Related themes


Maps, Borders, and Networks

Artists use maps to tell stories about themselves and their views of the world.


The World Map A

Hong Hao
(Chinese, born 1965)

2000. Screenprint, composition (irreg.): 12 3/4 x 23 5/8" (32.4 x 60 cm); sheet: 22 7/16 x 30" (57 x 76.2 cm)

The World Map A and The World Map B resemble traditional Chinese thread-bound atlases that have been opened to a random page. Although ostensibly representing the world, these maps are filled with deliberate distortions, inaccuracies, and embellishments. The World Map A includes first-world nations and regions, including the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan, while omitting the world’s more impoverished nations. In The World Map B, Hong Hao includes Latin America, Africa, Asia, and, again, an oversized Japan. Cryptic phrases, including “confidential” and “No release is termitted,” are often purposefully misspelled and allude to militaristic intentions. Hong inserts graphics and icons of industrialization and technology, such as satellites and the logo for the Internet Explorer web browser.

Rejecting geographic accuracy, Hong’s satirical maps serve as subjective representations of political, military, and economic power in the world. Hong explained, “I have long been interested in maps, especially historical maps, because they are capable of inspiring ideas on what we take as common knowledge. They are almost the most direct and the most economical way to know the world.”1

Wu Hung, “Transcending the East/West Dichotomy: A Short History of Contemporary Chinese Ink Painting,” in Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013, p. 161
Wu Hung, “Transcending the East/West Dichotomy: A Short History of Contemporary Chinese Ink Painting,” in Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013, p. 160

Having the character of an icon, i.e., an important and enduring symbol, an object of great attention and devotion.

A representation of a person or thing in a work of art.

The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

The visual portrayal of someone or something.

A visual representation or design on a surface.

A New Encyclopedia
The World Map A and The World Map B are part of a series Hong Hao titled Selected Scriptures, which includes images of maps, martial strategy, sacred cave temples, and the human body. The artist once explained that he wanted to create “a ‘new encyclopedia’ to put forward my own understanding of this ever-changing world. I would like to reshuffle various aspects of culture, to effectively dissolve boundaries and meanings. . . . I would also like to make my works appear as ‘respectable’ as the ancient classics.”2