Ghost Metropolis, Los Angeles: A Cartography of Time, 1900-2001, undertakes to make much of the complex global past of Los Angeles visible, knowable, and therefore actionable, through a combination of verbal text, cartography, photography and interactivity. To ask what is the temporal dimension of a place is to beg the question: what is time itself? How do we know when we see it? We cannot see history against the background of time because time is not a background. Time is the abstract calibration of spatial movements against latitude and longitude and other coordinates. Time belongs to space. Both are abstractions of experience.
History is to place as time is to space. If time is the abstract demarcation of spatial motion used to calibrate the natural universe, and place is the lived experience of the perpetual present, then history is the map of the past. It follows that history literally takes place, and that every place has a history. More momentously for historical knowledge, it also follows that every history has a place. To describe the past is to describe actions in places. The number of places in the past is uncountable, so it follows that ‘the past’ is infinitely plural. In order to recount history, then, in ways that are intelligible across this infinite field of subjectivities, it must be located in the abstract frame of space and time that unites the human race on the globe called Earth. History is a mapping of experience ‘in’ natural spacetime. This mapping intersects the lived and the natural. The hermeneutic operation is, therefore intrinsically cartographic, or more accurately, choreographic, for all life is movement, despite the conceptual convenience of freezing it photographically.