Qiu Zhijie

Map making is one of the fundamental ways that Western society has come to terms with the world. Through maps, the unknown is made visible and understandable. Yet maps have also been used to frighten off potential visitors, as in the famous ‘here be monsters’ rubric on early European maps of the continents of North and South America.

Qiu Zhijie uses these histories and techniques of map making, together with a Chinese ancient tradition of mapping imaginary places, to construct unexpected narratives, imaginary cities or strange utopian locations, such as his Map of Utopia or Map of Total Art. He was trained as a calligrapher, and uses these skills when rendering his free hand-drawn maps.

For the 31st Bienal, Qiu Zhijie has drawn a large-scale map that functions as a curious pathfinder for the journey ahead, through the exhibition. The map is based on some of the curatorial and artistic ideas behind the Bienal itself, merged with the artist’s own reflections while he was here preparing the image. It is drawn directly on a wall that leads from the Park area into the Ramp area, and will disappear once the Bienal closes on 7 December 2014. In this way, the idea of the map as a permanent rendition of a geographic landscape is rejected in favour of the temporary, subjective aspects of map making – aspects that are always present no matter how neutral or scientific the map claims to be. – CE