‘The diverse forms of Rivane Neuenschwander’s work are usually based upon linguistic, chronological and cartographic systems – iconic codes such as the world map or classificatory models like the alphabet – that yield unexpected beauty when introduced to the dirt and surprise of life. This strategy calls to mind a line that is stitched along the upper border of Alighiero e Boetti’s tapestry Mappa (Map, 1972): ‘mettere al mondo il mondo’ (to bring the world into the world). Like Boetti, Neuenschwander returns to the standardized planimetric projection of the world, although rather than employing professional workers to chart shifting borders and governments, continental bodies are always represented by either paper or food. In Contingent 2008, a time-lapse film follows a single meal, as a world map – daubed in honey on blotting paper – is consumed by ants, the land masses becoming first emaciated then completely disconnected. Pitching a rational (and of course stubbornly Eurocentric) chart against an unpredictable system, Neuenschwander’s dynamic territories refer back to when terra incognita spaces – visual representations of what is not known – had yet to disappear from maps, when the distinction between pictorial and cartographic representation was less certain.’
Sam Thorne, ‘Signs of Life’, Frieze, Issue 122, April 2009.