Cartographic Abstraction : Mapping Practices in Contemporary Art

Reddleman, Claire. 2016. Cartographic Abstraction : Mapping Practices in Contemporary Art. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Cartographic Abstraction : Mapping Practices in Contemporary Art)
SOC_thesis_ReddlemanC_2016.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (3MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This thesis proposes a theory of cartographic abstraction as a framework
for investigating cartographic viewing, and does so through engaging with
a series of contemporary artworks concerned with cartographic ‘ways of
seeing’ (Berger 1972). Cartographic abstraction is a material modality of
thought and experience that is produced through cartographic techniques
of depiction. It is the more-than-visual register that posits and produces
the ‘cartographic world’, or what John Pickles has called the ‘geo-coded
world’ (2006). By this I mean the naturalized apprehension of the earth as
a homogeneous space that is naturally, even necessarily, understood as
regular, consistent and objective. I argue for identifying cartographic
techniques of depiction as themselves abstract, and cartographic
abstraction as such as the modality of thought and experience that these
techniques produce. Abstraction within capitalism comes to be socially
real and material, taking place outside thought.

I propose a series of viewpoints, that are posited by the relations of viewing
enacted by the selected artworks themselves. I analyse these viewpoints
in relation to modes of cartographic viewing offered by theorists. Through
close readings of cartographic artworks, I expand the current possibilities
for understanding cartographic abstraction and its effects, through
proposing a range of viewpoints that are both deployed in, and themselves
problematize, cartographic viewing. I connect cartographic abstraction to
debates about abstraction in Marxist and materialist approaches to
philosophy, arguing for interpreting cartographic viewing as an abstract
practice through which subjects are positioned and structured in relation to
the ‘viewed’. This study discerns ‘real abstraction’ functioning in a
particular area of ‘the operations of capitalism’; that is, modes of visual,
and epistemological, abstraction that we can identify by exploring artworks
concerned with cartographic depiction and conceptualisation. This
approach to abstraction explores how cartographic knowledge can be
theorized through recognising cartographic abstraction as a material modality
of thought and experience.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


cartography, cartographic abstraction, cartographic viewing, mapping, geocoded world, contemporary art, cartographic artworks, capitalism, materialism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 July 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Sep 2016 08:40

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:41


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)