Mapping in Arts and Humanities: an expanding field


As the academic year nears conclusion, and assessments are coming to an end, the conference season is gearing up again.

Several interesting symposia, workshops and conferences have just taken place (Mapping New Ground, at Northumbria University, or Geohumanities in Practice at Royal Holloway) and more events are coming up: Maps and Emotions (Washington DC on 1-2 July) and Mapping in Arts and Humanities Symposium (University College London, 27th June 2017). At the latter symposium Shannon Mattern will be key speaker.

Mattern has been writings eloquently about maps and mapping. Mattern notes that the ubiquity of maps make that maps should not just be preserve of cartographers, geographers and engineers, programmers and designers working on GIS systems or for that matter the artists who who ‘map’. Maps she argues, have been, but are now more than ever ‘media’. Mattern, as Associate Professor of Media Studies at the New School in New York, invites us as such to critique maps – and mapping- from the critical frameworks of media studies. It is indicative of an ever expanding and rich field of the geo humanities; the cross over between geography and the humanities. I will paraphrase the definition of GeoHumanities as ‘an umbrella term that has emerged internationally over the last 2 – 3 years to signal the growing interdisciplinary engagement between Geography and arts and humanities scholarship and practice. It incorporates other designated developments such as the ‘environmental humanities’, the ‘spatial humanities’ and the ‘urban humanities’. In essence, the term indicates how scholarship on key geographical concerns such as space, place, landscape and environment is advanced across arts and humanities disciplines’. This definition thus neatly defines this expanding field in which the trope of the map keeps recurring, and mapping is a key methodology.

Mattern did also make this valid point: whilst we are mapping everything, perhaps not everything can, or should be mapped? In this post from 2015, she acknowledges that sometimes, it is impossible to pin everything down to geographical data. She argues that the spatial turn often distorts the content. How do you map stories for example? How then, can we represent these ‘gaps in the map’ and allow them to be given full recognition without being able to, or wanting to fill the gaps? As Peter Turchi writes in Maps of the Imagination, “a fuller understanding of what we don’t know” – or, as Mattern notes of what we are not meant to know (e.g., what data is classified or otherwise obscured) – “is itself new knowledge, and redefines what we know. Omissions, intended or unintended, provoke the imagination.” (2009, 47).

Thus the process of mapping, rather than the outcome of the map itself, becomes arguably the more valid exercise. The lack of spatial precision is also of course acknowledged in the Cultural EcoSystems Services but the mapping methodologies by which we might define these, remains ill defined. But perhaps, that is exactly the point? As choreographer Claire Pencak noted in the Mapping New Ground? Seminar, exploring the space in between is where the interesting stuff happens and the improvisation process of mapping perhaps helps to articulate a fuller understanding of what we don’t know (Tuchi) and what we are not supposed to know (Mattern)? Mapping then, is placed very firmly in the field of the humanities.





Program Maps & Emotions workshop / July 1-2, 2017 / Washington DC

Programme of the upcoming workshop by the Art and Cartography Commission of the International Cartographic Association (ICC) which will take place 1-2 July 2017 in Washington DC, chaired by Sébastien Caquard and Alex Kent (co-editor of pending Routledge Handbook of Mapping and Cartography).


This workshop aims to bring together artists, scholars and students from cartography, geography, the humanities and the arts who are interested in exploring further the relationships between maps, emotions and places. We have a combination of presentations and activities planned to foster these discussions.

The workshop is jointly organized by the ICA Commissions on Art & Cartography, Cognitive Issues in Geographic Information Visualization (CogVis), and Topographic Mapping.

Preliminary Program

Saturday 1 July 2017

12:15 – 12:30 Registration

12:30 – 12:45 Workshop Opening

Introduction to the workshop
Sébastien Caquard, Canada, Amy Griffin, Australia, and Alex Kent, UK

12:45 – 14:15Session 1 – Mapping Memories (Chair: Alex Kent)

Mapping memories in a flooded landscape: a place reenactment project
Justine Gagnon, Université Laval, Canada

Cartographic narratives and deep mapping: a conceptual proposal
Daniel Melo Ribeiro, PUCSP, Brazil

Nostalgic landscapes: Virtually visiting the past with the Liquid Galaxy
Amanda B. Tickner, Michigan State…

View original post 433 more words

Mapping New Ground? A seminar.

