Colonial Cartography — Real Life
In 1929, Death Valley Exploration, a highly speculative company selling shares in gold mined in Death Valley, California, created an advertisement calling for investors to help fund a water mill they planned to construct. “Dame Nature,” a letter to shareholders said, “would make her gold deposits the object of an endless game of hide-and-seek between mankind and herself.” Death Valley was one of her “favorite hiding places.”
The “Colonial Cartography” of Google Maps - Frontpage - e-flux conversations
Maps have behaved throughout history as pieces of literature or devices of expression used to advance particular agendas. The image of a physical place, seen from above, gives a sense of wholeness, of truth. Maps have the power to give a physicality to places and things that do not exist, as with the maps of the Railroad and Death Valley: they made bad buys look solid and very real. The population of California at the turn of the century was less than two million, compared to the 40 million today; the development of the American West, a place that for most of the 19th century was not solid or real as far as most Americans could imagine or see, relied on maps that expressed aspirations, which included lies, in order to give Americans a picture of something that was being created, something that had to be willed into existence.