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Cartographic Paper Sculptures Reveal Global Cities’ History

UK-based artist Matthew Picton uses strips of paper to construct maps of cities from around the world. The Londoner's sculptural creations use both historic and fictional texts to produce cartographic representations of multicultural cities like Las Vegas, Dresden, Tehran, and Venice. The materials used are reflective of each respective culture, from literary and religious texts to sheet music and DVD film covers.

More than simply lining out the aerial urban landscape of each site, Picton also creatively reflects the historical scene of certain locations that have dealt with disasters, especially those pertaining to fires. The Great Fire of London in 1666 is represented by the burnt pages of Daniel Defoe's The Plague Years. Similarly, Picton has ignited several of his paper cities to reflect their own fire-related tragedies. Taking the interpretation a step further, the artist constructed his scorched Lower Manhattan piece out of headlines following the aftermath of the World Trade Center bombings.

Top image: Venice; created with text from “Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann and the music score from Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice opera.

Venice (detail)

Dublin 1904: created from text from the novel “Ulysses” by James Joyce.

Dublin 1904 (detail)


Dallas (detail)

Las Vegas: created from texts from Hunter S Thompson's “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Las Vegas (detail)

San Francisco 1906: created from covers of film.

San Francisco 1906 (burnt detail)

Portland: created from the covers and text of the novel “The Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula LaGuin and the DVD covers of the films “Dante's Peak” and “Volcano” the work has been smoked.

Portland (detail)

Dresden 1945

Dresden 1945 (burnt detail)

Tehran: Collective Fictions; created from book covers.

Tehran: Collective Fictions (detail)

Jerusalem: created from The New Testament, The Torah, The Armenian Bible and The Koran.

Jerusalem (detail)

The Great Fire of London in 1666: created from the book covers of “The Plague Years” by Daniel Defoe.

The Great Fire of London in 1666 (detail)

Lower Manhattan: created from headlines that accompanied the 2001 World Trade Center bombing and DVD covers of the film “Towering Inferno” also book covers of the novel “The Plot Against America” by Philip Roth.

Lower Manhattan (detail)

Matthew Picton website
via [Faith is Torment]


Pinar Noorata is the Managing Editor at My Modern Met. She is a writer, editor, and content creator based in Brooklyn, NY. She earned her BA in Film and Media Studies from CUNY Hunter College and is an alumni of the Center for Arts Education’s Career Development Program in NYC. She has worked at major TV, film, and publishing companies as well as other independent media businesses. When she isn’t writing, editing, or creating videos herself, Pinar enjoys watching movies, reading, crafting, drawing, and volunteering at her local animal shelter.
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