Art on the Line
Art on the Line
Cartography and Creativity in a Divided World
In recent years, historians of cartography have shown us how and why lines, dashes, and contours drawn on a piece of paper (or sometimes, parchment or cloth) have had such profound, even violent, consequences in our times by reaching deep into our lives to shape the physical spaces we inhabit. Beginning with the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 when an imaginary line was drawn across the Atlantic Ocean to parcel out the globe between two emergent empires, through the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 when other lines were drawn on pieces of paper laid out on a table in Europe that decided the fate of a continent elsewhere, to the bloody partitions of the twentieth century (Ireland, India, Palestine, to name the most prominent), acts of cartographic defining have been catastrophically constitutive and world-altering. In my essay, I explore one such act of drawing a line in the summer of 1947 when British India was partitioned, and examine the responses to this critical cartographic act that have emerged in recent years among visual artists in India and Pakistan.
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