Missing

Strange Maps

256 - The Surrealist Map of the World (1929)

woodpowermaps199313.jpg

Just as light is not supposed to bend, so the Equator should not waver from its rectitude. The fact that it snakes across this map like a hose through a garden indicates that this is a very weird world indeed.

How weird? A first indication is the size of Alaska – way too big even if you allow for the distortion of the Mercator projection, which is also ballooning Russia to a size much bigger than its already huge actual surface, but this super-sized Russia is not out of line with accepted mercatorial deviance.

Closer inspection of the American continent reveals a gigantic Labrador, bordering on Mexico, to which is appended an atrophied version of South America. Not just atrophied, but completely missing are the United States and Canada (not to mention all other Central and South American countries, save Peru, which takes up all of its subcontinent).

Two para-American islands are affected by gigantism: Easter Island, which looks like a teddy bear pointing towards Peru, and Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of the Americas, looking like a lizard running west… the low resolution of this image leaves much to the imagination.

Asia and Oceania are similarly blighted by gigantism (Hebrides, New Guinea and an illegible archipel, China and Afghanistan) dwarfism (Australia, India) and not-there-ism (Japan, Sri Lanka, much of the Middle East).

Africa is tiny, Europe is almost entirely covered by Germany, Ireland is looking straight at Europe across the Britain-less North Sea. Only two cities are marked on the map: Paris and Constantinople…What’s the point of this map? Well – its point is that it hasn’t any, except to bewilder and shock bourgeois viewers by presenting a bizarre alternative to the stale normality of their expectations.

Which is a neat summary of the surrealist world view – not co-incidentally, the title of this work is Surrealist Map of the World. It first appeared in 1929 in a special issue of ‘Variétés’, a Belgian magazine, dedicated to surrealism – an art form remembered for its absurdity, but less for its political views.

In discussing this map in her excellent book You Are Here, Katharine Harmon quotes a Surrealist manifesto from 1925:

“Even more than patriotism – which is a quite commonplace sort of hysteria, though emptier and shorter-lived than most – we are disgusted by the idea of belonging to a country at all, which is the most bestial and least philosophic of the concepts to which we are all subjected.. Wherever Western civilization is dominant, all human contact has disappeared, except contact from which money can be made – payment in hard cash.”

This map was found here.

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