Map tattoos: geography on the body

Monday, December 14, 2009

When I was in university, a friend of mine wrote a great geography dissertation about tattoos. She imagined the body as a landscape, with tattoos acting as landmarks and inscriptions in the landscape. People wrote their lives on to their skin, tattoos are like maps to their identities.


I really liked the idea. I wondered if people would mark their patriotism on their bodies, with maps or national insignia as tattoos.

Tattoo 4

For years, I've wanted to do a photography project on it, but have always stalled at the idea of finding people to photograph. Recently, I started to explore on flickr, finding these fantastic images.

welcome home

I find it amazing, fascinating and inspiring that people's pride and patriotism lead them to the extent of imprinting maps of their country, state, city onto their skin.


I've created two galleries of these images on flickr: Tattoo Nation I and Tattoo Nation II

(Thanks to flickr users who have given me permission to show their images.)

Mama Africa


Linz, 2009 European Capital of Capital

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Austrian city of Linz is in the news at the moment, as it's holding a No Music Day on Saturday. The project is all part of Linz's time as the 2009 European Capital of Culture, a title it shares with Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

I visited Linz over the summer during the Pflasterspektakel festival - a five day celebration of street theatre. And what a celebration it was, with theatre taking over the streets. Comedians, clowns, acrobats, gymnasts, trapeze artists, jugglers all vye for attention, with great busking and music performances too.

Tumble Circus, Linz

Street performers, Linz

Away from that weekend, a vibrant series of events were talking place in Linz including plays set on buses and public transport and headphone-led plays through the city's streets.

In the midst of it all are Linz's outstanding venues, the neon clad Lentos Art Museum (below), the concert hall Brucknerhaus and the museum Ars Electronica Center with a great series of exhibitions, shows, plays and concerts.

Lentos Art Museum, Linz

There is also a ferris wheel and skywalk high above the city's rooftops, as well as a vast array of symposia and projects about Europe and European identity.

Ferris wheel at Höhenrausch, Linz
Image by knorp

I really enjoyed seeing how the graphic identity of Linz09 was incorporated in to familiar images of the city like Linzertorte, the local speciality.

كرة القدم! Football with London's Algerian fans.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I wanted to watch Bosnia & Herzegovina -v- Portugal on Saturday, but finding Bosnian fans proved difficult. Phone calls weren't answered, cafés and restaurants seemed to have shut down.

I called a Bosnian charity shop in Hackney, and spoke to a very excitable man with very broken English which yielded directions to a café showing the match. They went something like, "Go to Kilburn. Or Cricklewood! Get on a bus, 5 or 6 stops, there's a McDonalds, traffic lights, go left and it's 50 or 100 metres. And a Charity shop! No! Willesden!"

They were vague but I did find a Bosnian charity shop near a McDonalds by some traffic lights in Cricklewood. However, nobody there knew anything about football.

All was not lost, though, as right next door - and in two other nearby cafés - were throngs of Algerian fans watching Algeria -v- Egypt. Huzzah!

Algerian football fans, London

When I arrived, I thought Algeria had won, such was the excitable cheering and whooping. It turned out the match hadn't even started, they were just very excited. I do like a festive atmosphere.

The bonhomie continued throughout the match with oohs and aahs, flag flying, hands flung to the sky, and all manner of expressive reactions. They sung "Viva Algeria!" with giddy abandon.

Algerian football fans, London

World Cup qualification rested on the match's result. I could tell it was an important match as there was a "Special Big Day Menu" on display. When Egypt scored in the last minute to force a further match, the mood changed considerably. They all fell silent straight away, with many limping off quietly home, showing no signs of the violence that seems to have marred the fall out from the actual match.

And, with still no sign of any Bosnians, so did I.

The A & Z of Pop

Friday, November 13, 2009

With all the music I have in so many genres (3,500 tracks and counting), I like a nice, simple classification system - I stick to alphabetic by artist.

I was thinking recently who my first and last are, the bookends to all my music: who are my A to Z of pop.

So, first on the list is A Taste of Honey with their ace disco song Boogie Oogie Oogie. I danced to this loads as a young chap at Freakscene, a funky night in Cork that was one part big gay disco, one part indierock moshpit. I regularly begged the DJs to play it. It makes me wanna dance!

