Artists Illuminate Amazing Territory Using Map Technology in "Here Be Dragons"

EX_Here Be Dragons gallery overview 5.jpg
On the left is Val Britton's Burst Apart, and on the right is Tucker Nichols' Untitled (mp1111).
​Thanks to advances in technology (hello Google), the definition of "map" has evolved oh so radically in the past decade. Not surprisingly, visual artists are utilizing these high-tech tools to reconfigure cartography. The result -- at least in this exhibit, "Here Be Dragons: Mapping Information and Imagination" at Intersection for the Arts -- is almost orgasmically delightful.

Exhibit A: The Magic Story Table by JD Beltran and Scott Minneman, who purpose an interactive globe with audio stories from everyday people. Spin the table, zero in from space to the edges of a neighborhood, and listen in as men and women spin yarns about money, school and other central issues. There's nothing quite like it.

LR_Eric Fischer_ Locals and Tourists No3 (GTWA No4).jpg
Eric Fischer
Locals and Tourists # (GTWA #4): San Francisco
​Eric Fischer collected data from Flickr and Picasa and placed it on a base map of San Francisco from OpenStreetMap to get the complexly named Locals and Tourists #3 (GTWA #4): San Francisco. The blue points represent photos taken by locals, whereas red points indicate shots from visitors. (Fischer determined "locals" as those who'd uploaded S.F. shots for more than a month, and visitors as those who'd done so for less than a month.) The yellow points are from sources that couldn't be determined.

Still, it's a low-tech map that steals this exhibit: Wendy MacNaughton's Around Here, which incorporates her hand-drawn street grid, renderings of people, and excerpts of conversations to lay out the S.F. scene along Mission between Fifth and Sixth streets. The stories of low-income residents and high-end shoppers bring a new visual context to the social and economic chasm that exists in a one-block radius. Haves and have-nots -- so close together and yet so far away.

According to the gallery website, the title of the exhibit references what people in medieval times said about uncharted territory: "Here be dragons." Mapmakers of the day placed images of dragons and serpents on areas of maps that represented unexplored lands.

"Here Be Dragons: Mapping Information and Imagination" continues through Jan. 14 at Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission (at Fifth St.), S.F. Admission is free.

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