Field visit to Snowdonia  as part of the 'Walking Poets' project.

image by Kevin Greenfield

In the last post, Phil Prentice noted how culture defines everything: from the physical and social characteristics of a place to the intangible cultural practices, which make a place unique. The Cultural Eco Systems Services (CES) have sought to at least acknowledge, and in turn quantify culture in the context of spatial data.

It quantitatively values a number of additional ecosystems which includes the cultural ecosystem services, ‘which give rise to a range of material and non-material benefits to human well-being, but are frequently overlooked in decision making’. It defines cultural ecosystems services as ‘ the individual or shared human benefits to human well-being that arise from the interactions between environmental spaces (e.g. gardens, parks, beaches and landscapes) and cultural practices (e.g. gardening, walking, painting and watching wildlife)’. It goes on to say that culture is not a property of the ecosystem per se, but develops over time through interaction between people, their values and the environment in which they operate. The importance of context – spatial, temporal and socio-cultural is fundamental in the shaping of and articulation of values. Culture and Nature are largely inseparable. Perhaps more pertinently, it refers to the cultural value as in the ‘value to society’, which is passed through art, literature and the media.

The notion of ‘natural capital’ was first mooted by E.F Schumacher in his seminal book Small is Beautiful (1973). The term environmental services was used in 1970 in a Study of Critical Environmental Problems, which listed pollination, fisheries, climate regulation and flood control as critical systems to human dependence on the Earth’s ecosystems. The French philosopher Felix Guattari (1989) had also noted that a new market system, which places value on the ‘profitability in the social and aesthetic sense’ was needed [1]. The development of the eco-systems services as it is now commonly referred to has expanded to include social-economic and conservation objectives. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was a major assessment of the human impact on the environment, called for the United Nations then Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000 and published in 2005. The report found, unsurprisingly, that human actions are depleting the Earth’s natural capital which is putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. However, given appropriate policy changes it would be possible to implement action to reverse degradation, if the political will for this exists. The legacy of this report has been the trickle down effect of this shift in thinking to national level. As a result, the UK Government commissioned the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) in 2007, and its initial findings were published in 2011. The ecosystems services states clearly that the natural capital contributes to the economic performance of the nation. However, more importantly it starts to nuance the benefits in broader terms rather than the narrow economic ones.

The UK NEA’s main effect is that any future decisions making will now have to assess the impact on ecosystems, not just imminently but far into the future. The Welsh Government enacted the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which specifically makes public bodies think about the long term impact of their policies and fostering a more joint up approach. The mapping of the ecosystems services thus requires a holistic approach with a longitudinal view, and one in which cultural ecosystems should play an integral role. The cultural benefits of ecosystems are no less tangible and material than other types of benefit. Therefore a broad range of perspectives, methods and tools are required to access and appreciate the full range of cultural ecosystems services. In a follow up study on the Arts and Humanities Perspectives on Cultural Ecosystems Services (CES) (2014) led by Professor Peter Coates, the potential future contribution of participation and creative mapping was highlighted. The report references the artist Iain Biggs’ notion of on deep mapping. Biggs likens the technique of in depth surveying and immersive site-specific practices used by artists, as a ‘essaying of place’[2]. Guattari advocates a move away from the universal to the local; of allowing solutions to develop relevant to their own ecology. This is perhaps best summed up in the slogan ‘think local, act global, a phrase which find its roots in the thinking of Patrick Geddes. Guattari calls it the eco-logic and notes ‘that this new logic – and I wish to stress this point – has affinities with that of the artist’. Thus the rationale of examining the methodologies employed by artists, and particularly considering the mapping strategies deployed, might help to further the discourse of Cultural Ecosystems thinking.

