This series of experimental maps redraws Sydney through unlikely reference points—the residential locations of people with surnames that are birds or fish species, or celestial bodies. For example, in Sydney there are 938 residences listed as having an individual, couple or family with an avian surname, including B. Quail in Blakehurst, M. F Bulbul in Minto and K. Swallow in Drummoyne. In this map, each location of an ‘avian residency’ is represent by a bird silhouette, which simultaneously forms a flock and the geographic boundaries of Sydney. Map of Sydney: Fish Surnames and Map of Sydney: Celestial Surnames follow a similar logic.
Through these maps the tension between the scientific and the aesthetic is played out. They are geographically precise and demographically accurate, yet highly idiosyncratic and poetic. The maps reveal a series of contradictions: impartial cartographic language with unlikely data sets; a random flock of birds that has been pedantically plotted; and, an image of the stars which can be read simultaneously as both ground and sky.
These maps playfully challenge the perceived authority of information design, addressing the need to be continually aware of maps as social constructions as well as revealing the potential of storytelling through quantitative data.
This work has been collected and exhibited by three national institutions: National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Australia and the Australian National Maritime Museum.