As part of the citywide Festival of Maps, “Mapping the Self” uses a variety of media to redefine the map as a way to conceptualize cultural and political realities through space and time. Barbara Koenen’s “Afghan Spice Rug” explores Afghanistan’s chaos under Soviet occupation. Spices are intricately placed to juxtapose elements of bucolic life and militarism, with lines of trees, houses and mountains placed alongside tanks, jets and helicopters. A smudged house interrupts the sanctity of the prayer rug, appearing as if a bomb had just shattered it. Vito Acconci’s “Stretch” features four photographs of New York’s Central Park with the artist standing in one spot, a picture then taken from outstretched arms in the four cardinal directions to give a different look at the same scene. Thus, observing the park is a process of not only viewing, but also interacting to connect and be informed by its features. In an untitled work, Ellen Rosenthal photographs a magnifying glass partially over another photograph of voting lines in a post-apartheid, South African election. Though used to more closely see and understand the voting-line image, the lens also distorts, serving as a metaphor for how foreigners try to understand such situations. Instead of giving a literal representation of places, various artists use media such as video, photography and drawing to explore the depths and effects of perception. (Ben Broeren)
Through March 2 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago, (312)397-4010.