The broader context of Eco Systems thinking can not be divorced from the discourse around the Anthropocene. The biologist Eugene Stoermer coined the term Anthropocene in a joint article with atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000. It defined and described how human activity, predominantly the global economic system, is now the prime driver of change in the Earth’s System. There is ongoing debate among scientists as to how and when to define this new era. The climatologist Will Steffen argues that, “of all the candidates for a start date for the Anthropocene, the beginning of the Great Acceleration[3] is by far the most convincing from an Earth System science perspective. It is only beyond the mid-20th century that there is clear evidence for fundamental shifts in the state and functioning of the Earth System that are beyond the range of variability of the Holocene, and driven by human activities and not by natural variability. The impact of human activity on the Earth has not only made significant changes on the planet evidenced in climatic changes, supported by geological findings such as sediments and ice but also in a steep decline in biodiversity (58%) in the last four decades, leading scientists to call it the Sixth Extinction[4]. The Western concept of growth as evidenced in the Great Acceleration, is being proven to be unsustainable for both planet and people. The Great Acceleration trends support the proposal that Earth has entered a new geological epoch. The Anthropocene is thus the new age of geological time in which human activity is considered such a powerful influence on the environment, climate and ecology of the planet that it will leave a long-term signature in the strata record. Geologists, Earth System scientists and others have keenly contested the onset and the definition of the Anthropocene, and the term itself has not yet been formalised by the International Commission on Stratigraphy. However, despite an exact consensus of its definition and timing, the Anthropocence has been widely used and recognised as a term with which to describe the effects of humans on the planet. It has made its way into a number of other scientific studies and the social sciences, humanities and the arts. The word “Anthropocene” itself entered the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014, fifteen years after it is generally agreed to have first been used and entered popular culture.

It is from within this context that I organised the Mapping New Ground? Seminar on how artists are engaging with the Anthropocene through practice, theory and policy (30th May 2017). Professor Peter Coates will be joining Prof Harriet Hawkins and Dave Pritchard to discuss Eco Systems thinking and particularly the cultural and artists response, and the methodologies employed within this context. It will consider how artists are both engaging with the broader theme of the Anthropocene and how this might/could/will intersect with the discourse on Eco Systems thinking. The event’s programme can be viewed here. (Due to limited numbers , priority will be given to staff and students from the CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training) from the AHCR Northumbria-Sunderland Consortium). My particular interest, will be the mapping methodologies employed by artists but furthermore how those methodologies might relate to, or engage with the Cultural Ecosystems Services.

I will be reporting back on the seminar in due course.




[1] Guattari, Felix (1989) The Three Ecologies, New Formations, Number 8, Summer 1989, translated from the French by Chris Turner, p145

[2] Biggs, Iain ‘Deep mapping as an ‘essaying’ of place, blog post with notes from an illustrated talk given at Bartlett School of Architecture, 9th July 2010 [accessed 4 September 2016]

[3] The Great Acceleration in turn pays homage to the to the economic historian Karl Polanyi’s phrase the ‘Great Transformation’ (1944). Polanyi put forward a holistic understanding of modern society, which contends that society, the market place and the nation state are irrevocably intertwined. He argued that after the Great Transformation, the commodification of labour and industrialisation and the rise of the nation-state allowed the market economy to develop and thrive at the expense of society. He also noted that the market economy is unsustainable because it is fatally destructive to human nature and the natural world.

Polanyi, Karl The Great Transformation (New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1944)

[2] Steffen, Will – Broadgate, Wendy – Deutsch, Lisa – Gaffney, Owen – Ludwig, Cornelia. 2015 The Trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration. The Anthropocene Review. Vol 2(1) 81-98


[4] The eponymous Pulitzer winning book by the journalist Elizabeth Kolbert, collated scientific research which brings to the fore the accelerated rate of species decline and very, very (sic) elevated extinction rates, leading scientists to call it the next Great Extinction.

Drake, Nadia (2015) “Will Humans Survive the Sixth Great Extinction?” Nature, 23 June 2015

[accessed 14 December 2016]




Can Planners and Artists work together?

‘Can planners and artists work together’, was the provocative title of the Cross Party Group on Culture (CPG) when it met at the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Tuesday 14th March 2017.  The resounding answer was ‘yes’.


