America Invertida (Inverted America)
We generally expect maps to convey the location of oceans and land masses accurately. But why do almost all maps and globes position North at the top and South at the bottom, when there is no up or down orientation of the universe? Furthermore, items located at the top of an image are usually understood to have more importance than those at the bottom, creating a hierarchical ordering of the world. In 1943, Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García questioned the implication that locations and cultural production in the northern hemisphere were somehow more significant than those in the global south. By redrawing the map of South American “upside down,” he challenged assumptions about the world, the flow of influence, and indeed even global power structures. He demonstrates that all maps are constructs that can be manipulated to convey a desired message. He therefore places Uruguay, his home country, at the center of the image (indicated with a + ) to show that he/the cartographer controls how the map communicates meaning, and that meaning needs to be interpreted rather than accepted at face value.
Via Fundación Torres García, Montevideo. Annotation by Michele Greet, Director, Art History Program, George Mason University