Nathan Ruyle
The New Cartography Project Description

View::The New Cartography Project

The New Cartography Project is focused on creating a dynamic relationship between maps and media, using interactivity to explore the cinematic form as an extension of human perception in space.  Through this merging of the eye of the camera with the birds-eye-view of the cartographer,  I hope to reinvigorate the idea of the captured image as an event of time and place, and moreover to gain a new perspective on the profoundly universal and yet deeply personal nature of our human experience. 

This project emerged foremost from my own story and that of my family, a narrative that stretches geographically and historically through the entirety of America, following the arc of agrarian culture. This is a story of movement and stasis, points plotted in search of greener pastures followed by generation after generation tilling those same fields: first with a horse, later with machines stronger than a thousand horses. Starting in Virginia in the 1760s, following the western expansion through the Cumberland Gap to a square mile of wilderness homestead cleared for planting, later to a fortune found in the golden hills of California then to a brick mansion fired from the clay of the Midwestern plains; our culture emerged from the most direct and symbiotic of relationships to place, defined by a knowledge that was passed down from father and mother to son and daughter for hundreds of years. Yet in less than a decade we watched the family farm transformed from a fundamental reality to some distant mythology, a zeitgeist floating somewhere between East and West. Years after my family walked away, like so many others at that moment, succumbing to the economic wave of industrialized agriculture, the sense of personal loss that we felt began to grow into something larger and more significant for me. I began to realize I held the end of a 250 year thread of knowledge, so uniquely intertwined with experience and place, I will never be able to truly know it again.  

I have always been captivated by maps.  I was taught at an early age by my Grandfather how to read and understand the symbols and contour lines in the plat book as we hunted together on the periphery of our land. Years later, when I first encountered interactive satellite maps, the first search I did, like most, was to find my childhood home. Over the years I was drawn to that digital bird’s eye view again and again. From that vantage point I began to see the loops that defined the work I watch my father and mother do: the planting and harvest cycles, the farrowing and feeding of the animals, the fertilizing of the fields.  As I saw the footprint of each building, the line of each fence, my memory began to reconstruct every inch of that place like a lucid dream. My mind’s eye moved like a camera through the space, looking for the  past I was rapidly forgetting, the future I never knew.       

This online interface functions more as an evolving interactive cinema laboratory than a finished project. Over the coming months the materials presented here will be further refined, defined and contextualized, as well as the addition of more sounds, footage and interviews. As we gain a proof of concept, other geographic locations will also be explored in the future. The New Cartography Project will continue on in 2010, bring together a diverse team of collaborators for a new installation utilizing data visualization, experimental projection and physical computing techniques. Updates and prototypes are available at