‘Culture defines everything’ noted Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Town Partnership: it defines what story a town has to tell. Culture defines the physical and social characteristics of a place. It reminded me of the Cultural Eco Systems Services , which sought to at least acknowledge – and quantify – the role culture plays in defining a ‘place’. It was also however noted, that quantifying culture in spatial data, is difficult to do. How can a ‘culture’ thus be defined? Artists could/should therefore be key assets in defining what that culture is, or could be?

The case study of the Stove in Dumfries, by ‘orchestrator’ Matt Baker,  demonstrated how long term commitment to a place, can lead to culture change. Baker’s arts practice spans over twenty years, working on strategic arts projects in Inverness and Glasgow before founding and developing the Stove initiative. The House on the High Street  film (2016) by artist John Wallace, commissioned by the Stove, highlighted the significant vacancy rate of the High Street in the town of Dumfries (73 empty shops currently). The film has served as a rallying call for the local community to challenge the status-quo and in turn has led to a significant regeneration project. More importantly, it highlighted and made visible the power structures at play and the role money plays in dictating how our towns operate. A large proportion of  Dumfries’ housing stock is owned by pension funds, whose sole interest is bringing in the highest financial return.  By keeping the rents artificially high,  it increases their yield value but with devastating effect on the local high street. The timely launch of the divestment + reinvest campaign last week which calls for the the divestment of £1.7 billion of Scottish pension funds from the fossil fuel industry, makes the case that investment in those assets which are actively engaging in the prevention of the building of a sustainable future, is counter intuitive. This logic thus also applies to pension funds investing in highs street properties, where financial returns for external parties trump the interests of the local community, and economy. When those links are made clear and the money connections made obvious, it empowers local communities ‘to do something about it’. The MSP Kevin Stewart, who currently leads on the future of the Scottish Planning System argued that in Scotland, the significant ‘sea change’ in how communities can, and are now enabled more than ever before to deliver services. Legislation such as the Land Reform Act 2016 (how, why and who uses the land in Scotland), the Community Empowerment Act (2015) which enables communities to request Asset Transfers, to for example compulsory purchase those empty high street shops, thus becomes a possibility.

Prentice asked; when did artists ever need permission? Artists just do.. Thus the role of artist as visionary, as one who does things, is a potent one. But Baker for one would be horrified of being thought of as his role as that of ‘genius’ – as someone with exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability – but instead describes himself not as an artist, but an orchestrator*. Without an orchestra there is no music; without community there is no art driven regeneration. Baker conceded that this is ‘the era of communities’ and as Kate Wimpress from North Edinburgh Arts  noted, socio-spatial issues are ‘the new plastics’. Thus a reconsideration of the role of the artist, beyond that of the aesthetic and the decorative (the after thought), but one is which the artist operates as leader , as an enabler, in the role of community engagement. The role of instrumentalism was raised, as was the issue of artist as an often unpaid member of a team driving regeneration, unlike perhaps those of a politician, planner, or developer whose professional and thus paid remit it might be. This raises important and key issues. But these are maybe points to be unpicked in a separate discussion.

Wimpress noted that the process which involves artists in the planning process from the outset, takes not necessarily money (as noted above, perhaps contested), but more importantly ‘timing and language’: allowing the process of dialogue and thinking time to unfold, takes time and considering the language in which this dialogue takes place is paramount to creating understanding. Investing in time and space to allow this process to develop in a meaningful way, she argues, avoids costly mistakes in the future, quoting Derek Bok ‘if you think learning is expensive, try ignorance’. It is a process which empowers and which she contends, leads to ‘civic innovation’. The anthropologists Tim Ingold and Elizabeth Hallam (2007) had argued that the process of improvisation – rather than innovation, and its bias towards technological solutions – should be considered a key characteristic of innovation. They differentiate between improvisation as ‘process orientated and innovation as ‘product focussed’. The digital tools offered up by the Understanding Scottish Places for example, offers brilliant tools for communities to truly understand their town through the mapping of objective data, and compare it with other, similar towns. I would argue that although such tools are a means of empowering communities, it still needs someone to steer that process. Thus we ought to consider that the process of improvisation offered up by Hallam and Ingold, as demonstrated by Winpress and Baker, is what artists are comfortable doing. The critic Lucy Lippard noted in the Lure of the Local (1997) that “for all the art that is about place, very little is of place; made by artists within their own places or with the people who live in the scrutinized place, connecting with the history and environment”. The role of the artists in mapping the places in which they operate, and making visible power structures, connecting communities and empowering has been demonstrated as powerful tool for change. Managing change, as Petra Biberbach from PAS noted, is what planning is all about.  But the process of ‘not knowing’, as referred to by Peter McCaughey, is one which does not sit comfortably within planning. Managing change, as Petra Biberbach from PAS noted, is what planning is all about.  But the process of ‘not knowing’, as referred to by Peter McCaughey, is one which does not sit comfortably within planning. Perhaps then, she argued we should reconsider what Patrick Geddes taught us? As the architect Malcolm Fraser noted: “The great Town Planner had trained and taught as a Botanist! Here was someone who understood that the urban world was an ecosystem..”

