Nick Hackworth

The Map Is Not the Territory, England & Co

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

AS Eric Hobsbawm pointed out: “We need new maps if we are going to make sense of the world.” A fair point and one that the 38 artists in this show have taken to heart.

There are new maps of every kind in this map-themed group show. Maps that turn the political world upside down, maps of human souls, maps of human faces, maps of concepts, maps of long forgotten journeys. Some are beautiful, many attractive, a few tediously banal and a few plain silly.

Starting with the most ridiculous, Matilda Downs has produced a print, Map of Cow Markings 2001 and a book, an Atlas of Cows, that map the markings on the back of cows, so that a herd looks like a collection of oddly shaped land masses afloat in a field. It is doubtful these maps will help anyone make sense of the world, unless they be Maff foot-and-mouth inspectors.

Ralph Rumney, also at home with the ridiculous, being England’s leading situationist, presents a “psychogeographic” map of Venice made in the Fifties with useful visual cues on how to have fun around Venice by acting like an arse. A local flavour is provided by Susan Hiller’s Street Ceremonies, which was a choreographed event that took place in the Seven ties around Portobello Road, but is represented here by paraphernalia from the event; posters advertising it, sketch books documenting the development of the concept and photographs of the activities. Hilariously, given recent trustafarian boho fashions, the current denizens of Portobello look little different to the hippyish participants in the Seventies event that smile out from the photographs.

Mateuz Fahrenholz, meanwhile, presents some of the most straightforward but poignant pieces in the show. Each one consists of a shallow box that contains a small sculpture of a boat, a map of major immigrant destinations such as California and New York and finally a faded sepia photo of some long-forgotten traveller, the gentlest of reminders of the massive flows of people that crossed the earth in the search of a better life.

Elsewhere Cornelia Parker, Peter Green-away and Langlands and Bell also make their contributions to a show that doesn’t quite undermine one’s faith in the objective truth of maps and map making but gives it a shake and presents some nice art in the process.