Globes, GIS and Art

Geographic information systems are most often utilized for functional cartographic and spatial analysis purposes. Seldom is it remarked for its aesthetic and artistic capabilities. Whereas GIS is a valuable and functional tool for industries, environmental research, resource management, engineering and the like, seeing GIS displaced from its functional realm as a creative force is surprising. How do these tools for visualizing spatial functions, normally embedded in a language of complex algorithms and numbers, have any relevance to the world of art?

Ingo Ghunter has been making ‘map-art’ for nearly a decade. His globes illustrate the spatial interpretation of some rather mundane statistics on global wealth, environmental issues, and trade. Certainly, the art is appealing on a visual level, but it also serves as a critique of the Western world and the globalizing economy. Many of the globes illustrate the geographical disparity between rich nations and poor nations of the world, where geographical scale and colours assist in illustrating the point in a more profound way than by way of any statistical table or graph. These exaggerations in scale and colour effectively illustrate the capacity that cartography has in revealing a function, and divulging information to its audience beyond the simple purpose of representing space.

Of course, these representations might not be entirely useful for analytical purposes, but beyond their aesthetic appearance, they do illustrate some important observations created through exaggerating and distorting space and scale. There are installations of his work in Bonn, Germany and a recent publication in Wired magazine.

This art could be considered to represent the convergence between GIS and psycho-geography, where GIS is a system for creating awareness in a creative way of the global landscape. As a purposeful device for spatial analysis, and as an innovative and artistic device for social commentary – GIS is a broadly utilized tool that has a great capacity for visualizing many different spatial and aspatial phenomena.

See also

Juan’s Freire’s blog postings on GIS
Radical Cartography

Hat tip to Roy for the post.

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