Many artists work with maps. Indeed, we’ve focused on two exponents of the art world who have very successfully worked with map imagery as part of their work in Jasper Johns (MapCarte 3/365) and Andy Warhol (MapCarte 294/365). Here, we focus on Alighiero Boetti who famously used the map for a series of works in the late 1900s. He became fascinated with the outlines of maps as human constructs – borders that demarcated often contested places. At the same time he also became interested in embroidery and he worked with Afghan craftswomen who created a series of world maps. He didn’t specify any constraints and the maps he created from the woven fabrics are a function of the way in which the craftswomen interpreted the world. This applies specifically to colours across the maps which changed between different versions based on the choices of the women themselves.
Boetti began to use the maps not only for their colourfulness but also as a lens on western cartography and the reality of the world view of the Afghan women. In some respects the craftswomen were also learning some of the craft of cartography. The maps also reveal a sense of global changes in political structure as the shapes of countries and the flags change over time. They become a collection of geopolitical reference points despite their otherwise unscientific appearance and construction. Boetti also experimented with different map projections that could be used to emphasis the politics of the time with different sizes and shapes of land masses and countries shaping the way the map was designed.
Boetti’s woven maps have become icons of the modern art movement which make statements about cartography, projections and the shape of the political world. Indeed, the very fabric of how the world is constituted and how it changes is woven into the different Mappas over time. There’s no typographical components and no pen and ink. These are real, tangible, human maps made by humans. The meaning imbued in them is a function of the deep impressions made on the Afghan craftswomen.