Representation of the world is a practical and scientific necessity, both in the past and still today; one which allows us to comprehend our geography, whether it is near or distant, and which provides a source of reverie, inviting us to dream of travels and the fantastical.
The first explorers discovered unknown worlds, thus allowing their pictorial translation. The cartography was meant to be completed, filled in with details from compiled information, and according to the meaning one wished to convey. Maps indeed represent reality, but interpret it by creating an image from multiple, more or less reliable elements. Our representation of the world is constantly evolving. Current technologies render it extremely precise, helping us see the world differently. Nevertheless, this translation into a two-dimensional surface, this fattening out, is an artifice; from the moment they take shape, maps are a testament to an artistic concern which is added to their navigational function.
Contemporary artists are also captivated by world maps, which many of them reinvent and transform. The artists find each map’s potential – not only geographical but also political, poetic or utopian. The map is, to a certain extent, an inevitable form from which all sorts of geographic deviations stem, but it is also the pretext for a reflection on the state of the world, or a space for imaginary projections. It is illusion and reality all at once. Maps reinterpret a truth, and transform it. This undoubtedly explains why so many artists have showcased maps in their work, each in their own way, thus making the world flat.
Completed by a selection of ancient maps and literary translations, the exhibition brought together more than thirty contemporary artists from across the world. It was testament to the recent interest artists have developed for a revisited Mapping according to their own aesthetic research. Some have developed numerous works on this theme, such as Marcel Broodthaers and Mona Hatoum, whereas others have periodically found world maps through their research, like Alighiero Boetti with its series of Mappa, or Wim Delvoye who conceived a new installation for this exhibition, just to name a few. The exhibition reunited around a theme rich in meanings, the map being for the artists a pretext for all sorts of comments on contemporary society, power relations, ecology, conflicts, etc.