Despite the exhibition title, you won’t find any maps in Mostyn Gallery’s Temporary Atlas – not in their traditional form, anyway. Instead of plotting territories with coordinates and GPS, 17 international artists have documented place by tracing the things people leave behind, from archival photographs and repurposed materials to half-full glasses of whisky.
Curated by Alfredo Cramerotti, the show sets out to challenge our understanding of cartography as an objective art and science, and shows the way in which it is entrenched in colonialism. “It’s important to highlight what can’t be mapped in the conventional sense, because our subjectivity creates these inevitable holes,” Cramerotti explains. Inspired by this idea, Temporary Atlas is filled with sculptural and highly personal artwork that breaks through the limitations of standard map-making. “When we try to document our environment, we leave out so much: the poetry, the mystery and importantly, the marginalised.”
The show’s artists are from a range of geographical locations, including Canada, Ghana and Lebanon, and they challenge the biases of information gathering from their own unique perspectives. “Group exhibitions are a great opportunity to make a statement, and with Temporary Atlas I wanted to show that art doesn’t exist in a vacuum – just as Mostyn Gallery exists within the greater contemporary art discourse, despite our remote location,” he says. “We’re aware of our position as an art site in Llandudno – this quirky tourist town in north Wales – and we exhibit Welsh artists alongside artists from elsewhere to show that our context is not only relevant, but a strength.”
For this show, Welsh artists Paul Eastwood, Manon Awst and Adéolá Dewis represent key reference points, grounding the exhibition within its wider area and raising important questions about rurality, dual identity and tourism. Our freedom to move, our patterns of consumption and our lifestyles have been scrutinised in recent years, and with good reason. Maps are useful tools for exploring these issues; they are malleable, personal and informative in a way that allows for all manner of self-expression and documentation.
“Maps can provide insights into our environments and how we exist within them,” says Cramerotti. “All maps are reflections of the person, corporation or government creating them. In this way, the exhibition suggests that all maps are mind maps.”
Temporary Atlas: Mapping the Self in the Art of Today is at Mostyn Gallery, Llandudno, until 25 September.
Artworks from the exhibition
Paul Eastwood Dyfodiaith: Canu i ddyfodol anhysbys (2019)
Projected in an adjacent room, video footage displays tongues writhing to a Welsh-sounding hybrid of Celtic and Brythonic languages. “The score reminds us of our position as visitors in a country with ever morphing language and culture,” says Cramerotti.
Oliver Laric Versions (2010)
Laric’s video essay considers how images have been manipulated throughout history, scrutinising notions of originality. “There’s no start or end point with images: you’re always building upon what you’ve seen,” says Cramerotti. “It’s easy to forget that maps are constructed temporary images.”
Walid Raad Sweet Talk. Commissions (Beirut) 1987 (1987/2010)
In this series, sentimental and diaristic annotations are paired with archival images of 1980s Beirut. “Raad hasn’t confirmed whether the photographs are found or a fabrication,” Cramerotti says, “but they challenge our trust in text by offsetting our expectations.”
Enam Gbewonyo The ascension of the nude 2021 (foreground)
A selection of sculptural works with violently torn hosiery, that “intimately explore the objectification of the Black female body. There’s a fine balancing act between the personal, social and performative value of these works,” says Cramerotti.