Blurred Lines: Challenging Urban Grids On and Off the Page in City Illustration

Tânia A. Cardoso in Soapbox Journal of Cultural Analysis (2019) 

This paper draws parallels between the acts of walking and drawing in the city as appropriations of the urban grid. Following Michel de Certeau’s theorisation of urban practices, it reflects on both my own drawing in situ practice and [the] picture book The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam by Jan Rothuizen. Both reflect lived experiences and (urban, spatial) stories, determined by and reshaping the city’s constructions of spatiality and an urban imaginary. By distorting the pictorial grid, the illustrations speak back to mapped city space, emphasizing that a line between two spatial elements is not blank but rather full of social and cultural significance. These illustrations, by revealing space through metaphorical practices, disrupt the authoritarian logic of city planners and traditional mapping, creating blurred lines in the urban grid and in its corresponding pictorial grid. This way, their heterogeneous, embodied depictions echo the city’s impact on both artists’ imaginations.

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