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Cultures & Conflits
Vancouver is not where it is supposed to be
November 2009, Paris

Landon Mackenzie et Didier Bigo

DB : Landon, in your painting, you challenge the traditional representation of the world as a world
of states (no national boundaries) and even as a world of natural geography (no differentiation
between sea and land), and the effects are astonishing. Could you give us some elements about
this eradication of the traditional boundaries ?
LM : Here we are talking about a specific piece called Vancouver as the Centre of the World,
2009, which began with questions of how I could reorganize the world onto a rectangular space
while placing Vancouver at the centre. This geography seemed unfamiliar. It meant placing
Russia above Canada over the pole without using a computer to figure it out. I started by getting
several maps that are currently sold and still classically used. The ones where Greenland is
long and narrow, the ones where it is big and broad, and as I was buying them the man in
the store said, “You know, Greenland is actually smaller than Zaire”. Though we know it
intellectually it is still a shock to hear about this distortion because we actually start to believe
the maps ! I went to examine his statement and two things happened : One is that I immediately
reviewed the problem of what is in a name as there are several names attached to these two
locations including contemporary, historical, colonial, pre-colonial and linguistic. The other is
the fact that in square kilometers the country in question, now called the Democratic Republic
of the Congo, in the middle of Africa and on the equator, is indeed bigger than the space in
the north despite the dramatically different representation in the world. On top of this add the
reality that Greenland is shrinking as the ice cap melts or falls away, and that it is even smaller
today than when the survey was taken. Further a map does not explain why this geography is
politically not part of Canada as all the other arctic islands in the region are.

To read the full interview with illustrations, download the pdf