Maps as Art

Just a quick post on a book I’ve started that strikes me as particularly inspiring: Katharine Harmon’s The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography

There’s no question that maps have aesthetic as well as utilitarian value, and that design elements make or break good cartography. Harmon reasons that “like artworks, maps are selective about what they represent, and call out differences between collective knowledge and individual experience” (p. 10) However, she continues that there are important divides: “Geographers submit to a tacit agreement to obey certain mapping conventions, to speak in a malleable yet standardized visual language. Artists are free to disobey these rules.” (p. 11).

Yet can’t (and don’t) geographers bend cartographic rules as well – for purposes of utility and aesthetics alike? At what degree of ‘distortion’ or creative initiative do maps become artistic rather than utilitarian representations of place? Like with many other related things, the line of distinction is somewhat arbitrary. Yet it is clear that art and cartography continue to feed off one another – yielding developments that are fresh and visually… wonderful.


About katosulliv

Transportation, mapping, and cities enthusiast.
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