516 ARTS will present an exhibition and public programs on the subject of map art, with a focus on “counter mapping.” Conventional Western mapping has been historically used to track, register, and achieve land appropriation and exploitation. Today, with processes such as gerrymandering, mapping still has an important role in the current political, social, and cultural systems. “Counter mapping” refers to efforts to map against dominant power structures. The concept for the exhibition is to investigate how different ways of tracking and mapping affect the meanings and perceptions of places, and to reflect upon the power structures that define those representations. The exhibition will critically engage with historical forms of mapping and the elements of power and culture that characterized them.
The common idea of maps as objective and universal tools for geographical knowledge will be scrutinized and challenged by artists who employ different practices of counter mapping. The intent of this project is to create space for reflection and dialogue among diverse artists and audiences. We will work closely with Indigenous scholars and map activists to organize public programs accompanying the exhibition, such as field trips, murals, workshops, and other events that facilitate access to and engagement in this critical topic. We are taking a collaborative approach that shares in the process of research and problem solving to create dialogue, enable one another, and allow objects and people to speak.