The map and the territory.
A phrase that has somehow, most likely thought that all too human trait of seeing everything in nothing, come to capture a lot of the things that one comes across.
The following day, [Jed’s] father fetched him on his Mercedes. Around eleven they got onto the A20, one of the most beautiful motorways in France, one of those that cross the most harmonious rural landscapes; the air was clear and mild, with a little mist on the horizon. At three they stopped, at a service station just before the La Souterraine; at his father’s request, while he filled the tank, Jed bought a Michelin Departmenets road map of the Creuse and Haute-Vienne.
It was then, unfolding the map, while standing by the cellophane-wrapped sandwiches, that he had his second great aesthetic revelation. This map was sublime. Overcome, he began to tremble in front of the food display. Never had he contemplated an object as magnificent, as rich in emotion and meaning, as this 1/150,000-scale Michelin map of the Creuse and Haute-Vienne. The essence of modernity, of scientific and technical apprehension of the world, was here combined with the essence of animal life. The drawing was complex and beautiful, absolutely clear, using only a small palette of colours. But in each of the hamlets and villages, represented according to their importance, you felt the thrill, the appeal,of human lives, of dozens and hundreds of souls – some destined for damnation, others for eternal life.
The entrance to the hall was barred by a big panel, leaving two-meters-wide passageways at either side, on which Jed had displayed a satellite photo taken around the mountain of Guebwiller next to an enlargement of a Michelin Departements map of the same zone. The contrast was striking: while the photograph showed only a soup made of more or less uniform green sprinkled with vague blue spots, the map developed a fascinating maze of departmental and scenic road, viewpoints, forests lakes and cols.
Above the two enlargements, in black capital letters, was the title of the exhibition: THE MAP IS MORE INTERESTING THAN THE TERRITORY.
Michel Houllebecq, The Map and the Territory.
I have read the book in the original French. The translation above is taken from the Pranesi Variations exhibit at the 2012 Venice Biennale. ↩