Acquired from the above by the present owner in the late 1980s
The concept for the Mappe came about partly through chance when Boetti came across a set of blank schematic world maps commonly found in school atlases and textbooks. He coloured each country on these maps with the design of its national flag to create Planisfero Politico in 1969, a work on paper that would be the prototype for the Mappe. It was a simple concept that employed one of his favourite artistic strategies, which was to take an existing system and give it visual form, calling attention to the ways in which such systems structure the world. Humanity’s desire to control and place structure upon the world through mapping can be dated right back to the Second-Century with Ptolemy’s world map; which documented the world as it was known to Hellenistic society. Ptolemy’s maps were the first to use longitudinal and latitudinal lines as a way of creating a global coordinate system and thus were the first to base proportions of countries on mathematical calculations. This attempt to place a structured system upon the world is often employed by Boetti throughout his artistic practice due to his consummate belief that the world is characterised by the ancient principles of ordine e disordine (order and disorder).
In the Mappe series Boetti explores these ancient principles of ordine e disordine through a radical separation between plan and execution. He partially removed himself from the creative process and asked Afghan weavers to create the works for him. In March 1971 Boetti first travelled to the Afghan capital of Kabul, remaining there for one month. This trip marked the beginning of the production of his Mappe series by the local Afghan women and was a trip he would repeat each year until 1979 when the country was invaded by the Soviet Union. The production of the Mappe resumed in Peshawar in 1982 by Afghan women who had fled to the border regions of Pakistan; here they continued to produce the Mappe until 1994. Each Mappa took up to four embroiderers approximately one year to make, however, some took two years, or even up to as many as ten. Boetti communicated his visions through a chain of people who then passed on his instructions to the Afghan women who embroidered the works. As Tate curator Mark Godfrey has explained: “Boetti’s involvement with Afghanistan can be seen therefore to have had a considerable impact on his thinking about the identity of the art work and the nature of its production. Working with embroiderers meant letting the work be determined by other people, opening up not just to new materials but to their traditions of colour and, as a consequence, challenging sexist and nationalist biases, and the conventions of the art market which did not recognise the category of mass-produced unique art work” (Mark Godfrey, Alighiero e Boetti, London 2009, p. 221).
In line with Boetti’s rejection of singular authorship in favour of plurality and collective creativity, Boetti’s Mappe are a profound testament to the tenor of cross cultural exchange, and are as relevant today as they were two decades ago.
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