Death to Fascism, 1941 – Immediately recognizable because of its striking graphic design and Soviet CCCP symbolism, this is one of the great propaganda maps made by artists shortly after Germany ended its nonaggression pact in the early summer of 1941, and crossed into Soviet territory with more than three-million troops. The image shows a monstrous Hitler (one should note the mustache and cropped hair) being held at pay by the well-equipped and better armed forces of the CCCP.
Mapping the Brain – Of all the maps in Map: Exploring the World, this one pushes the concept of what we think a map is to its limits. Sorting out the complexity of the network of neurons that make up the human brain is perhaps the most complex cartographic project ever undertaken. It is a mapping survey seeking to discover the workings of our inner space and not the usual outer or geographic space. The tools used to make this map, things like magnetic resonance imaging, are very much like the first satellites sent into orbit to map and remotely sense our planet. These instruments are however probing the consciousness of the very creatures that invented them and making discoveries about how we think, act and move around in the world.
Facebook Visualizing Friends – The world is always changing, moving, never really in equilibrium. This is a feeling, a concept, a fact that mostly we avoid. Stability is what we as humans are drawn to as if by instinct, as there is no safety in motion or in change. We want to be grounded in a place, in a space, with which we are familiar. Perhaps that is why throughout the centuries we have loved and created maps. Pictured on these abstract surfaces is an image of our world and its spatial complexities abstracted and made simple; reduced from three-dimensions to an easier to handle two. Maps give us the illusion that nothing is changing, and that all the paths we want to travel are clearly marked for us to follow. At least that is how is used to be. Today the mapping of things that have no material existence like Internet searches and social media information flows are very different from the cartography of the past. This map for example highlights our networked existence, at least some of our existence. A close examination shows that this simple map has a political message in that both Russia and China are nearly absent from the connections that rest of the world has so embraced. So although it is a very modern digital creation, it still carries a very traditional geo-political message.
Human Mobility and the Spread of Ebola in West Africa, 2014 – Although we tend to think of maps as images fixed in time, modern cartography has sought to represent events that are dynamic and not in equilibrium. This map uses location information taken from more than 150,000 cell-phones to show population movement of individuals in West Africa to help predict possible routes for the spread of Ebola during the epidemic of 2014. It is a typical example of how modern cartography has expanded its boundaries to map not only geographic but also social phenomena.
Oztoticpac Lands Map – As one of the earliest surviving documents created after the Spanish conquest of the New World and authored by indigenous peoples, this map shows schematics of geographic regions, plans of buildings and views of orchards and is written both in Spanish and in the Aztec language, Nahuatl. Although the map relates the proceedings of a court case and is therefore a very bureaucratic document, it shows the universality of the cartographic form as a representation of lived space that transcends both cultures and times.
Hurricane Katrina Flooding Estimated Depths and Extent, 2005 – Maps have become part of the visual vocabulary of natural disasters. Satellite images and remote sensing data are critical sources of information for governments and relief agencies seeking to provide the quickest possible emergency response. This image displays, in striking color, the levels of flooding in New Orleans four days after hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast, causing the levees to fail, and exposing millions of residents to the effects of one of the costliest natural disasters in US history.
Daylight Map, 2005, Olafur Eliasson – What is a map, an artist production or a scientific tool? This "Daylight Map," pushes the definition to its limits. A work of art, made up of twenty-four neon tubes, it divides the world into international time zones. The tubes are not straight and evenly spaced but, as in all things political, individual countries have opted to adopt time standards that do not follow the expected patterns, resulting in the bent form of the tubes. At any given time about half the bulbs are illuminated, representing that part of the world experiencing daylight hours.
Baltaltjara – Cartography, no matter what its traditional scientific pretensions, is at its core an artistic and design discipline. The varied forms that it has taken throughout its history, and the nearly infinite geometries from which it has been made, testify to its cultural and symbolic content, at times, taking precedent over its accuracy and way finding role. The Australian aboriginal artist Estelle Hogan painted this map of a sacred site near her birthplace, where the Seven sisters, who eventually became the constellation of the Pleiades, mythologically came to drink and camp. Many aboriginal maps harken to sacred sites like outcrops, lakes and creeks, and were ephemeral, created in sand or on bark, and hence no longer survive.
Map of Paris in 1863 Divided into Twenty Arrondissements, 1863 – The images that some maps evoke of the spaces we live in become fixed in the imagination and become part of a location's history. Made by J.N. Henriot just three years after Napoleon III expanded the city's boundaries, it shows the division of Paris into the now well-known twenty arrondissments. The map could be folded and carried in a coat pocket. Arranged in a spiral with four pastel colors the design became known as "the snail" and was the model for later "tourist" maps made for urban spaces across the globe.
Scott's Great Snake, 1861 – The rhetorical power of cartography is often seen as the source of its popularity and the reason for its use in political imagery. This map shows, in the drawing of an anaconda, a representation of the Union's attempt to blockade the confederate states and to "starve" the South into surrendering during the US Civil War. Named "the great snake" for the inventor of the strategy General Winfeld Scott, it was credited it helping hasten the end of the war.
On the Road – Cartographers are truly a strange breed. Most of us spend a great deal of time traveling, sketching the land and cityscapes in our little notebooks, and generally wishing we spent more of our time on the road. For my money Jack Kerouac's novel captures that spirit of cartography in ways that even many maps cannot and to see that he actually graphically traced out the route of his more narrative journey, makes On the Road a real mapmakers book. Over the decades many readers of the novel have sat down and drawn for themselves the path of the exploits by Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity as they criss-crossed America in search of adventure and self-discovery. Kerouac's hand drawn map is both a fictional plan for his writing and a real journey that he himself would make. What map isn't a blending of both?
Supply lines under Potsdamer Platz – Although meant to show something as pedestrian as the underground infrastructure of Berlin this map was far ahead of its time, both in its design, and also in being one of the first maps to treat the infrastructure of a city as a system of networks. The design of the map highlights one of the keys to successful map construction and which concerns itself with the mapmaker knowing what to leave out. Here we see no labels, text or anything else that might interfere with the perception of the network and spider web structure that the mapmaker was trying to get across to the viewer.
Rectangular declination – A map of the heavens is always a view into the past but also a view into ourselves. This chart is one of the more profound instances where we get deep insight into what has been called the fourth dimension of cartography....that which exists in the mind of the cartographer themselves. I look at this map as more of a battle which one man has decided to wage with infinity and one that shows the visionary power of the cartographic form. Although the mapmaker Larry McNish, only shows 119,616 celestial objects, out of the millions that are out there, the chart is enough to give you feeling for the vastness of space and for how difficult it is to comprehend. In that sense it really fulfills its purpose and gives us a feel for how small we are and how little we understand about the wider universe. Like all cartography it has to abstract from reality and leave some things out in order for the viewer to understand it.
My Lost Gloves from Mapping Manhattan, 2013 – This map is part of series designed to capture the subjective emotions and impressions of people inhabiting the same space. The artist, Becky Cooper, distributed outline maps of Manhattan and asked volunteers to fill them in and send them to her. The result was a fascinating view into the variety of ways that her contributors pictured and experienced an urban space.
100 Map of the River Nile from its Estuary South to Cairo, 1525 – One of the golden ages of cartography is to be found in the late middle ages and the Renaissance. Here we see a masterpiece of the period from the Ottoman Admiral, Piri Reis. A manuscript map taken from a larger work called, the Book of Navigation, the territory represented is the Nile River as it approaches Cairo, including Rosetta, namesake of the famous stone. Maps like this were extravagant works of art destined to adorn the "coffee-table" or bookshelf of a wealthy Renaissance merchant.