As the art consultant Robert Livingston pointed out in the meeting, there is the risk of ‘déjà entendu’ and the risk of reinventing the wheel. The work and international influence of Geddes was referenced by several speakers as was the work of  David Harding whose employment as the Glenrothes town artist (1968-78) was made possible by the Chief Architect and Planning Officer at the time and who in turn was influenced by John Latham’s Artist Placement (1975) at the Scottish Office Development Agency. Thus the understanding of precedents, good practice and successful role models, such as the Stove, will help for this way of thinking to be potentially rolled out and tried in other, different towns.

Perhaps more importantly, now is the time to ensure that place making is an integral part of planning and to get it enshrined in a meaningful way in the planning review. And that should include a role for creative thinking to be embedded in the process of planning and allow for the ‘not knowing’.

Inge Panneels

You can respond to the Planning Review online until 4th April 2017.

You can find out more about this, and other CPG On Culture meetings, on http://www.CPGon or follow #CPGculture

*(a glint of recognition there, as someone described my art practice many years ago as ‘an orchestrator of things’)


The Map as Art


The mapping of our world has long been a significant scientific undertaking, which has influenced how we think about the world and our place within it. The history of geography from early modern navigation and enlightenment exploration to the institutional geographies of the 19th and 20th centuries and the focus of recent history of spatial thinking in human geography, illustrates how maps have played a key role in the Modern Era. Map knowledge does not come to us naturally but through complex cultural understanding. Each map speaks of its time and the value of its culture; the tacit knowledge of ocean faring embedded in the sticks and shell system of a Polynesian chart, the spiritual and geographical Aboriginal knowledge passed on through millennia long oral tradition[i], the territorial claims of competing Portuguese and Spanish empires staked out on maps and globes in the Age of Discovery or the global dominance of internet giant Google in online digital mapping.

 The understanding of how maps work, and the diverse ways in which space and place are currently conceptualised and analytically employed to make sense of the world, has been analysed more in the last two decades. The cartographer and artist Denis Wood has been at the forefront of the critical discourse of cartography since the early 1990s. He argued in his seminal book, The Power of Maps (1992[ii]) that understanding the historical provenance and the rationale of maps to claim territories, mark property and denote political boundaries, makes maps potent tools of power. Wood as such dissected the map, not as an impartial neutral tool but as a biased, active and potent agent and artists have been singularly astute in challenging the perceived neutrality of the map. There has always been a close relationship between art and cartography, for example artists were traditionally employed to draw and embellish maps. Both cartographers[iii] and art critics have witnessed a rise in cartographic language and visual idiom within visual arts practice. Until recently, geographers and historians have led most of the academic debate on the subject of mapping in art, or art and cartography. The cultural geographer Denis Cosgrove has written extensively on the subject of cartography including mapping and contemporary art. In For Creative Geographies; geography, visual arts and the making of worlds, a critical overview of how art and cartography intersect, cultural geographer Harriet Hawkins (2014) argues that ‘clearly there is more work to be done on these historical relations’[iv]. The artist and academic Ruth Watson from the University of Auckland wrote a comprehensive paper Mapping and Contemporary Art for The British Cartographic Society in which she calls for a ‘new history of the map in art to be written that upends the usual suspects from their comfortable nodes on a one-sided cultural map’ (2009)[v]. Non-western cultures emergent on the geopolitical landscape bring with them other mapping paradigms. However, Western thought and culture dominate the mapping discourse discussed in this research.

