This Is What Happens When You Ask Contemporary Artists To Reimagine Maps Of The World

This Is What Happens When You Ask Contemporary Artists To Reimagine Maps Of The World

Do you remember the last time you looked at a map? Excluding the GPS app on your mobile device, it's probably been a while since you gazed upon the feats of cartography that populated your history textbooks and vintage road trip guides. Thankfully, critic and curator extraordinaire Hans Ulrich Obrist is here to remind the world that geography once existed in a state of static, free of pixelated glitches and digital inaccuracies.

In a project titled "Mapping it Out: An Alternative Atlas of Contemporary Cartography," Obrist asked 130 contemporary artists, architects, scientists and designers to reimagine the concept of the map. From renderings of the physical world to abstract images that attempt to navigate the spaces inside our minds, the stunning visualizations turn scientific data and condensed topography into contemporary artworks.

Michael Craig-Martin: Globalisation, 2011

Warning: As one might expect from artists like Yoko Ono, Ed Ruscha, Damien Hirst, and Anish Kapoor, the maps provide an unconventional take on the practice of cartography. Forget simple, color-coded surveys, these reinvented charts blur the lines between reality and fantasy, information and abstraction.

"Maps don’t work, and never have," author Tom McCarthy postures in the book's introduction. "Projections are not neutral, natural or ‘given’; they are constructed, configured, underpinned by various -– and quite arbitrary –- conventions... All maps carry with them a certain claim; that this one is somehow truer than the others with which it competes.”

Go ahead, try and decipher the arbitrary brain maps and human disease networks below. For those infatuated with Obrist's homage to classification, check out the Thames & Hudson offering here.

A New World Population Cartogram with Topography
Benjamin D Hennig (earth scientist), A New World Population Cartogram with Topography, 2010, Image credit: ©Benjamin D Hennig. Courtesy of Benjamin D Hennig.
Object Relational Neuroanatomic Map of the Social Brain
Joel Gold (psychiatrist), Object Relational Neuroanatomic Map of the Social Brain, Image credit: ©Joel Gold. Courtesy of Joel Gold.
Pleasure Pain Desire: A Map of the Emotions
Emanuel Derman (mathematician), Pleasure Pain Desire: A Map of the Emotions (according to Ethics, Benedict de Spinoza), Image credit: ©Emanuel Derman. Courtesy of Emanuel Derman.
Fournier Street Map
Gilbert & George (artists), Fournier St, 2008, 226 x 317 cm. Image credit: ©Gibert & George. Courtesy of Gilbert & George.
A Map of Obesity within the Kind of Social Network We All Inhabit
Nicholas Christakis & James Fowler (social scientists), A map of obesity within the kind of social network we all inhabit, Image credit: ©Nicholas Christakis & James Fowler. Courtesy of Nicholas Christakis & James Fowler.
The Great Draughtsman
Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison (artists), The Great Draughtsman, 2009, Image credit: ©Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison. Courtesy of Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison.
Human Disease Network
Albert-László Barabási (scientist), Human Disease Network, Image credit: K.-I. Goh, M. E. Cusick, D. Valle, B. Childs, M. Vidal, A.-L. Barabási, ‘The human disease network,’ Proceedings of the National, Academy of Sciences, 104:21, 8685 (2007)
From the Brain of a Writer
Etel Adnan (writer), Image credit: ©Etel Adnan. Courtesy of Etel Adnan.
Dream Mapping
Susan Hiller (artist), Dream mapping, 1973, Image credit: ©Susan Hiller. Courtesy of Susan Hiller.
Forecast From an Artist
Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla (artists), Forecast, Image credit: ©Allora and Calzadilla. Courtesy of Allora and Calzadilla.
Ed Ruscha's 'Wen Out for Cigrets'
Ed Ruscha (artist), Wen Out for Cigrets, 1985, Image credit: ©Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of Ed Ruscha.
From the Mind of a Mathematician
Jacques Roubaud (Mathematician (retired) and Poet (not retired but tired)), Image credit: ©Jacques Roubaud. Courtesy of Jacques Roubaud.
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