Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Atlas of the Radical World

Art News has a wonderful article by Carly Berwick in its current issue on how artists are combining art-making and map-making into an innovative art form and mode of cultural critique. Variously termed radical cartography, experimental geography and counter cartography, this practice attracts artists, designers, cartographers and geographers who are interested in mapping the social, political and cultural contours of the world that are usually omitted from traditional maps. One example Berwick gives is of a collaboration produced by artist Mona Caron and cartographer Ben Pease titled “Monarchs and Queens” (2010), part of the exhibition and book project “Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas,” organized by writer Rebecca Solnit and featuring maps of San Francisco. The map features a drag queen in a butterfly-themed outfit and a flock of monarch butterflies fluttering about over a map of the city that charts the habitats of both butterflies and gay men. Endemic to the piece is the kind of reappropriation of language that the gay community has initiated with such terms as “queer,” the most common derogatory term in Spanish for a gay male being maricone, or “butterfly.” The book has been published by the University of California Press, and the exhibition continues at SF MoMA through December 11. A similar book and exhibition project is Lize Mogel and Alexis Bhagat’s 2008 book, “An Atlas of Radical Cartography,” which includes art works that have subsequently toured to such sites as MoMA P.S.1 in Queens. The article also discusses the cartographic activism of such groups as the Brooklyn-based Center for Urban Pedagogy and the Los Angeles-based Center for Land Use Interpretation. It’s well worth checking out.

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