 Artists have explored the subversive use of the powerful semiotics of cartography more noticeably since the 1960s. “This is the moment of the map”, wrote artist Lize Mogel in 2008. “The enormous amount of recent cultural production involving maps and mapping is reaching a critical mass”[vi]. Journalist and writer Katharine Harmon defines it as symptomatic of the post-modern era, “where all conventions and rules are circumspect”[vii]. The importance of artists creating work informed by the locale, whether urban or rural, has turned artists into producers of new knowledge; of makers of alternative forms of data, and has been a key factor in the changing field of geography itself (Hawkins, 2014). From the site-specific art of the 1960s and 70s Land Art, and the personal, identity politics of the 1980s and 90s, a more global, sometimes utopian, activism addressing environmental and political concerns has emerged. From cutting and reassembling, to walking, making and writing the map towards mapping: “is a generational shift away from the map (and associated problems of the image and representation) towards mapping as a process, with a concomitant focus on action and activism” (Watson, 2009). The emergence of critical cartography, the linking of maps with power, and thus an active and political agent (Crampton, Krygier, 2005)[viii] as had been theorised by Wood, has emerged as a distinctive critical tool for artists as is evidenced in the burgeoning cartographic work produced by visual artists in the last four decades, and more significantly in the last fifteen years. Nato Thompson, the curator of Experimental Geographies exhibition (2008) observed that the new emerging mapping practices in art could be described as ‘operating across an expansive grid with the poetic-didactic as one axis and the geologic-urban as another’. Visual cultural theorist Irit Rogoff wrote that “it is precisely because art no longer occupies a position of being transcendent to the world and its woes nor a mirror that reflect back some external set of material conditions, that art has become such a useful interlocutor in engaging with the concept of geography, in trying to unravel how geography is an epistemic structure and its signifying practices shape and structure not just national and economic relations but also identify constitution and identity fragmentation” (Rogoff, 2000:10)[ix]. Critical cartography in the hands of artists has become radical cartography (Mogel in: Thompson, 2008), responsive to a political moment, temporal and anti-monumental as a form of resistance, whilst at the same time it has become an experimental cartography (Thompson, 2008), where mapping has been used to visualise radically new ideas of world making.

The French Situationists, with artist Guy Debord as protagonist, had literally up-ended the map, through the challenge of the dérive in the mid 1950s. This technique of transient passage, allowed the psycho-geographer to explore the terrain through an element of chance. This drift [x] subverted dominant authoritarian readings of the urban landscape, and instead honed in on the ephemeral, fugitive and sensory spatial experience. The Marxist political theorist Fredric Jameson described the importance of drift as a form of cognitive mapping in relation to urban space as ‘the practical re-conquest of a sense of place and the construction or reconstruction of an articulated ensemble which can be retained in memory and which the individual subject can map and remap along moments of mobile, alternative trajectories’ to reclaim territory in a dis-alienating urban landscape[xi]. Both the dérive and its predecessor of the urban wanderer or flâneur, as described by the French poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire, were defined by the urban landscape. The French philosopher Michel de Certeau distinguished between place (lieu) and space (espace) in his influential Practice of the Everyday (1980), where place implies belonging and an indication of stability, whereas space has none of the stability as it is a product of action and movement[xii]. De Certeau also discerned between producers – the mapmaker – using strategies to plan space, and the consumer – the map user – who uses tactics to navigate space. The implication of this on cartography was profound. He determined that the earliest kind of map was not a geographical map but ‘a history book’, recording journeys pictorially and thus implied movement, a line of enquiry which the anthropologist Tim Ingold investigated further with his historical analysis of the line (2007) in the story of the map; from a gestural, three dimensional thing to a two dimensional drawing and the invention of the straight line[xiii]. With the onset of the Modern Era, maps became ‘more autonomous’ and as such divorced from the space of which the map is the ‘visible evidence of its own construction’[xiv]. The map historian Allesandro Scaffi put it eloquently like this: “With quantification, and by asserting the concept of an absolute space, mapping from 1500 certainly gained increasing precision over the whole span of time as well as the whole of earthly space. The price however, was the loss of the timeless vision offered by the medieval mappamundi; mapping’s horizon was reduced to three dimensional Euclidean space and limited to our experience of the physical world”[xv]. The ‘tactics of consumption’, to paraphrase De Certeau, thus places the agency of mapping back onto the consumer (map user), which embodies the essence of the Situationists: the power of the map claimed by the consumer rather than the producer. Artists have been very astute in understanding this.

