Jing Zhang Uses Maps to Show Us So Much More
Maps are amazing. They do two things. They take what we know about a place and fit it together into the mere geography of a place. Its history. Its people. Its heritage. They all show themselves on a flat drawing with landmarks and roads. At the same time they also reveal everything we don't know. Potential. Secrets. The hidden lost from those who tell historical tales. Map drawers have the unenviable position of taking everything that is known and everything that is unknown and putting it all into one place to represent a country, a people, a culture. Traditionally, all these elements are brought together into maps that feature mostly roads, topographies, and some landmarks. But artist Jing Zhang is going further. In her series, “Maps of Asia,” she uses topography and landmarks as the base to show something about the culture she experiences. “I've spent four exhilarating months this year visiting the biggest village on earth, the Global Village, traveling eastbound around the world with numerous interesting stops,” she explains. Her voyage has taken her to nearly a dozen cities and she’s captured each of them in their own unique way.
“Every city has its own color palette, flavor, sound, and personality,” she explains. “The differences between our cultures is what makes our cities so wonderful.” Those differences is exactly what she highlights in this series, and why Nagiso looks so different from Seoul which looks so different from Hanoi. We already know that each of these cities is in a different country, but it’s the cultures that demand how a city is built, it’s time and people that shape how a city grows. Jing captures all those elements in her signature clean style so that we understand these places even if we can’t tell where the nearest Starbucks is.
As an enriching element, Jing has also created a series of GIFs that illustrate ephemeral moments from being in these cities. Where it’s the sleepless effort happening in a series of office buildings, the serenity of wind whipping through some trees, or the churning of a water wheel on a coastal residence, we are offered our own little visit to these otherwise inaccessible places.