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by Gloria Lanci

The Liverpool Map, by Inge Panneels and Jeffrey Sarmiento, in exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool (photo Gloria Lanci, 2019)

My recent book, ‘Art Maps and Cities’, presents an original study on how contemporary artists are exploring urban spaces through mapping. It elaborates on the idea of the art map as an open-ended practice that can unfold collective endeavour, personal narratives, contestation and protest, embodiment and play, and where knowledge is a cultural production. As cities are transformed through urban planning, political ideologies and socio-economic forces, art maps not only reflect these processes, but they embed knowledge to reinterpret and understand the very nature of urban spaces. Cities have been intrinsically connected with mapmaking throughout history, from the pre-historic rock engravings and paintings of the first settlements, to the intricate and fascinating printings of the Renaissance and the current hyperreal digital visualisations. Despite that, little research is dedicated to investigating how artists intervene in the realm of urban cartography, and the relationships that can be envisaged between art maps and cities in the contemporary world.

‘Art Maps and Cities’ examines a century-old history of art maps and draws on academic debates that have been challenging traditional notions of maps as scientific artefacts for information and way-finding, constructed through accurate measurement and surveying, and based on knowledge that is detached from cultural, economic and political contexts. The book discusses the potential of art maps to construct personal narratives, through contestation, embodiment and play.

Lanci, G. (2022) Art Maps and Cities: contemporary artists explore urban spaces. Palgrave Macmillan / Springer International

This book was developed from both my long-established research interest in the urban landscape and more recent training and work experience in geographic information systems. Although these subjects were pursued in quite different contexts of knowledge—the former in the humanities, following an academic background in architec­ture and planning; the later within the science and technology of spatial analysis and database management—they came together unexpectedly in a project combining visual arts, mapping and cities.  Adopting an exploratory and interpretative research approach that investigates the confluence of theories originated in different domains, this book conducts the reader to discover what artistic practices can bring into a more creative, while inquisitive, understanding of cities. The bulk of the research conducted for this book is centred on two sets of semi-structured interviews: four British artists based in Britain and the US, and a small group of artists who produced three maps for Liverpool between 2005 and 2011. Artists were enquired about how they apprehend, process and re-create urban spaces in artworks, incorporating cartographic processes alongside their art practices. Visiting their studios and entangling in long conversations, I could understand how much of their mapping interests are associated with their own personal artistic journeys. Each art map is materialised through fabrication that can involve intense labour and elaborate craft skills, but also from an accumulated experience of constant interrogation of their own practices and their meanings. In this sense, the art maps they produce result in more than objects to be seen, exhibited, archived; they document performative acts.

If interested, you can find out more about the book here: 

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