This blog will explore how artists have deployed the map as a trope and mapping methodologies to explore notions of space and place and it the process challenge our understanding of the world, chip away at altering our collective worldviews or simply offer an alternative vision.

Inge Panneels

9 January 2017


[i] Although original songlines, as the name implies, are part of a millennia long oral tradition and have only recently been transferred into a visual medium by Aboriginal people.

[ii] Wood, Denis (1992) The Power of Maps New York: Guildford Press

[iii] The Art and Cartography Commission of the International Cartographic Association was established in 2008 specifically to ‘explore the art element in cartography’. Whilst its aspirations ‘to facilitate inter-disciplinary cross fertilisation of ideas and concepts and to disseminate information about developed theory and ontologies related to the interaction of art with cartography and cartography with art’ are a welcome acknowledgement of the intertwining of both disciplines, but it has been less active of late.

[iv] Hawkins, Harriet, For Creative Geographies: Geography, Visual Arts and the Making of Worlds. (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013)

[v] Watson, Ruth “Mapping and Contemporary Art” The Cartographic Journal, Vol 46, Nr 4, p 299, 2009

[vi] Artist Mogel, Lize ‘On Cartography’ in Thompson, Nato and Independent Curators International Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography and Urbanism (New York: Melville House, 2008), p107

[vii] Harmon, Katharine, The Map as Art: contemporary artists explore cartography (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009) p 9

[viii] Crampton, Jeremy W and Krygier, John (2005). “An Introduction to Critical Cartography”, ACME An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, Vol 4, No 1

[ix] Rogof, Irit (2000) Terra Infirma: Geography’s Visual Culture London: Routledge, 2000

[x] Corner, James The Agency of Mapping Contemporary Art, chapter 10 in Cosgrove, Denis, Mappings (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), p 231

[xi] Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism (Durham, NC, 1991) p 51 as quoted in Corner, James The Agency of Mapping Contemporary Art, chapter 10 in Cosgrove, Denis, Mappings (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), p 232

[xii] Reynolds, Bryan – Fitzpatrick, Joseph ‘The Transversality of Michel de Certeau: Foucault’s Panoptic Discourse and the Cartographic Impulse’, Diatrics, Vol. 29, No 3 (autumn 1999) p63-80, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press

[xiii] Ingold, Tim, Lines: a brief history (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007)

[xiv] Reynolds, Bryan – Fitzpatrick, Joseph ‘The Transversality of Michel de Certeau: Foucault’s Panoptic Discourse and the Cartographic Impulse’, Diatrics, Vol. 29, No 3 (autumn 1999) p63-80, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, p68

[xv] Alessandro Scafi, Mapping Eden: Cartograhpies of the Earthly Paradise, Chapter 2 in Cosgrove, Denis, Mappings (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), p67-68




Welcome to

Welcome to

The Map-i network is a research platform which brings together academic research on arts projects from around the world, which use mapping and mapping methodologies to collate, question or challenge established world views. It asks why, and how artists map? Emerging themes include climate change, the Anthropocene, social inequality and globalisation.

The map-i network links and relates to the map-i project, which was established in 2013 as a framework within which a series of art projects could be developed as part of a long-term holistic investigation into notions of place and space. It engages with mapping in art and the map as metaphor specifically by looking at the concept of space from a human perspective; from the infinitesimally small to the sublime of Space. The ethos of Map-i is based on this premise of interconnectedness: how the observable universe can be broken down into infinitesimally small particles, applicable at both the micro and the macro level, always of course observed from a human point of view. The human factor of space; that which can observed, walked, experienced, noted and calculated is referenced by the ‘i’ in Map-i.

This site was established in January 2017. The posts are administered by artist and academic Inge Panneels and invited guest editors.