LOS ANGELES — It was a classic then and it’s a classic now. In 1976, The New Yorker published a New Yorker’s view of the United States (and a bit of the Asian continent). The map starts at Ninth Avenue then shifts west to the Hudson River, skips past Jersey, hits the flat lands of America, and then oops, there’s the Pacific Ocean and China.
Satirical maps have a powerful way of stereotyping the stereotypes people have. Which is why Bulgarian graphic designer Yank Tsvetkov’s map designs have a particular bite. His Mapping Stereotypes series claims to be “The Ultimate Bigot’s Calendar,” with perspectives of Europe and the world as seen by such varied entities as the Vatican and the United States.
Take, for instance, Europe as seen by the Germans, where Italy is simply “Pizza & Museums” and Finland is the land of “Cell Phone Makers.” The United States, “according to common sense” labels Washington as “Geeks” and New Mexico as “Flying Saucers.” Some cut uncomfortably close to sources of geopolitical conflict. Greece sees Turkey as “Eastern Greece” and Turkey sees Greece as “Rascals.”
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Tsvetkov talks a bit more about the motivation for the very broad range of maps and work:
“There was a gas crisis, a pretty harsh winter, and we were a little bit cold,” he says. His first map posited a Europe made up of competing interests and reductive presumptions. Russia is simply labelled “Paranoid Oil Empire”. Most of the EU comes under the heading “Union Of Subsidised Farming”. Turkey has been renamed “No YouTube Land” and where Georgia should be it says “Armed Winegrowers”. He titled the map Where I Live and put it up on his website.
The maps can be ordered as calendars — they’ll certainly be a conversation starter, but just be ready for the conversations they’ll inevitably provoke.
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