The final artist on my line-up is Zuma, a Norwegian group who took part in their Eurovision selection in 2008. They didn't reach the final, but the song Always Always is nice electro-lite midtempo-ballad-ish europop. The lyrics mention sprouts. More vegetables in pop, I say! Zuma's singer came back to Melodi Grand Prix this year as Alexander Stenerud, coming fourth.

So, who are your A & Z of Pop?

Work in Progress, ice Berlin Wall at German embassy

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yesterday, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall, the German Embassy in London installed Work in Progress, a fragment of a wall, made from ice blocks, slowly and surely melting away.

Ice Berlin Wall - Work in Progress

Ice Berlin Wall - Work in Progress

Fall of the Berlin Wall exhibition

Monday, November 09, 2009

It has been twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. To mark the occasion, the Goethe Institute in London are holding an exhibition of Norbert Enker's photography taken in and around the wall and what remains of it.

Taken from December 1989 to March 1992, the photographs document the wall's removal, destruction and the changes in the way it was used. The pictures are haunting and poignant, and give a real sense of the physical mass of the wall, particularly the third image below.

The exhibition continues until December 18 at the Goethe Institute on Exhibition Road.

East from Shooter's Hill: The Urals?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shooter's Hill in Greenwich is among one of the highest points in London.

Someone once told me that if you go due east from Shooters Hill, the next highest land is the Urals in Russia.

This didn't seen right to me. Shooter's Hill is only 133m high.

So I went to the Royal Geographical Society's library to find out more. We dug out maps of Germany to trace the line of 51 degress, 28' latitude east. (I presumed the Netherlands wouldn't have any higher land).

And I was right - there are a whole host of places in Germany higher than 133m. Forst Gahrenberg and Arenborn, below, are just two.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Fodbold! Football with London's Danish fans.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Danish football fans, London

I went last night to Zoo Bar, venue of the Scandinavian Party, to watch two matches: Denmark -v- Hungary & Sweden -v- Albania.

Sweden & Denmark - how would I tell them apart?! It turned out to be easy. The Danes stood, while the Swedes sat. I'm not sure this is any great socio-geographical finding, but that's what happened. So I decided to stand amongst the Danish fans.

Nobody had any flags, which is always a shame. Some Danish men wore the football strip, whilst others had red t-shirts. One man had a red suit jacket. Hurrah for him.

Denmark have already qualified for the World Cup, so when Denmark had lost the lead, the fans looked more bored than bothered.

I got the impression the bar was made for more exciting encounters. A Danish man sullenly leaned on a pole atop a podium.

As the game went on, things were getting more important. The Danes didn't want to be beaten, after all. There was cheering, there was some shouting. A big cheer went up when the Danish number 10 came off. I couldn't tell if they liked him or not.

In the end, Denmark lost and the Danish fans shuffled away. But I'll be back to watch more with them next year.

Sam Taylor

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Last night, I went to see Sam Taylor sing at blog-club night EQ. Sam sings melodic, emotional pop songs, with a beautiful voice.

Although last night he did some poppy covers (Billie Jean, Mama Do), he also sang the gorgeous acoustic ballads Sometimes I Need You and Talk Me Down.

Sam has a expressive heartfelt truthful innocence when he sings, and it's rather charming. He's also very a good looking chap. I'm hoping he'll be one to watch in future.

Watch him perform the two ballads below (with apols for the sound quality on the video).

I'm hoping he'll be one to watch in future.

Check out > Sam Taylor on myspace - especially his cover of The Cardigans' Communication, which I think is amazing.

Jalkapallo! Football with London's Finnish fans

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Russian football fans, Famous 3 Kings, London

I went yesterday to watch football with Finnish fans. I returned to the Famous 3 Kings where the fans were gathering to watch their match against Wales.
The bar has several screens, all showing different matches, so it's always pot-luck to find fans.

Happily, when I arrived, I spied a Finnish flag draped across a fireplace. Hurrah! It turned out that 5 Finns were there.

They were surrounded by Welsh fans though. They sat quietly, one brandishing a scarf. During half-time, they took down the flag.

And then the Russians started arriving, as the kick-off to Russia -v- Germany approached. Lots of them. They were in high style, in the best-that-money-can-buy labels. Even the Russian football strip looked like D&G. My picture above just shows the Russians.

