Hamdi ATTIA, "World Map," 2007.
Exhibition from 27 October to 30 November 2007.
“Remaking the world.” Cartography of the World by Hamdi ATTIA* by Abdellah Karroum.
An artist’s desire to understand the world, to represent his world, to propose it as a space for life, a space that is anywhere but is a unique space, belongs to a total quest by the artist for being in the world. Hamdi Attia is an experienced observer of media and of representation as tools for sharing, for information, or for propaganda. The artist speaks in his own poetic language about the relativity of political situations and the values of civilizations. The artist-actor takes the material of a researcher, journalist, geographer, linguist, and even of an “Artist” in order to play with and to thwart conventional structures and received ideas.
I met Hamdi Attia on Wall Street in New York in 2006. He took me to Ground Zero, the place where the world entered into a new historical era on 9/11. What is most striking in this story, after the horror of this drama of course, is to note the relativity of History. The fact that History is made by unknowns who, as accomplices of extremists, messianic evangelists, and Islamists, destroyed themselves by returning to the world the image of despair, of the failure of speech, and of constructive action. Unknowns who, like prophets, propose the sacrifice and destruction of material belongs and of “nonbelievers.”
This is the first time that I have spent so much time searching for the order of things to write an essay about an artwork. It is indeed an unknown world that is the subject of this work. I stopped looking for a precise site, an encounter. I roam as much in my thoughts as in the map of an imaginary world. The space of nowhere is not announced; its experience remains physically inaccessible. I no longer seek to understand, but I let the image of this world take me in, as if it were a door offering access to the center of the earth. To move ahead of the schedule of creation (brûler les étapes de la création) becomes a necessity. To destroy (brûler) systems of representing the world and to invent a new one, one that is more “just,” more “logical,” and freer. To imagine a world, to find oneself in this world, and to give it markers in all transparency: this is to share an existential vision.
The imaginary extension of the MapProject could lead the artist to imagine an introduction: The artist could still imagine, on the one hand, cities in the countries, streets in the cities, houses and other geographies; on the other hand, a vaster universe in which this “world in the middle” could situate itself… But we do not know what creatures would live in this fantastical world. Another humanity after a rapid movement of the continents in order to recompose a new world?
This world is not yet the World, but it is no longer pure imagination because it is visually “realized.” The design of this original world would exist purely before being inhabited by the encounter of living elements. The map of the world, its realization, is the “site” of combat between man and nature, but this site is above all an experimental tool of power. The world map is the symbol par excellence of the domination of terrestrial land. During wars, generals stand before maps to “calculate” and study the strategies of movements in order to dominate the enemy and to occupy the land. Man loves the land. In order to create a human connection, a nomadic sage who found himself seen with great distrust by the inhabitants of the territories through which he passed said: “I do not love the land. I came to see the people who live here.”
* Texte published in the journal Arteeast, New York, 2007.
Exhibition realized by Emma Chubb and Abdelah Karroum.
Thanks to Seamus Farrell and Pascal Semur for the invaluable help they brought to the realization of this project.
5 FACTS ABOUT THIS MAP (The world which is represented in this map is based on a globe the same size as our planet, but with a different proportion between water and land.)
The map depicts the geopolitical repartition of the world following the “Century of Great Unifications,” which led to the reduction of half of the number of seats on the Island of the United Nations. The cartographical work is based on a projection called “Cylindrical equidistant / equirectangular,” which is also known under the name of “Square Plate Projection.” The Mercator projection, as well as certain others, have fallen into obsolescence because of their association with the colonial and military projects that preceded the “Century of Great Unifications.” On this map, we have made every effort to equalize the political and topographical details. All of a sudden, when approaching the Equator, one finds fewer inscriptions because of the deformation of the northern and meridian extremities. The names of certain geographical elements – such as islands, golf courses, bays, mountains, rivers, lakes, and minor seas – are not part of this general world map. Certain average cities are today increasing because of the changes that followed the Grand Unifications. In addition, the names of certain countries and cities changed at least once in the 75 years since the last confirmed update of this map.