From ADN: ‘Counter Cartographies’ asks: How do we ‘map’ our lives on the land?

What does “cartography” mean to you?

If you’re like most people, the term probably brings to mind a paper or digital map. But a new exhibition at the Anchorage Museum aims to get you thinking beyond those two-dimensional representations of place by exploring other ways people think and communicate about landscapes -- and how our relationship to the land is formed by factors like time, identity, power and culture.

“Counter Cartographies: Living the Land,” which opened Oct. 8, features impermanent and experiential artworks that go beyond the traditional topographic geography or satellite images typically associated with western maps, said Anchorage Museum Senior Curator Aaron Leggett. The exhibition -- and its exploration of differing perspectives on place -- grew out of the museum’s efforts over the past several years to contribute to the growing awareness of Indigenous place names and land acknowledgements. It also evolved from the museum’s work to find connections and commonalities throughout the circumpolar north, according to Leggett. Through those connections “we start to realize that there are these shared histories and shared concerns,” he said.

“This (exhibition), to me, if you boil it down to an essence, is: How are other ways that people communicate information about a place or landscape in nontraditional ways?” Leggett said.

Those other ways of communicating vary across cultures and landscapes. Accordingly, “Counter Cartographies” features a wide range of works, said Chief Curator Francesca DuBrock.

“This exhibition is meant to kind of destabilize and question and reimagine what we think of when we hear that word,” DuBrock said. “So it is intentionally open-ended, and it is intentionally going to kind of push people’s comfort levels in terms of what they might find recognizable or relatable."

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