“I guess I didn’t realize it was so big. When I first started I thought I would be able to finish it in three months or at most six months. I thought I was going to be able to come here and collect trash and then go back to San Francisco and make it. And I did that three times and then I decided actually… I had to move here to finish it.”
She’s talking about 71 Square Miles, her ten foot by ten foot map of Brooklyn made entirely of garbage–one piece from each and every block. Jennifer Maravillas, an artist-cartographer decided to make it after reading a passage out of Herzog on Herzog by Werner Herzog in which he walks across Europe to visit a dying friend. Jen thought she should walk too. “It was a good way to A. get out and B. find information,” she said.
Maravillas tells us, “I took screen shots of Google Maps and then compiled it in Photoshop. The first time I did it I thought the map was only going to be five feet but I only did one walk and I realized that was going to be way too small. So I scaled it up to ten feet and found the paper and printed it to scale on a large scale printer and then I traced it.”
And why collect garbage? “I think because it’s just.. it’s just everywhere. And I’ve always been more interested in anthropology and looking at culture in some way.” This February will mark two years since she began the project.
The long filled in lines are each one walk.
How she keeps track:: “I have an app that tracks my route and then I have a bag and then put it in order. When I first started out I was labeling each piece but it was impossible. I spent most of my time making labels for pieces of trash,” she said laughing.
What’s the hardest part of her day, we ask: “The hardest part is just the drivers. One driver is mean or honks or yells or something just because I’m walking across an intersection or something and it completely ruins my day. Isn’t that depressing? It’s so intense and it’s not like I can avoid it.”
It’s the holidays, which gets Jen thinking. “I think the seasonal aspect will be interesting to see because that’s one of the biggest things that change with time. You find Christmas items or like school report cards or paper work about the census and it’s just such a nice way of keeping track of time.”
Check out more of Jen’s gorgeous maps here on her website where you can also buy prints (fantastic holiday gift ideas) ! You can also follow Jen along her Brooklyn walks here on her blog, 71 Square Miles.
Hidden Track Bonus Material
Jen’s favorite piece of trash yet, picked up in Borough Park
A handy map Jen was working on for some friends visiting from out of town