Friday, 9 April 2010

Book - The Map as Art

Maps had a definite revival in the last five years. Since the introduction of Google Maps in 2005 there is a steep rise in the use of digital maps. With it maps and more specifically location started entering the list of the top ten worries, at least of citizens. Today most services besides facebook and definitely every newly introduced online service will offer a map somewhere and most likely have a GeoDatabase somewhere.
Location and spatial awareness has probably not had such a buzz since Galilee proofed that the earth is actually round.
As discussed in earlier post on mapping, maps are very much an intellectual abstract simplification used to graphically visualise spatial relationships. The important point is the claim for objectivity through the use of reference points.
With the general rise of maps it is not surprising that it spills over and infects other areas.
The visual arts, however have been using mapping for a long time. But recently in the mist of the trend described above this art practice has obviously had more attention.
This is documented in the Princeton Architectural Press publication 'The Map as Art, Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography' by Katharine Harmon. Harmon is an expert in the filed of maps. She was also the author of 'You Are Here'.
However, in this publication she focuses solely on examples of contemporary art pieces making use or referencing a map or mapping.

Image taken from by Simon Elvins / SILENT LONDON - Blind embossed etching - 735x500mm - Edition of 10

Such a collection of art works could very easily just become another catalogue of contemporary art. Very surprising to me, it doesn't! This probably has to do with a few things, one could be the timelines of the topics (I am very much in love with maps), another the quality of the works chosen or a third the combination of objectivity (geography) and subjectivity (art). Probably it is a combination of the three.
There are plenty of beautiful examples of art maps. Some familiar examples, for example Christian Nold's Emotion Map on page 143. The book structures the maps into the chapters: Conflict and Sorrow; Global Reckoning; Animal, Vegetable and Mineral; Personal Terrain; You are Here, Somewhere; Inner Visions; Dimension/Deletion.

Image by urbanTick / page showing the 'Santa Monica art Tool' by Carl Cheng

For a more technical grouping of the works it could be said that there are maps in the following categories: 'using maps as material' - for example Sally Darlinson or Joao Machado with 'Swimming'; a second category might be 'evoked maps' - with works by Corriette Schoenaets or David Maisel (who is working a lot with photography) and a third category would be 'altering maps' for example in the work of Brigitte Williams or Luisa Bufardeci.
This is just to name a few examples and of course how ever you try to organise this wealth of works it never can live up to all of the examples. Best thing to do brows the book every now and then and you wil find a new surprise or map fit.

Harmon, K., 2009. The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography, New York, N.Y: Princeton Architectural Press.

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