ordinary atlas can. They are intimate information graphics that are as detached from objective cartography as is possible. They are art. They are poetic. They are an antagonist to the traditional practice of cartography. ┬áIn one review, Ira Glass notes “These maps are completely unnecessary. The world didn’t ask for them. They aid no navigation or civic-minded purpose. They’re just for pleasure.”. What Wood’s maps do so successfully is teach us that cartography can be practised in many different ways and that the world can also be seen in many different ways.

More details of the atlas on Denis Wood’s web site here.