Cartography 17 Artist Q & A
Daniel Rotsztain, Map Animator
Daniel Rotsztain is an artist, writer and cartographer who goes by @theurbangeog on social media. He is the Map Animator for Cartography 17 and the person in charge of leading the Cartography 17 activations.
Why is it important to create a new map of Toronto?
It’s a really exciting moment for the city. There’s so much energy in this city and so many perspectives and I think, again, with Canada 150 and Resistance 150, it’s this time to crack open our notions of what this city has been and embrace the multitude of perspectives that have existed this whole time. I think people are ready for that. I don’t know what it is. There are more movies that are set in Toronto, more books about Toronto, more songs about Toronto and people are good natured and seeking reconciliation and openness and I just think that now is the time to be like “Here’s the city”.
Exactly! If we have something that illustrates this, then it does a lot for when Toronto is actually on the map and people want to find out more about Toronto.
Totally! As a visual artist and a cartographer, I think that a visualization is so powerful to change the way you think about something. Art is a tool of communication and provocation and the power of the image to reconfigure our notions and the power of storytelling and this is like a mapping as a visual storytelling.
Do you have a memorable moment from the project that you would like to share?
Yeah! Our first workshops were with the seniors from Unison Health and Lawrence Heights and they were adorable and lovely and so excited to share their stories. Just beginning the project with elders in this city and seeing how much they relish the opportunity to share their stories…I mean there’s ups and downs and sometimes we’re working with kids, and every workshop there are a few people who don’t care and there are a few people who are so into it, but I just I think like as a source of strength as we go forward I’ll just think about that first workshop and like how much like the opportunity for those seniors to tell the stories of Lawrence Heights meant to them.
If you had to describe Cartography 17 to a potential participant, what would you say?
I would say that Cartography 17 is an opportunity to tell the stories of the places we inhabit and opportunity to reconfigure our notion of Toronto and the dazzling complexity of this place. The map is going to be in really prominent places, and it’s going to be this opportunity to tell the stories of the places that we live.
Why do you think it’s important to create an inclusive map of Toronto’s diverse population?
The gatekeepers of the stories have been the same white bald dudes for so long, and I’m a young white man and I see the position I’m in as dissolving my own power that courses through me… and I just think, like we’ve talked about before, that it’s time for different stories and it’s time for other voices. My facilitation of this map is of other voices. That’s the thing about a cartographer – when you look at a map, their name isn’t on the bottom right corner. A cartographer renders themselves invisible once the map is done and I hope to do [that]. Dissolve the colonial power of the map, use my privilege to do that and then step away and let it be. Let it sing itself!