The politics of the cartographic imagination have entered cultural debate most powerfully in the last two decades in Wales through the work of artist and cultural critic Iwan Bala.
Bala is heir to the politicisation of maps by artist-cartographers in postcolonial cultures and, in his native Wales, to remappings offered during the 1980s by activist-artists such as Paul Davies, who aimed to disrupt ‘the familiar associations of landscape art’ and ‘acknowledge the power of mapping as an instrument of control and colonialization’ (in the words of Shelagh Hourahane).
Bala extends this project into aspirational cartographic space. In Tierra [sic] Incognita – a collection of works produced between 2015 and 2010 – he presents a series of reimagined, reorientated map-forms, uncanny in the way they shift our sense of geographical and political ‘fixities’ (of size, position and relation). The land mass and political entity of Wales increase in scale; are given new profiles and identities, grafted onto mainland Europe; and are returned – as Bala would see it – to a more central relation to Europe and the world. The Brexit vote of 2016 ironises such images.
- Article by:
- Damian Walford Davies
- Transforming topography
Maps are often perceived as objective or ‘truthful’ representations of geographical data. In this article, Damian Walford Davies shows how they can also be vehicles for artistic or imaginative content, symbols, political agendas and cultural messages.