Agnieszka Kurant

Map of Phantom Islands, 2011

Agnieszka Kurant (Polish, born 1978), Map of Phantom Islands, 2011, pigment print on archival paper, 27 1/2 × 45 1/2 in. Schwartz Art Collection, Harvard Business School, 2019.6.

Agnieszka Kurant’s conceptual art centers on “the economy of the invisible,” the ways in which immaterial and imaginary entities, fictions, and phantoms influence political and economic systems. As Kurant stated in a 2015 interview with Sabine Russ of BOMB Magazine, “The evolution of intelligence has always fascinated me. Culture and art seem to have emerged, just like religion, at some point of human evolution. Do they have an expiration date? Will they eventually evolve into another collective adaptation, conditioned by changing environment, climate, and technology?” This work is from Kurant’s The Phantom Islands series and is part of her ongoing examination of "phantom capital.” These phantom islands or “phantom territories” have appeared on maps at different points in history. While some were observed as mirages, others were invented by explorers or governments, and, in some cases, even led to real conflict. Researching the origins of the individual islands from centuries-old cartographic archives, Kurant aggregates individual territories falsely claimed by imperial rulers and kingdoms onto a single map. Playing with ideas of illusion and truth, these maps look at how fictions and rumors shape our understanding of reality.