More than tools for wayfinding, maps—like all networks—can also express the political, cultural, and religious views of their makers. During the Medieval era, Christian artisans mapped out the Earth according to the body of Christ, placing Jerusalem at its center. Only when Europeans began to explore overseas, and the need for navigational maps expanded, did cartographers begin to consistently place north at the top of the map. In 1943, Uruguayan modernist Joaquín Torres García challenged this orientation with Inverted America, flipping the standard map’s perspective to encourage South American pride. More recently, Ethiopian-American artist Julie Mehretu’s dynamic, multilayered paintings feature complex networks suggestive of abstracted maps and exploding cityscapes—a visual comment on the intersections of power and the built environment.

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