Baltic Ikonopress – Around a Map – the initiating idea of a map served as an iconographic point of departure and an extremely extensive semantic area embracing trekking, discovering, copying, imitating and (re)shaping the reality.

The exhibition featured the works of artists recommended by the Baltic art magazines: BE, Czas Kultury, Exit, Format, Kresy, Material, North, Obieg, Orońsko, Pist Protta, Pogranicza, Taide, Tumult.

"Art of Cartography reached the heights of such perfection that a Map of one province only covered the area of the whole Town and the Map of the Empire covered the whole province. However as time passed those Maps proved to be inefficient and then the Cartography Colleges made such a Map of the Empire that was as big as the empire and reflected every item of the Empire. However the oncoming generations were not do dedicated to Cartography and came to the conclusion that so huge Map is of No Use and hardly excluding Godless elements involved allowed the Sun and Winters take care of it. Western desserts areas still contain ruins of the Map torn into pieces…"

Jorge Luis Borges, On Precision in Science

From the post-structuralism point of view it is hard to believe there is a deeply hidden final sense and it is hard to believe in the Great Architect’s plan preceding everything. We had rather seen everything as a result of our own creation, though we may hardly be convinced we deal not only with interpretation of our deeds but flooded by the stream of details we miss our goals.

In 1989 Szczecin was upgraded from the backward Polish city status into Poland’s gate that became the quite independent city restating its natural ties and cultural interests. The costal region has always been a part of Szczecin’s natural surrounding and specific identity. And that give birth to the Horizon Line exhibition – the very first Baltic Contemporary Art Biennial organized in 1995. The Baltic Ikonopress – Around a Map was naturally affected by the first Biennial edition. Subjective research perspective focusing of the region has resembled just disassembled bits and pieces, layer divisions, unfolded items and scrolls.

Ancient maps differently from today’s told us not only about space of seas and lands. They were theatrum mundi in a sense. They told what the order is in the physical, moral and spiritual world. Number of white spots and fantastic unknown lands creation was inversely proportional to certainty the world order was copied with. Broad bordure showed connections between elements, pieces of matter, seasons and moral virtues the world order was based on. Today there are no white spots in geography, but also philosophical treatises vanished from the maps. Mythological world modeling is hardly ever followed by surrounding physical world knowledge.

Quite another strategy is observed in foresaid Borges’ map construction. That map was to be a copy of a state. However such precision required subjects to give up daily duties in order to submit all necessary data to the cartographers and even to copy the surrounding objects. Taken away from their work and duties they gave them up gradually. The kingdom fell and the map itself became outdated. Today we might construct such a map introducing virtual technology, however our efforts to collect all necessary data would be as big, producing entropy and changing the things around us.

Similarly there are two poles of art strategy referring to reality. The first one of ancient roots had been followed by modernism that had been discovery or creation of a model that copies order common for reality and a piece of art. Latter pole typical for the period described a post-modernism bases on conscientious thinking there is no favorite order or sequence and any effort to refer to the world as a form of interference into present.

The Map in progress has hardly referred to geography but rather to personal relations mapping, detailed as much as people had been open one to another. Map drawing became of form of new space recognition through art and the town with developing cultural infrastructure.

As a matter of fact twenty years ago communism enter the stage of decline though a few people only could believe that. And post-modernism philosophical trends seemed triumphant, claiming that the modernists civilization project has just been completed. Certainly, if some mental pictures to be regarded as a focus typical for intellectual and artistic trends thus the world has just come to its end as seen through the prism of Plato’s circles, triangles and squares. This has been confirmed by the inheritors of those perfect figures and shapes in a form of fractals in the beginning of the 1980s.

Well, it was withdrawn from the post of an observer, distinguished but placed in the center of the circle who changing his/her position does not change anything in the structure of the image. First plan is always full of details, the other ones are more synthetic, and allow shapes to be visible only. For a fractal observer a try to magnify a detail in horizon is just a manner of observation that the visible point gets magnified into a section of similar structure to area seen in the output. No magnifying can may produce a complete picture. Any scale chosen reveals the same horizon. This is analogic to the map. Magnifying the scale results in coastal line contour enrichment. This produces land contours in the maps as divided – self similar down to the molecular level, quite unimaginable to us, so we may regard it as endless small one. Following line meanders running toward that dimension is an endless way. Our hypothetical perfect observer stopped to move all together with his/her horizon thus forcing the same structure on reality. Now the circle has remained immobile and the observer has chosen his/her way along the radius increasing the scale so when reaching the circumference line she/he might have seen the landscape as big as in the starting point. Moving along the same long in new scale but newly chosen radius she/he will find out that phenomenon. His way toward ultimate bottom will be infinite actually. Local phenomena ambundancy will be comparable to those landscapes visible from the first circle’s center.

This perhaps too complicated metaphor the same as all the pictures allows us to see our own surroundings from other point of view. Newfangled, experiment, art search questions seem relative to the scale of observation(s). From the artistic highway’s point of view on the route from New York to Cologne it is difficult to see the importance of Szczecin or the Baltic Sea. However, from the disassembler of great narration/transaction guy’s point of view as well as from the leading trends’ point of view the scale is of no importance, yes. At each level endless encountering and search are reachable and eye will not feed on seeing and ear will not feed on hearing.

The definition of infinity i.e. a set of which a part is not less abundant in elements as the wholeness it is an old 19th century discovery so close to romantic climate, so typical for the romantic Baltic landscape.

And it is as late as in the beginning of the 1980s. and with the popularization of fractal geometry this definition penetrates imagination that is responsible for our culture observation. This corresponds to the central authority vision however not less extent. That paradox in a new way recovering those to oppose each to another microcosm and macrocosm seems to be close to the idea of Horizon Line and map concept – created here in Szczecin, the town of any obligations to any great tradition and that means any scale can be chosen.

A Map is the idea initiating the Baltic Ikonopress has not been understood as an iconographic motif only. Semantic area for this idea is extremely extensive. Trekking, discovering, copying, imitating and (re)shaping as well as utopia reating are the gestures for commencing it all. This results in curiosity sets like today’s kunstkamera, atlases, researches, copying and selecting systems that foretell unknown. Well, is the chart of elements a map or not? Are not “white spots” in geographical maps borders of discoveries and planned researches?

Today’s map extension is its electronic form as GPS (that are on the other hand transformations of visual signs – lighthouses and measurement points.) If one cannot approve it as the fact it is enough to look from the sky. One of the satellites that has left our solar system, the Suns position has been marked as recorded mapping of pulsars, natural GPS units. So, is that not a map? Thus, arts can recognize both the motif and idea as very capacious, let us fitting its contents of discovery, analyzing and creation. This diversification of Baltic Ikonopress is self-understood.

Translated from Polish into English by Ryszard P. Jasiński

Text originally published in Baltic Ikonopress – Around a Map – 2nd Baltic Contemporary Art Biennial in Szczecin, Szczecin, 1997, ed. by Lech Karwowski, published by the Pomeranian Dukes Castle in Szczecin.

Curator: Lech Karwowski
Collaboration: Magdalena Lewoc

Organisation: Pomeranian Dukes Castle in Szczecin, The Municipality of  Szczecin
Venue & dates: Pomeranian Dukes Castle, Szczecin, 1997