Land Shapes Stories
Liz Crossley – Cartographic Inspiration

19.10.2018 to 24.03.2019
Schloss Köpenick

A special exhibition presented by the Kunstgewerbemuseum of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in cooperation with the Department of Culture and Museums at Berlin’s Bezirksamt Treptow-Köpenick.

The exhibition centres on graphic works by Liz Crossley, a South African artist who lives in Köpenick, Berlin. In relation to both their ideas and their forms, the images are strongly inspired by topographic maps. To Crossley, the abstract representations on maps appear as “secret symbols of the country, divisions of the earth with their fine curves, blobs, streams and straight lines when people draw borders. Every map is like a trigger, a first map that gives rise to a second.” For Crossley, maps are not just topographic freeze-frames but also tokens of her own feelings and thoughts, “triggered by lines others have drawn.”

The famous Schmettau’sche Kartenwerk, a topographical survey of large parts of Prussia and Mecklenburg produced between 1767 and 1787 under the direction of Count Friedrich Wilhelm Karl von Schmettau (1743–1806), has exerted a particularly intense influence on this group of works. On the Schmettau maps, foreign territory was required to be left blank, which reminded Liz Crossley of South African maps of the apartheid era, on which the “homelands” of the Black population also appear as empty spaces. By contrast, to the Khoikhoi and the San – the indigenous peoples of southern Africa – as to many early cultures, the idea that land can belong to people as property was entirely foreign.

From 1804 until his death, the Prussian cartographer Friedrich Wilhelm Karl von Schmettau owned and re-designed Schloss Köpenick – and thus at the venue of the ‘Land Shapes Stories’ exhibition it is as if the circle closes spatially, too. Here, in the current annexe of the Berlin Kunstgewerbemuseum, Liz Crossley’s contemporary, cartographically-inspired graphic works are juxtaposed with several particularly artfully designed measuring and drawing instruments from the museum’s collection, historical tools of a geodesic appropriation of the world, revealing an additional level of meaning of the exhibition.

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