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Political Map of Phantom Islands

Agnieszka Kurant2011/2011

Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu

Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu

The work belongs to the series entitled The Map of the Phantom Islands, consisting of world maps, where the artist gathered territories that do not exist in reality. Political Map of the Phantom Islands presents a “diaspora” of several phantom islands on a fictitious thematic map. In the bottom left-hand corner one can see the map’s legend which includes colourful labels of the following territories: British, Dutch, French, Greek, Italian, Mexican, Norwegian, Portugal, Russian, Spanish and American. Most islands are small-sized, and their names are written on the map in various languages (Island of Demons, Isle Pxilipeaux, Antillia). The distribution simulation of these mythical places reconstructed by the author is supplemented by seas and oceans located densely next to each other. One such island is Lemuria, situated on the right side of the map. The hypothetically sunk continent in the Indian Ocean was called this way by Philip Sclater and designated by 19th century Darwinists to explain the isolation of lemurs on Madagascar and the presence of their ancestors’ fossils in Africa and South-east Asia. Helena Bławatska was one of those who published texts on Lemuria, giving it the status of a mystical lost continent preceding Atlantis in the social consciousness. The islands that Kurant is interested in are hybrid and spectral places, situated between the worlds of idea and material culture. Their history shows that they were included on many world maps of political or economic importance. That was the effect of treating mirages, cartographic mistakes or false images of the world as real phenomena. Another reason for that were also unconfirmed rumours, myths, legends, or, finally, the colonization desires whose consequence was to recognise such islands as a reason for real political conflicts that almost led to several wars. [E. Jarosz]

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