It depends on how you look at it… (Part One of Many)

Sometimes, if you turn a urinal on its side, you get art (now in the Tate Modern in London, England):

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1917

“Fountain,” Marcel Duchamp, 1917. (How did they lose the original?! Who are “they” anyway?!)

Here’s an excerpt about turning maps on other sides from “Dreaming Upside-Down” by Tom Peterson (sorry I didn’t include a link to the original – it seems to have been on a now-defunct geocities page):

I dreamed the other night that all the maps in the world had been turned upside down. Library atlases, roadmaps of Cincinnati, wall-sized maps in the war rooms of the great nations, even antique maps with such inscriptions as “Here be Dragons” were flipped over. What had been north was now south, east was west. […]

In my dream, a cloud of anxieties closed around me. The United States was now at the bottom. Would we have to stand upside-down, causing the blood to rush to our heads? Would we need suction-cup shoes to stay on the planet, and would autumn leaves fall up? […]

Other things troubled me more. Now that we’re at the bottom, would our resources and labor be exploited by the new top? Would African, Asian, and Latin American nations structure world trade to their advantage? […]

It was just a bad dream. I drifted back to sleep, thinking, “It’s all right, I’m still on top.”

(The longer form asks a few more questions, most of which disregard existing inequalities within the United States to make a broader point about lived social injustices and how they may be reinforced through cartographic representations.)

As seen on tumblr.

What happens when you turn the map on its side, so to speak? (As seen on tumblr.)


Arguably, all maps present a perspective. Some present (or offer) non-standard (or unexpected, or uncanny) perspectives on the world.


canada 150c

I credit RB with bringing this image (and quiz) to my attention.

I credit RB with bringing this image (and quiz) to my attention.

Pictorial Maps, Nigel Holmes (1991: 145)

Pictorial Maps (1991: 145)

In Pictorial Maps, Nigel Holmes suggests that readers “[t]ake a different look at the world: new relationships are noticed when the map is turned upside down” (1991: 145). (Then something about how scissors don’t have a fixed “mental viewpoint,” hence the scissors in the image above.)

The New Yorker, 1992

Leo Cullum, New Yorker, 20 April 1992

Joaquín Torres-García, 1943

Joaquín Torres-García, 1943


Also known as "An Australian's View of the World," "McArthur's Universal Corrective Map of the World"

Also known as “An Australian’s View of the World,” “McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World,” Stuart McArthur, launched on Australia Day in 1979

"U.S. as seen from Canada," Russell Lenz, Christian Science Monitor, 1968

“U.S. as seen from Canada,” Russell Lenz, Christian Science Monitor, 1968

"Inuit view to the south," as seen in "Playing Dead" by Rudy Wiebe, 1989

“Inuit view to the south,” as seen in “Playing Dead” by Rudy Wiebe, 1989

Then again, some “new” perspectives are just selling you something (be it a copy of the map or books or cigarettes or academic journals or magazines! And that’s not to say that the images above aren’t selling you something, too.):


Journal of Northern Studies, 2011

Alternative North Americas via the Canada Institute

Alternative North Americas by David T. Jones via the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center

The Dominion

The Dominion: News from the Grassroots


The Map as Art by Katherine Harmon

more curious

ricky linn

  Ogden’s “Guinea - Gold” Cigarettes, Have Turned England Upside Down Through Pure Enjoyment, The Illustrated London News, 1899

“Ogden’s ‘Guinea – Gold’ Cigarettes Have Turned England Upside Down Through Pure Enjoyment,” The Illustrated London News, 1899

Indeed, the 1925 Surrealist manifesto (as seen in You Are Here by Katharine Harmon, 2004, gift from Jim Jim) warns:

Even more than patriotism – which is a quite commonplace sort of hysteria, though emptier and shorter-lived than most – we are disgusted by the idea of belonging to a country at all, which is the most bestial and least philosophic of the concepts to which we are all subjected… Wherever Western civilization is dominant, all human contact has disappeared, except contact from which money can be made – payment in hard cash.

(The images, as astute readers may have noticed, link to sources and / or further reading.)

This entry was posted in Category Awesome and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s