Maps as Art

After last week’s brief discussion about mapping in class, I’ve thought more about the concept of a map and the significance in its creation. Originally, I considered maps to be a simple representation of roads, cities, countries, etc, a tool to get from one place to another. However, a map can be more generally a representation of an area through various categorizations, and its creation is an inherently political thing. Who gets to make maps, who gets to decide how a region is represented, and who gets to determine where the lines are drawn.

Many contemporary artists are playing with the concept of the map and using it as a medium of expression. Katherine Harmon, the creator of “The Map as Art”, a collection of map-related artwork, explains her thoughts on why artists are drawn to maps:

“Is there any motif so malleable, so ripe for appropriation, as maps? They can act as shorthand for ready metaphors: seeking location and experiencing dislocation, bringing order to chaos, exploring ratios of scale, charting new terrains. Maps act as backdrops for statements about politically imposed boundaries, territoriality, and other notions of power and projection…Like artworks, maps are selective about what they represent, and call out differences between collective knowledge and individual experience…Some artists include maps in their artworks… because they simply are drawn to the line and shape of the map’s vocabulary.”

Part of Harmon’s introductory essay and a few pieces from her book can be found here:

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