Graduate School of Art
Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Chair and Committee
The map is demonstrative of a basic human impulse, the desire to understand our surroundings and our position within the world. Through the activity of mapmaking, we aspire to comprehend comprehensively, but the very nature of the map allows for only partial understanding. Despite this objective for total knowledge, the blank space of a map is a necessity; in order for a map to be useful it must leave some aspects out. This blank space, along with other blanks in visual representation, is an active silence, and holds meaning in its absence.
While the map attempts to represent a territory, the two become conflated as the map shapes our perception of the space it depicts. As mapping conventions become normalized, the map appears to be an authoritative depiction of a physical space. However, it presents not only what is sensed in the world, but an accumulation of knowledge constructed by society. The map can never reproduce the terrain, but rather combines the real with the representational scheme, the natural with the ideological. We do not simply traverse the physical world but an architecture constructed by the lines of the map.
Interactive mapping technologies further complicate the relationship between the map and the territory; these digitalized maps have become authoritative representations of the world that we can carry in our pockets. As we navigate according to satellite maps, we look to the land to reflect the information of the map. Despite the ostensible accuracy of these charts, when a discrepancy is discovered between the map and the territory, the satellite “picture” of the map can be immediately “redrawn”, instantly erasing any false data. This is the act of un-discovery, once commonplace during the Age of Discovery but now an absurd occurrence amid the ubiquity of satellite maps. This condition points not only to a blurring between the map and the territory, but is indicative of a structural shift. If exploration is the act of forming a world, then un-discovery is the act of taking it apart, akin to the fracturing of post-modernism. However, in the dissemblance of uncertain times, there is an opportunity to visualize new, alternate spaces, to reconstruct through imagination.
In my thesis work, We Do Not Profess to Construct Planets, large-scale drawings investigate the nature of the mapping impulse, the relationship between the map and the territory, and un-discovery as a post-modern condition. Through deconstructive and reconstructive strategies, these drawings explore the conflation of the real and the imagined, the search for meaning through partial perception of the world, and the potential for reconstruction through the formation of alternate spaces. Collectively, the works point towards a shift in perspective, restructuring the space of the map as a strategy to see anew. As works of art, the drawings begin to explore the potential of the artist to work outside of established systems of knowledge, and negotiate visual representations free from the conventions of any one practice.
Schwartz, Carla Lacey Fisher, "Between the Map and the Territory: Taking the World Apart in the Age of Un-Discovery" (2013). All Theses and Dissertations (ETDs). 935.