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The Map as Art / Strange Maps

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Friday, Dec 18, 2009
The Map As Art - Princeton Architectural Press [$45.00] and Strange Maps - Penguin [$30]
cover art

The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography

Katharine Harmon

cover art

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities

Frank Jacobs

Who hasn’t pored over a map, totally absorbed, oblivious to the passage of time? You are Here, for the time being, and ‘Here’ is you, in all the cultural, political, and geographical interpretations of that phrase you care to consider. If you’re inclined to such daydreaming, The Map as Art will intrigue, delight and perplex you, as you browse through 160 contemporary artists’ interpretations of mapping the world.


Your understanding of what comprises a map will get a luxurious stretch, as you slowly page through this delightful book (a sequel to the best selling You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, also by Katharine Harmon), and thus your comprehension of the world will expand. Many of the maps, like us, are designed to fade quickly on this geographical timeline (the wind will take them away); others, no matter how well preserved, will disintegrate more slowly as all objects of art do. Nothing remains fixed, not ourselves, and certainly not our world. You’ll want to find some of these in poster format, if possible, as many of these maps are quite beautiful.


An excellent companion piece to The Map as Art is found in Viking Studio’s Strange Maps. Here the map as concept is turned on its head, or inverted, as the cover art implies.  For example in section III. Artography, artist Frank Chimero depicts the state of California as a stubbed-out cigarette—and that’s one of the more readily comprehensible maps. “In cartography, precision is essential.  But imagination can be an entertaining substitute,” says the introduction to part I. Cartographic Misconceptions, which playfully depicts maps of, well, creative assumption, which were typical resources prior to the age of satellite imagery.


Author Frank Jacobs calls this collection, derived from his popular blog, Strange Maps, an anti-atlas in its scope of curious cartography that—consider yourself warned—is not meant for navigation. Well, not physical navigation, anyway. Your imagination will wander freely throughout these interpretations. This is a collection of odd maps that are, well, kinda hard to pin down. Readers of this book will wear a bemused smile throughout—and they’ll never look at the state of California the same.


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