Author Archives: mivi

Conference: A Map of Illicit Flows

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On the “draw anything” part of the interview worksheet for this class, I remember drawing a very offhanded illustration of how I saw the process of money laundering. It’s pretty weird, I know, but for the past year or so the bulk of my research has been on corruption and tax evasion, and these phenomena just happen to be on my mind for an inordinate amount of time. In retrospect, I suppose this is why I ended up taking this class in the first place. I think corruption is the perfect ‘invisible’ to map because it’s so prelavent and impacts us all;. visualizing spatial connections between these things reveals patterns we wouldn’t have easily identified otherwise. On that first sketch, I visualized money laundering as a skein of flows dipping under the surface and popping back out elsewhere, in a different form.
For conference, I wanted to map flows of tax evasion and highlight its cyclical nature in a globalized world. Now, there are a bunch of different forms/methods of tax avoidance that one could map, but for simplicity I chose to map offshore balances of the top 10 or so Fortune 500 companies in various ‘tax haven’ subsidiaries around the world (Data comes from here The flip side of these are tax havens, which are chosen by corporations typically by the corporate tax rate or the level of secrecy allowed by national banking regulations (see index at
Despite the above, I wanted to keep my map very minimal and free of many technical components. I really did not want this to turn out as a chart or infographic, as tax evasion is most typically visualized. To create something like that you need to be clear and structured, eliminating complexity & chaos. I wanted to do the opposite, focusing on the chaos and the abstraction it forces upon us.
prelim sketch

prelim sketch

My sign system is pretty straight forward: blue dots are American corporations scaled to the size of their offshore holdings, red dots are tax havens scaled to their financial secrency indices. Squigglier lines signifiy “dirtier” money which transform into straighter lines once they come back up “clean”. My connection system is the flow of cash from American companies into their tax haven subsidiaries. These companies use dozens, sometimes over 100 different offshore accounts, so as one traces the connection system from source to destination the flow splits up according to all of the different locations profits are shifted towards.
I also kind of have two surfaces. I may have abstracted the idea too much for there to be a clear. The first one is the “real” economy, what we see & know to exist, i.e. the Fortune 500 companies who we know are making a lot of profit, indicated by the blue dots of the sign system. The second is the “shadow” economy, where money pours into foreign subsidiaries and comes back up, largely tax-free. The two are overlayed over each other at a perspective, and in between the connection system depicts flows between the two, bridging them together. Reading up on the methodologies of the maps made by the guys at the Spatial Information Design Lab gave me a clearer idea of how to work w/ the data I had.
I got a lot of inspiration from Nina Austria piece “Austria”. The way she assembled strips of a road map really appealed to me because the flattened map was suddenly given a sense of flow and chaos which IMO is a better depiction of human flows. Same thing for the absence of space she creates.
<p>Also aesthetically I liked the line use Karin Schaefer’s “Kau 3 Decades”

Site-specific: Stalkers

(Magic)proposed_placement             We are imagining our psychogeographic figure in this way… We imagine the stalker as an distorted, attached, and elusive character whose behavior is fixed on a particular object or person. The stalker can blend in with society at large yet the act of stalking is not necessarily a generalized activity. There is always a specific target, certain ways in which one’s privacy is violated, and a particular power play at hand where the target is in put in a subordinate position relative to the stalker. For the stalkee (?), an eerie, on-edge vibe permeates through the air as a shadowy being feels omnipresent. For our space, we chose make our sculpture more interactive by focusing the vibe of the stalker rather than a specific, targeted act of stalking itself. Instead of designing a sculpture fixed on observing a particular place (i.e. always looking into one window), we want to make our sculpture semi-hidden and for the object of the object of the stalker to be people passing by on Bates Hill. Some parts will go unnoticed until you just pass them — only for them to be out of sight when one looks back. Going about this at several points down the hill replicates the creepy, omnipresent feeling of the stalker We are using this figure in order to… We are attempting to use our figure to impose a creeping sense that the site is stalking those who interact with it. Since people most frequently walk down Bates hill, and our repeating, wide-eyed figure slowly becomes more defined as they move that way, it is our intention that people will perceive our figure as appearing with the intention of observing them. Transversely, by recognizing this sudden unexpected presence and observing it, we think that people will themselves become stalkers (i.e. observers with intention). We are responding to our site in these particular ways… We are using the natural topography of the site to help display our figures in a way that draws the audience’s eye to these installations. As people walk down (or up) the hill, the natural slope of the site (along with the various trees, rocks, and bushes) provides various ways to help partially conceal our figures, forcing the audience to have a more “searching” eye and adding a slight air of mystery. We are working with these materials… metal pencil rods to capture the silhouette of a person, changing from a simple pole in the ground to an abstract representation of the human body. We will use different fabrics to incorporate movement and hair to contribute to the creepiness aspect.  

Self-Portrait: Continuities Between Place & Emotion

For this map, I wanted to start with concrete places I felt were important to me and work out a way of assembling them in a way representative of myself and my experiences. By and large I think one of the first things we consider when we think about a person are their relations to and understanding of place. However when one mentions a place — a city, village, neighborhood, w.e. — we often assume that that place in its entirety is representative of that person. This is largely untrue: in our minds we operate and define our present selves on the basis of locale and our relation to other locales with which we’re intimate. Conventional maps hide this as the important places we know well are dispersed by landforms and bodies of water. With this map I wanted to eliminate the irrelevant inbetween spaces and places in my life and put together only places important to me in a way that is continuous to myself. In a similar way I try to bring in a sense of continuity between feelings attached to places, i.e. you have a positive experience in one place in part because its associable with some other comparable experience you’ve had elsewhere (and vice-versa). I’m not saying this is always the case, however personally I think this comes up often when I look at things retrospectively. sketchesAs my surface, I assembled a variety of cutouts of places that I felt I knew at a pretty local level and/or were important to me into a new land mass of what is essentially “my world”. My goal was to make the placement fairly geographically representative and quite literal, i.e. if some terminal in JFK is the most eastern part of the U.S. I actually know, it would be adjacent to somewhere in France which is the most western part of Europe that I know, etc. etc. I tweaked the shapes and angled some land masses in too in order make the land mass more visually appealing; some placements are arbitrary, some symbolic, political, etc etc. surface detail I didn’t have much time to fully develop the sign system, but I’ve included the legend of an idea I’d like to work with as well as some representations on the map. The lines from place to place represent feelings evoked by something reminiscent of another place, color-coded according to whether or not that feeling was positive/negative and weighted in terms of reaction. The potential for dotted lines emphasizes instances where I felt present in terms of just body, just mind, or both. sign system detail Reading references: – I think the emphasis on locality makes this a map. Originally I had intended on shoving outlines of cities together to form a land mass, but this would remove the intimacy between location and emotion that I allude to. The sign system would not be effective in this case, even if it would still *look* like a map. – This proposes that places one does not know well can still create experiences that are evocative down the line – I think this makes visible where my place and mind/memories have connected at times (and where they haven’t). The land mass concretizes the feelings of connectedness I feel between these spaces. And if the sign system was more elaborate & there were more lines, it would also map the major experiences that’ve recurred in my mind as well as a general feel for emotion across each place. Artist references: – I like’d Ed Ruscha’s clean & simple maps of intersecting streets in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His juxtaposed grids spoke to the repetition of urban landscapes, which frequently came to mind when assembling these places. Also aesthetically I liked the bundles of fine lines used to represent streets — the gratuitous use of thin lines between place to place in my sign system drew from this look, even if we are using them very differently