It was a veritable Russian invasion.

The Finns, in altogether more sombre and modest outfits, sat their ground, and watched their match.

When Finland scored a goal to take the lead, one man stood up and did a small dance. His friend took the flag and wore it as a bandana.

The Welsh fans started singing and chanting. The Finns stayed sitting, probably thinking "we're actually winning". I hoped they'd respond with a few bars of Hard Rock Hallelujah, but alas no.

In the end, the Finns' quiet resolution paid off. Finland beating Wales 2-1. And for all the Russian cheering, they lost out to Germany.

Flags, made of paper

Friday, October 09, 2009

My newest fun thing to do is to make collage flags from bits of scrap paper. I recently changed jobs, and made these flags for colleagues to say farewell.
UK flag
UK flag #3
USA flag

US flag
Australia flag

Australian flag

Kent flag
Flag of Kent

Sicily flag

Sicilian flag

Wales flag
Welsh flag

India flag

Indian flag

Nepal flag
Nepal flag

Berlin flag
Berlin flag

Cuba flag
Cuban flag

Ukraine flag
Ukrainian flag

Ethiopia flag
Ethiopian flag

Madagascar flag
Madagascar flag

Philippines flag
Philippines flag

Ireland flag
Ireland flag

France flag
France flag

Ibiza flag
Ibiza flag

The Golden Filters, live in London

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Last night, I went to Cargo to see a band called The Golden Filter.

The Golden Filter, live in London

Although, variously through the evening, I called them:
  • The Golden Glitters
  • The Golden Flippers
  • The Golden Floaters
  • The Golden Fluffers
  • The Golden Frapp
  • The Golden Lamé

 I don't know why.

The Golden Filter are an electro-duo made up of Australian Penelope and Ohio-born Stephen.

Stephen looks like an archetypal Noo Yawk gay (think Anthony in Sex & the City in a offbeat quirky phase) and Penelope has an amazing name.

She spent most of her time on stage stridently marching on the spot, while swoop-turning her head from side to side. At one point, she was splashing in small puddles on the stage.

Their songs are wailing & whisper vocals over electro with heavy percussion. On stage, this meant tambourines, castanets and many many drum banging sequences. It was all quite Eurovisiony, although they probably wouldn't like that.

Their final, mammoth drum-a-thon needed a golden glitter machine to explode over the crowd.

And so, an equation:

 ((Human League x Goldfrapp) + (Kate Bush wailing - eccentricity)) x (electro-nihilism + eurovision drumming) = The Golden Filter

108 | 241 | 309 - London buses

Monday, September 14, 2009

I've been reading the Route1to499 bus blog for some months now. Ben - who writes it - is trying to travel on all London's bus routes. He'll be doing this until 2012.

The idea tickled me, so I asked Ben to accompany him on some trips. So today, me and he went on three routes (108, 241, 309) from the grimy / glittering heights of Lewisham to buzzy-with-anticipation Stratford, from there to down at heel Canning Town, and finally from there through the residential heart of Tower Hamlets to Bethnal Green.

Some highlight sights were:

Overall, it was an interesting trip, and really made me realise how amazing London's buses are. There was nothing outstanding about these three routes: they were ordinary, work-a-day trips. But the very fact that they exist is brilliant.

Futebol! Football with London's Portuguese fans.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Last night, I went to South Lambeth Road to watch Portugal play Hungary and cheer along with the Portuguese fans.

Portuguese football fans, London

London's Portuguese football watching venues have been written about before, but I've been wanting to go since I went to Portugal earlier this year. I wanted to see if the food would be any better than the not-so-tasty Portuguese fare.

All the bars along the road were showing either the Portugal match or the that and the England match (and any other match they could fit in).

The first bar - Estrella - was all very animated. People were happily chatting and drinking, but not really paying too much attention to the match. A middle-aged woman sat in the corner reading a book.

A man with a crutch came in, making a lot of bluster and noise while ordering his beer. When Portugal scored soon after, he dropped the crutch, jumped about, did a little dance with his arms aloft. So much for the crutch!

