Map Marathon

Serpentine South Gallery 16–17 Oct 2010 Free

The Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon, the fifth in the Serpentine Gallery’s series of Marathons, celebrated a number of key anniversaries: the 40th anniversary of the Serpentine Gallery, the 10th anniversary of the annual architecture commission, the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion and the 2,500th anniversary of the first original Marathon, in 490 B.C.

This ambitious weekend event brought together over 50 extraordinary artists, poets, writers, philosophers, scholars, musicians, architects, designers and scientists to showcase possible maps for the coming decade.

The Marathon series was conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist in 2005 in Stuttgart and launched during his first year at the Serpentine Gallery in 2006, when he became Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects. The series is now closely intertwined with the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion commission, which was conceived in 2000.

An event of this scale would simply be impossible without numerous maps of various kinds, from plans, plots, directions and instructions, to lists, blueprints and mind-maps. Problem-solving at all levels was what brought this event to fruition. Maps exist for innumerable purposes in life, because they are, always have been and always will be one of the fundamental means by which human beings represent information; with which we translate, codify and make reality intelligible. We are a ‘map-immersed’ world. Maps can make the complex simple, and the simple complex. Although they invariably distort them, maps have a commitment to facts as their raw material to be described and shaped, magnified and contracted, revealed and even hidden.

During the 2010 Map Marathon, the productive encounter between the arts and sciences found physical form, as a link was created between the Marathon and our neighbours at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), with the Institute of British Geographers, by hosting the Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon in the RGS’s spaces. We were grateful to Dr. Rita Gardner, Director of the Royal Geographical Society, for this incredible opportunity.

We were deeply indebted to those organisations who have supported the Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon: the Arts Council of England; The Annenberg Foundation; The Kensington Hotel, London; and our media partners, Time Out London and Wired.

Many of the maps presented in this year’s Marathon and the discussion they provoked were included in a book published by Thames & Hudson in 2011.


Curated by

Hans Ulrich Obrist

Sally Tallant

Nicola Lees


Lucia Pietroiusti

Vanessa Boni

Map Marathon 2010


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