Posts Tagged ‘Cartographic Theory’

Cover of dissertation

André Luiz Mesquita’s dissertation (in Portuguese), Mapas Dissidentes: Proposições Sobre um Mundo em Crise (1960-2010), (Dissenting Maps: Propositions on a World in Crisis, 1960-2010), looks at the maps and diagrams of artists and activists from 1960 to 2010, all working in social, political, and economic contexts of crisis and change, conflict and various forms of resistance. He approaches the work of three generations of artists through an analysis of endless documents, catalogs, manifestos, articles, photographs, documentaries, art works, reproductions of maps, and interviews.

Mesquita begins by examining the games and maps created in the 1960s and ’70s by the Swedish-Brazilian artist, Öyvind Fahlström (1928-1976), made under the geopolitical tensions of the Cold War (1947-1991) and the structural and organizational changes in global capitalism of the 1970s.

Öyvind Fahlström's World Map

Öyvind Fahlström’s World Map

He then turns to the work of the American artist, Mark Lombardi (1951-2000), who, in the 1990s, mapped international power networks and obscure financial transactions involving banks, governments, and neoliberal elites.

Mark Lombard's World Finance

Mark Lombard’s World Finance

Finally Mesquita addresses the counter-cartography practices developed between the 1990s and 2010’s by three activist art collectives: Bureau d’Études (France), the Counter-Cartographies Collective (United States), and Iconoclasistas (Argentina). Based on the interrelations between contemporary art, political activism, and critical cartography, Mesquita holds that the work of these activists-artists has created a significant opposition to the “neutral and objective” maps made in the interests of corporate, governmental, and military bodies.

Bureau de'Etudes's Refuse the Biopolice

Bureau de’Etudes’s Refuse the Biopolice


Counter-Cartographies Collective's DisOrientation Guide

Counter-Cartographies Collective’s DisOrientation Guide


Iconoclasistas' Radiografía del Corazón del modelo sojero

Iconoclasistas’ Radiografía del Corazón del Modelo Sojero

What’s really exciting is the mining Mesquita has done, coming up with a range of map work that will surprise the causal observer of, say, Fahlström (in particular); but also the way he attaches all this work to that of antecedents (like the Surrealists and the Situationists) and parallels (as in the work of Trevor Paglen).

Structure of the dissertation's argument

Map of the Dissertation’s Argument

This is an important piece of work. Mesquita is currently working on a translation to English.

The full dissertation can be downloaded here or here (55.4 mb)

Contact André Luiz Mesquita

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Denis Wood & John Fels’ new book The Natures of Maps is available now from the University of Chicago Press and many other sources. The lowest price I can find at this time is $29 (at Buy.com). Denis is, of course, co-author of the Making Maps book.

The book is big – almost a foot square – with color maps on almost every page.  The book had a harrowing path to publication.  Originally under contract to ESRI Press, the book was in final galleys (ready to print but for a handful of edits) when ESRI Press decided to cancel it and a dozen other books in process.  Given the expense of producing the book (and the cost of reproduction rights to the illustrations) this seemed to be a peculiar business decision.  The University of Chicago Press subsequently acquired the book, more or less ready to print.

Here’s an “editorial” blurb I wrote for the book:

If Wood & Fels’ The Power of Maps showed that maps were powerful, The Natures of Maps reveals the source of that power. The Natures of Maps is about a simple but profound idea: maps are propositions, maps are arguments. The book confronts nature on maps – nature as threatened, nature as threatening, nature as grandeur, cornucopia, possessable, as a system, mystery, and park – with intense slow readings of exemplary historical and contemporary maps, which populate this full color, beautifully illustrated and designed book.

The careful interrogation of maps reveals that far from passively reflecting nature, they instead make sustained, carefully crafted, and precise arguments about nature. The Natures of Maps shows how maps establish nature, and how we establish maps. The power of maps extends not only from their ability to express the complexities of the natural world in an efficient and engaging manner, but in their ability to mask that they are an argument, a proposal about what they show.

The implications of the arguments in The Natures of Maps are significant, empowering map users and makers. The Natures of Maps shows that neither map users or map creators are passive, merely accepting or purveying reality; they are, instead, actively engaged in a vital process of shaping our understanding of nature in all its complexity. Map users have a critical responsibility, the power to accept, reject, or counter-argue with the maps they encounter. Map creators have creative responsibility, the power to build and finesse their arguments, marshalling data and design for broader goals of understanding and communicating truths about the world. Rethinking how maps work in terms of propositional logic, with its 2000-year history and vast methodological and theoretical foundation, promises to be one of the most profound advances in cartographic theory in decades, and The Natures of Maps shows the way in a captivating manner.

Considering maps from the perspective of propositional logic provides a rigorous foundation for a theory of the map that transcends disciplinary boundaries. Scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences will find Wood and Fels’ The Natures of Maps intellectually sound, methodologically useful, and deeply engaging. But the beauty of The Natures of Maps is that it is not merely an academic book. Wood and Fels’ The Natures of Maps is a powerful, beautifully illustrated and engaged argument about maps as arguments that will appeal to map lovers, map makers, map users, and map scholars.

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