To be sure, there is a survival of maps that seem to have migrated into some license plate templates, as if to curry favor among an older audience–that continue to try to reconcile the built horizon of Detroit and the bridge that spans the great lakes with the blue icon of those majestic bodies of water themselves, which, while in fact spanning several states and two nations, provide a symbolic shorthand for the state and its unity to the Upper Peninsula, as well as foregrounding or advertising its spectacular peninsulas–
–as the sun setting over Lake Michigan, in the prospect of “Great Lakes Splendor” shows a sunset through the iconic span of the bridge, foregrounds the landscape’s unity by cool blues lake waters.
The issue may be relatively pronounced. For unlike other states, save Hawaii, and no other non-cosstal states actually bridge bodies of water in their sovereign space. Indeed, if maps provide the most familiar and powerful ways of uniting space in a coherent fashion, the problem of coherence in the “other border state” are profound.
But the case of Michigan may evoke a sense of bucolic peace, increasingly common in other plates, that has displaced the map as if the license plate were. a form of travel advertisement, akin to those images on U-Hauls that one also sees on highways, as the available lingo for promoting an iconic and symbolic relation to place. And the Great Lakes do this well, as a surrogate for the natural that denies the increasingly athropogenic pollution in the pounds of plastic that enters the lakes as they truly are today, so removed from the pristine blue of a cartographic imagination.
Indeed, are these images of landscapes that adorn license plates not a form of collective denial of the huge contribution of crowded highways to the emission of carbon pollution that are a critical force in the crisis of climate change?
Or does a pronounced lack of adequate signifiers of place that plagues the range of new digitized images that adorn plates with a notional sense of place, something often borrowed form a tourist brochure crossed with a screensaver, rather than a map, only offering a sort of eye candy for the road? The arguments aren’t contradictory: after all, climate change is a global uncertainty that undermines the stability of place, or indeed the preservation of inherited ideas of place, and that we can continue to deny–even as we drive–by reminding ourselves of the shores that plates of coastal states as Florida often argue will always be there for us, as an endless summer just in reach for whoever drives or flies there.
The absence of better signifiers of place in license plates that evoke a purely decorative field seem in their generic nature to be sadly removed from place. Even as driving and petroleum consumptions stand to redraw the shores of the United States, and to threaten the stability of the coastal shores on which an increasing number of Americans live–both today and by 2100.
Even as we can examine, Seeing Choices, to see the possible dangers of a long-term rise in sea levels that would be locked in by different amounts of carbon pollution, and compare alternate possible scenarios that we would face after temperature rises of 0°C through h 4°C of global warming, the license plates of the cars we drive seem to offer a contrasting image of the relative stability, and perpetual peace, of place within a skewed or distorted spatial imaginary that prides its symbolic stability.
Perhaps this is the record that we prefer to see as we drive, moving at high speeds along national speedways, demanding consensus that what we do when we drive a lot in single-passenger vehicles is consistent with the stability of place that license plates promote. Indeed, there is some immediate recognizable identity of the license plate as a record of place, so that GentrificationSucks.org was quick to adopt the license plate as a vehicle of the corrosion of the preservation of qualitative life in a region on local billboards in Oakland, CA this year, by choosing to post a mock-version of the license plate of California, set by coincidence before two of the palms that had once adorned California license plates to affirm the special nature of the state–
–in a “faux” plate reading GNTRIFIED, dated NOW, in the upper left, in a one-time community neighborhood that has seen home costs skyrocket to transform the neighborhood around Golden Gate Donuts into an gentrified exclusive spot, foreclosing a sunny state that once perpetually attractive to all future residents, an iconic version of the state arts plate once designed by Wayne Thiebaud, who was commissioned to create a symbolic image to represent California for a license plate: Theibaud’s popular design of a beach with palms and setting sun helpd fund arts education programs and be an “ambassador for our state” from 1994–generating over $74 million for the California Arts Council, that would fund state arts programs across the state: the group received about $R2.5 million from its sales, as Theibaud’s perpetual gift to his home state set a new standard in the publicization of an image of the state, and even funding asssistance to artists, leading to the growth of”artsplate.org” as dedicated website for arts license plates!
The detailed identification of place and plate provided a platform that was so engraved in my mind that when I saw the row of palms behind for the GentrificiationSucks.org advertisement that seemed a rebuttal or corruption of Theibaud’s pop art assemblage of ocean, palms, and a setting sun in bucolic state as a fall from grace.
There is however a clear geographic specificity in how place inheres in plates. The regional design of plates is particular to our American landscape, distinct from the relative homogeneity of the image of European license plates that predate the European Union–who valued a uniform classification scheme which registers little geographical specificity across the continent, suggestive of an alternate map of territoriality. Indeed, the state-based variety of plates seems in a sense emblematic of states’ rights discourse, in its tame3st form, that stands in unsubtle tension with federalist ideals.
Posted byu/eivarXlithuania to r/MapPorn
In sharp contrast from the onset, Americans have invested the license plate with not only a pictorial sense of decoration, but a regional specificity that has long hunted the interstate. So it is no surprise to see the romanticization of the local to make a last stand, as it were, on the backsides of cars. Perhaps the popularity of Theibaud’s design was the gambit that began to change the design of plates toward generic landscapes of regional designations, which would, if true, suggest the dangers of unintentional art historical consequences in the new images of place that adorn plates.