November 8: The Mapping Arts

Mark Bradford, Kryptonite

Exhibition Walk-Through: We’ll meet Carin Kuoni and/or Amanda Parmer at Aronson Gallery, on the ground floor of 66 5th Ave, for a guided tour of the Maria Thereza Alves exhibition (4-4:45)

Map Critique: Diana

Guest: Nina Katchadourian (5:30-6:45)




Denis E. Cosgrove, “Maps, Mapping, Modernity: Art and Cartography in the Twentieth Century,” Imago Mundi 57 (2005): 35-54.

Katherine A. Harmon, The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009).

Karen O’Rourke, Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013).

Denis Wood, “Map Art” Cartographic Perspectives 53 (Winter 2006): 5-14.

David Woodward, Art and Cartography: Six Historical Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).

9 Replies

  • Daniel Rosenberg challenges the concept of “clarity” proposed by Tufte as a foundation for all graphical representation as it “often demands simplification” and obscures the contingency underlying the data.

    Similar ideas to those of Rosenberg, have been the catalyzer for the maps created by the artist Francis Alÿs. In one of his most famous series “Reel-Unreel” he created a “graphical critique” of mass media representations. Using as background a cartographic map of Afghanistan, he created a collage where he covered most of the country with SMPTE color bars, and photographs that depict Afghan landscapes. The SMPTE color bars reveal the mechanisms used to “calibrate” colors for TV transmissions, a technical process by which “reality” is standardized and transformed into a digital product for the screens. The artist juxtaposes this with another depiction of the area intended to feed the popular imaginary with “beautiful” afghan landscapes: tourism brochures. The combination of images reminds us that the representations produced by the mass media are not only shaped by epistemological and ontological frameworks, but also by the mediums to which they are adapted.

    It is interesting to think that most of us know Afghanistan through a screen, a medium that afghans would seldom use to shape or mediate ideas about their country; be it because of socio-economic reasons or because it was banned for many years by the Taliban rule.

    Link to the map:

    I also post a link to another of his pieces “Reel-Unreel”, where kids play with a reel in the streets of Kabul, capturing their surroundings not in the traditional cinematic way, but through the physical interaction of the film with the environment.

    Link to “Reel-Unreel”:

    • Thanks for this great example, Claudio. We can perhaps think of ways we can use our maps to embed a self-critique — just as Alÿs’s SMPTE color bars call attention to the “constructedness” of the image.

  • I was struck by Ricardo Padrón’s discussion of the mapping of Dante’s Divine Comedy by Florentine intellectuals. He writes that they “were eager to reclaim Dante as one of their own….these men who were so committed to mapping Hell, in other words, were trying to find in Dante a mirror of their own modernity” (p. 263). Mapping the work of Dante, in this way, was a way to lay claim to him and his work. While Dante was born in Florence, he was later exiled from the city, and wrote the Divine Comedy during this exile (it wasn’t rescinded until 2008). Given this context, the impulse to culturally claim Dante in the name of Florence by mapping his work makes sense to me. In some ways, this impulse is a mirror the one behind the Dada map that is discussed in the D’Ignazio reading. D’Ignazio writes that in the “Dada Triumphs!” map, Raoul Haussman works to “appropriate the entire Northern Hemisphere under the international empire of a tiny art movement,” calling it a “map of imaginary conquest” (p. 191). If this map show’s Dadaism attempting to claim the entire world for the Dadaist movement, then the Florentine scholars’ map’s of Dante’s inferno are an attempt to culturally conquer and claim Dante in the name of Florence.

  • When a work is in the category of “mapping art,” it must have the underlying conditions of the map. From this perspective, Daniel Rosenberg’s article was obvious. Following is the definition of mapping in linguistics:
    “an operation that associates each element of a given set (the domain) with one or more elements of a second set (the range).”

    In mapping/mapping art, the most important thing is to see how you can voice your own with objectified data. Data visualization and infographic are included in the large area of mapping. Although it does not exist in the form of a “map” in the usual sense, there are many remarkable artistic works using data visualization. I would like to introduce some of them.

    Do Not Touch:
    If the Moon Were on 1 Pixel:
    Flight Patterns:
    Stranger Visions:

  • In “Art and Cartography”, the author described the “Symbol Saboteur” impulse as one that uses typical symbols of maps to reflect on personal/unrealistic places or situations. I was struck by the quote which states, “Political boundaries became iconic shapes, legible visual markers of identity and belonging that were ripe for artistic distortion subversion and re-imagination.” Once political structures are translated through an artistic lens, I wonder what is more valuable: what has been lost in translation or what has been gained? In other words, when we as artists and as free thinkers depict a situation in our own ‘map’, we are providing our own interpretation and potentially creating a new reality. For instance, similarly to the example given in the reading, if I ask 10 people to draw a map of the West Village, each map will look very different: each will include a different ‘go-to’ coffee shop, or highlight a different street, or would be scaled differently. The process of drawing each map will probably be different as well, as each person would probably start from what they know best. The map here no longer reflects what the West Village actually looks like, but what it is remembered as. “The drawings indicate the ubiquity of the country’s shape in our imagination of place.” Is the reality of the West Village based on our experience of it?
    I am also interested in the idea of maps as artifacts, for them being displayed (or viewed) as beautiful objects and works of art more than representative, political, informative documents. There is a back-and-forth play in the tension between these two definitions, and often times especially with interactive web-based maps, these definitions collide.

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