The maps of our local farms and estates are no less clear in their definition and clarity. However like the etching it was a case of ensuring that what you put in was correct and what you left out was also correct. There is a need to be accurate in the space between lines as much as the accuracy of the lines themselves. The lines defined the space and the blanks on the page. As such those lines defined new landscapes and new ways of looking at the landscape. The maps thus become very powerful documents, documents of radical change and it was the key to the change actually happening. In some ways it could be said that the right of creation had been granted to the surveyor who was not just a drawer of maps but also an agricultural adviser. The obsession with outlines was not just one of artistic endeavour but also one of power over the landscape.
As Cicero remarked “by means of our hands we essay to create as it were a second world within the world of nature”. However mapping is perhaps our third world and the beginning of our modern virtual world; the dreams of what might be rather than the a purely reflected world of what is reality. A good example of this change are the division of comonty maps. The new lines run straight through the old rigs and the old ways of doing things. New outlines are plotted on the maps and thus the ground. What the map says becomes law. We need no better illustration of this than the map of the Hightae division which is kept at the Ewart and the fact that this is not an original but a later legal copy of it. The map has become law an arbiter of disputes and a guardian of reality!
The drawn or etched line is a worrying thing just because of its finality: this is where we stop and this is where you begin, as much the end of dreams as the start of new ones. Of course the idea of a line at all is a fairly ridiculous concept. It is only a limiter in human terms. The deer will cross as will any other wild beast. It will rain on both sides of the line and the sun will shine. In fact the sameness of the people on either side is probably rather more than less. The notion of a border between countries thus becomes even more precarious when lines are ruled straight through communities and with little regard to geography. As In the Times earlier this month, “The Ottomans had ruled by dividing the region into provinces, broadly following natural ethnic, religious, tribal, geographic and economic orientations. Sykes and Picot thought in straight colonial lines, concerned only with imperial interests. “I should like to draw a line from the ‘e’ in Acre to the last ‘k’ in Kirkuk,” declared Sykes as he pored over the map with a ruler.” From the 1916 agreement the world has adhered to a dubious line in the sand which was fairly meaningless then and is becoming more and more obsolete by the minute just now. We became obsessed with a line with dire consequences however long afterwards.
A gentleman by the name S.W. Boggs in 1946 wrote a book entitled “Cartohypnosis”. He explained how maps had the ability to represent the past and the interests served in their creation. In the thrall of such “cartohypnosis” people “accept subconsciously and uncritically the ideas that are suggested to them by the maps.” The idea that the map exerts a curious power over the viewer can be seen in any colonial map where straight lines have been ruled across vast acres. It can also be seen in the comonty maps as well where a new order ousts an older one. The difference though is in scale and the folk on one side of a boundary have much in common with their neighbour. We can perhaps lay blame at the door of office bound Sykes... and the drawing of a line based on the ignorance of the area that he was ruling on. The division of the comonty and the new farming methods that followed saw the famines of the 1690's fade into a distant memory.
In art, as Mr Boggs talked of cartohypnosis, the abstract expressionists in America began to think similar things. The concept of having pure colour on a painting came into vogue; something that was not hemmed in by anything except the frame. Barnet Newman was one such artist and remarked, presumably as a retort to Blake's comment “Only mad men see outlines and draw them in.” Presumably Mr Newman thought that he was sane whereas Blake perhaps thought differently about himself. It seems that Mr Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, is a fan of abstract expressionism! “One of the first acts of the advancing Isis forces was to blow up the earthworks marking the frontier between Syria and Iraq. This was more than merely a symbolic rejection of western influence. With the demolition of Sykes-Picot as a rallying cry, Baghdadi is demanding recognition that secular and geographic definitions no longer apply — he is the emir of a new, transnational, Islamic land.” It would be a safe bet that many will be drawing lines around Mr Baghdadi however mad they might be thought.
 Ben Macintyre The Times 19th June 2014
 Ben Macintyre The Times 19th June 2014