Maps and the 20th Century: Down to Earth

20170207_133521.jpgTarget Berlin, 1943. Copyright British Library.

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Google maps probably is the most worldwide famous and active digital map for modern people; however, there is a world map exit before the satellite invention.

As Londoners rely on the oldest tube system in the world, they would absolutely need a map, have you ever doubt about why the tube map drawing with unreal distance which composes by only horizontal straight line, vertical, diagonal and right angel?

or how would you image the war escape route on map?

What would map draw your surreal dream with mythology?

Do you know there is a “fiction real map” such as Winnie-the-Pooh and The lord of the Ring(2001)?

Luckily, they are all shown in the same exhibition: Maps and the 20th century: Drawing the Line, it curated by Tonharper, Jim Caruth and Magdalena Peszko. It is a retrospect time travel back to 20th century for a world map. You will be put on a certain position to view the world, a dream surreal wonderland and probably get lost yourself in a map if you try to!

This typical British Empire ideology exhibition puts a hand-drawing large size “The Navy League map”(1901) in the very begging to welcome all the visitors.

1The Navy league map.jpg

Picture from>

20th century was a critic changing time for human, we experienced 2 world wars, Spanish civil war, technology invention, landing to Moon, the movement vehicles became more customize and popular, all of these reasons transformed and developed the mapping skills and the approach forms.

The exhibition divide in 5 parts: Mapping a new World, Mapping War, Mapping Peace, Mapping the Market and Mapping the Future.

More and more people become a traveler as cross-continent and world-movement vehicles became cheaper, have a fair knowledge of it, postcard became a cost-effective souvenirs, map postcard is a new product from 20th century.

We got the first conclusion: Pollution and postcards, the concept of world which we have captured pitcture of our planet from outer space are the main projects from 20th century.


SimCity(1989) is a person computer game to construct your own city, it also shows people started to have more leisure time with new toy, such as digital game.

DisneyLand(1968) as a “Hyperreal” labelled by French cutural theorist Jean Baudrillard, he critics that DisneyLand (as you can see there is FantasyLand, TomorrowLand, AdvantureLand on the map) is a completely represent the essence of America, it also invented the distinction between illusion and reality, DisneyLand makes the wonderland more real than reality.


Image from:

1968 Disneyland Souvenir Poster Map

The Theme park is not a place be established from fantastic animation but lead audience practically go into their imagination and dream to escape the real life.

In the Mapping War section, The Melancholy of Departure(1916) by Giorgio de Chirico was shown there on a corner quietly, but basically express how sadness and depressed while the world war started to begin.

The Melancholy of Departure 1916 by Giorgio de Chirico 1888-1978

More detail about Giorgio de Chirico, visit Tate website:

Some Utopia and mythical land idea generated from this era , one of the absolutely beautiful dreaming map: A mapped of Fairyland(1918) shows the previous Europe antique art style on painting that revel how people desire peace after war.

After the war, this world only become more mess, even faster movement, more immigration, more economic flow; meanwhile we need more analysis methods to calculate and record this changing world. Since early 20th century there

Since early 20th century there has choropleth maps to support political arguments, then there is more and more statistical infography maps be created, from Carribbean Free Trade to bird imigration map, from  Liver Pool city map for promotion by Beatle’s reputation to Casablanca(1942), from Los Angeles personal income(1966) to London original sketch for London tube map(1931). The world seems like much more mathmatical than geographical.

Harry-Beck-tube-map-sketch-Victoria-and-Albert-Museum-copyright-TfL.jpgEarly London tube map sketch(1931) by Harry Beck tube map sketch

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Take a guess, where is it on the map? Answer is here:

We can escape from our realistic life, draw our dream on the map, can we escape or vanish on a map? A New Reason for Movement(1959) give you another alternative way to do so.

Previous spaces with several specific aspects points of views constract with time, a knowledgible history, cultural critic and beatifully art aesthetic map show

Map is a perspective to view the over all, it takes the “god angle”, but this Maps exhibition will put us in a worldwide context through past to contemporary, we could conprehansive how this world became like nowadays and understanding ourselves where are we standing in the vertical horizon structure of world.



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