The Maps of Phantom Islands

Agnieszka Kurant

Much of Agnieszka Kurant’s work investigates ‘the economy of the invisible’ in which errors, rumours and myths exist as if real, and go on to influence political and economic systems. For The Maps of Phantom Islands, Kurant researched non-existent islands that have appeared in maps throughout history. Some were the results of mirages or map-making errors; in others they were inventions, created by explorers to acquire funding for further expeditions. Many of these non-existent islands were sources of real financial transactions and in some instances nearly led to wars.
It was only the advent of aerial photography in the 1940s that these non-existent islands finally disappeared. The quest now is to accurately map the Universe and deep space. Again these endeavours can be for acquiring knowledge, or political and economic means.
Kurant renminds us that theories can be modified or debunked, and no doubt some of the knowledge which we hold to be true today will transform into the phantoms of the future.

About the contributor(s) 

Conceptual interdisciplinary artist Agnieszka Kurant explores how complex social, economic and cultural systems can operate in ways that confuse distinctions between fiction and reality or nature and culture. She investigates “the economy of the invisible,” in which immaterial and imaginary entities, fictions, phantoms and emergent processes influence political and economic systems. Kurant probes the “unknown unknowns” of knowledge and the speculations and exploits of capitalism by integrating science and philosophy, and analyzing certain phenomena—collective intelligence, emergence, virtual capital, immaterial and digital labor, evolution of memes, civilizations and social movements, artificial societies, energy circuits and the editing process—as political acts. She explores the hybrid and shifting status of objects in relation to value, aura, authorship, production and circulation. Many of her works emulate nature and behave like living organisms, self-organized complex systems or bachelor machines.