One truism about culture: right when you think a trend is over it starts picking up speed. Take mapping. You’d think, given the surfeit of artists engaged in this practice, that it would have run its course, but no. The terrain is way too fertile. Because of their proscriptive, hierarchical nature, maps present artists with an irresistible target. They ask us to accept the validity of certain facts by promoting the fiction of consensus reality. Problem is: there is no such thing. Artists, the cartographers of mankind’s no-consensus zones, continuously remind us of this fact.
What’s new, thanks to the widespread availability of digital data mining tools, is a fresh pool of raw material from which artists’ maps can be constructed. These technological leaps, by Google and others, have helped widen the already blurry line between art and science, giving scientists and programmers entry into art, and artists a portal into science. Suddenly, data mapping has painterly qualities, while painting and drawing assume the look and feel of microscopic inquiry. There Be Dragons — a show titled for the serpents that populated the edges of ancient maps – samples these cross-pollinating micro-trends, mixing low and high-tech approaches to illuminate and surprise.