Alighiero Boetti: Political Map of the World (1971-1989)

Alighiero Boetti, born in Italy in 1940, was part of the Arte Povera movement that began in 1967.  This movement favoured traditionally ‘low’ forms of art like craft, design, embroidery and printing as a way to reject ‘high’ art.  In addition to this, Boetti was interested in different cultures, systems of classification, geography, order, chance and collaboration. 

These interests are brought to the forefront in his series, “Political Map of the World.”  In 1971, Boetti took his designs for a map of the world to artisans in Afghanistan. Boetti handed over creative control to the artisans and acknowledged their partnership by surrounding the map with Italian and Farsi writing. The artisans worked in fabric and used each country’s flag to represent it on the map.  Each country is put on an equal plane because they are all represented in the same way. Boetti wanted to focus on each territory as a unified whole and did not want to show the smaller divisions within each country, not even acknowledging national identity. 
But what makes this work truly global is that it evolved as the world did. Every time the geography of a country changed, a new version of the map had to be created. Looking at each map allows the viewer to see where the world was politically at the moment in time when the map was made.  Showing, for example, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the division of the Soviet Union. It lets the viewer see how countries worldwide dealt with the concepts of power and territory. 
By taking his ideas to people in another country, representing each country as a whole in the same way, and by making new versions according to global changes, Boetti’s “Political Map of the World” is certainly a global work of art. 
Kathryn Schmidt