GeoCarta Has Moved

Mar 15, 2007

The Cutting Edge Between Cartography and Art

Yesterday's Washington Post had a story, also picked up by The Map Room about 26 year-old Nikolas Schiller. Mr. Schiller, who is quoted as saying, "To change the world, start with the maps," takes aerial images from the U.S.G.S. and remakes them into into art.

More from the Post:

He is sly, this rebel cartographer. He makes maps that look like quilts, masks, feathers, acid trips. You can find America in these maps -- you can probably find your house in these maps -- if you can find the maps at all, since their creator has posted them to an online underground.
Schiller barely pauses on the way to his computer, which he fires up to reveal hundreds of his map creations. They are places you know -- the Mall, Adams Morgan, Georgetown, plus other U.S. cities and war-torn ones abroad. But the streetscapes -- photographed from above at a resolution fine enough to just make out cars and people -- have been warped and woven into kaleidoscopic mosaics, arabesques, spheres.

So Big Brother really is watching -- and Schiller remixes this surveilled reality to render geography as politically pointed art. The results have stunned his former geography professors and amazed the federal cartographers who commissioned the original aerial pictures for more mundane purposes, such as aiding developers who are gentrifying neighborhoods, such as, um -- U Street!

Then it gets complicated. On his computer he will take a swatch of a neighborhood, then he will tessellate it by creating mirrored repetitions, then he may impose radial geometry on the repetitions. The result is elaborate abstraction assembled from realistic detail, ready for framing at 5 by 3 1/2 feet.
Mr. Schiller's work is fascinating. Until now, he's been something of an Internet recluse. The Post quotes him as saying, "I'm interested in seeing other people's opinions. Will people blog about it? Will I be made fun of?" So visit his website and check out his work.