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Alternative Atlas: Mapping It Out

A new book takes a fresh look at cartography.

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Google’s Street View would seem to herald the end of the map: When we can access an interactive 3-D picture of any street anywhere and anytime, what’s the point of old, dusty and instantly outdated paper cartography?

Mapping It Out (Thames & Hudson, June), an “alternative atlas of contemporary cartographies” edited by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, takes up the argument. The collection is stunning in its breadth: Renderings of imagined and utopian lands, ideas, scientific phenomena, human migration and—simply—the unmappable all reveal the political and playful impulses intertwined in the act of mapmaking. To wit: The late Louise Bourgeois superimposed a perhaps-smiling face over a topographical diagram of her native France—was it always so obvious?—while Kevin Kelly, a cofounder of Wired magazine, doodled a map of the Internet, and 89-year-old poet Etel Adnan drew the disorienting tangle of arrows at left. As Obrist writes in an accompanying essay, “Maps produce new realities as much as they seek to document current ones.” Take that, Google.


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