He later started talking to me (in Portuguese). When he realised that I wasn't from Portugal, he started to tell me a very rambling story about Coimbra University. It was fascinating!
Portuguese football fans, London

At half-time, I took myself off to a second bar - Grelha D'Ouro - with more fans watching, chatting and not really paying great attention. One complained (in English) that the Portuguese players were just wasting time. Another kept trying to engage me in conversation, in Portuguese. It was all very social.

The match continued on, but it was rather dull (or is it that I don't actually like football that much?).

And, for the record, although I didn't actually eat, the food all looked pretty similar.

Piłka nożna! Football with London's Polish fans.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Polish football fans, Balham, London

I went to watch Saturday's Poland -v- Northern Ireland soccer match with Polish fans, at the White Eagle Social Club in Balham.

Many, many fans - mainly male - had gathered there to watch the game. I entered into a big ballroom - which was almost dark - with a screen at one end, and about 100 fans watching the match. Moments later, green disco lights came on, and I saw that the room had chandeliers, records hanging from the ceiling and tinselly curtains. How fabulous.

Moments later, a burly man wearing glowsticks around his neck walked past. How curious.

The match itself was quite boring, only made interesting by watching the Polish manager who had the arch facial expressions of a grand Shakespearean actor.

Half-time brought adverts for Nivea, Nike, Orange & Volkswagen (every country is the same), and one for a flavour powder that is sprinkled on food called Smack (every country is not the same).

I wandered to the lounge (with charming blue chenile draped in front of lamps) to watch the second half. In fact, my eyes wandered to the fit bouncer outside rather than the less-than-exciting match. As Poland equalised, the fans cheered loudly, and continued to do so, even as the match limped home to a boring draw.

Australia, sketched

Monday, August 24, 2009

I went to Regents Park on Saturday in the hope of asking those there watching the Ashes cricket match between England and Australia to draw maps of Australia.

Despite being initally unusure I'd do it (people sitting very close to one another makes it difficult to approach), I met 16 great people all of whom drew a map, which superimposed, becomes:


The maps were drawn by: Michelle, Sam, Dan, Chris, Andrew, Taryn and Dane from Australia, Charles from South Africa, and Rob, Daniel, Phil, Ailsa, Laura, Craig, Luke and Rebecca from the UK.

Here are their maps, individually:


Sketch maps of Latin America

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I went to Carnaval del Pueblo a few weeks ago with my map sketch pad in hand. It's the largest Latin American carnival in Europe. After watching the parade, I spent time in Burgess Park looking for people to ask to draw a map of Latin America.

Lots of lovely people obliged me. I collected 26 maps - I've superimposed 17 of those on top of each other to create this map:

Latin Americas

The maps were drawn by: Paula from Argentina, David from Israel, Renato from Brazil, Anthony from Australia, Robin from Colombia, Itala from Brazil, Ivan from Ecuador, German from Colombia, Marcia from Brazil, Angel from Brazil, Jean Bryan from Bolivia, Claudia from Brazil, Simone from Brazil, Adolfo from Brazil, Matt from UK, Natasha from UK, Arianna from Italy, Lisbet from Cuba, Justin from USA, Germaine from UK, Roberto from Puerto Rica, Marcos from Cyprus, Dhannshka from Sri Lanka, Adriana from Colombia, Freddy from Ecuador & Leyre from Spain.

Thanks to all of them! When I started to superimpose these, I found that between 10 and 15 maps work best (26 is way too many!). I had to leave a few out of these, simply as they were too cluttered.

These are the maps individually:


Next: Maps of Australia by Ashes cricket watchers, and I'm going to attempt to superimpose some very differnt maps of South-East Asia

You've got the look

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The blog has a new look - multiple columns and plug-in modular-ness. I've mainly redesigned it as I'm intending to give out the address to more people, so it needed to show a few more aspects all in one place.

I've started to talk to people at events, asking them to draw certain parts of the world. The idea is that, when I have enough maps, I'll overlay them all.

So far, I've been to Carnaval del Pueblo, a south London Latin American festival, and a Thai festival in Greenwich, asking people to draw Latin America and South East Asia respectively.

I've got about 50 maps from this, but no images uploaded as yet.

However, some Austrian people drew Austria for me and I have done a few of my own as a test - so below are multiple Austrias, Indias, Italys and Irelands.

Austrias, colour
Indias #2
Italys #2
Irelands #2