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Johan F Karlsson

Here be Dragons

November 2021 

Photo credit: Johan F Karlsson
This exhibition plays with the categories of the known and the unknown and their specific potentiality, for instance by referring to cartography.

The human practice of cartography is thousands of years old and is linked to both exploration and exploitation. The world is known to us, so it seems. Nowadays, the richest people are even able to travel into space. And by 2030, an international project aims to have a definitive map of the ocean floor ready, available for the public with the aim to better understand ocean circulation etc. and their relation to climate change.

The title of this show, however, is more clearly linked to the 16th century when the world was still a mystery to humans. The first known globe to depict the so-called New World marks uncharted terrain with “Here be dragons'' (Lat. orig.: Hic sunt dracones) as a warning of the unknown that presumably laid beyond the world that was known to Western Society, potentially holding danger, but from another perspective space for imagination, dreams and wonders.
Medieval maps have often been illustrated accordingly. Some of the exhibited works furthermore refer to the writings of Leonardo da Vinci, who allegedly made preparatory drawings for the named globe. Those texts examine the structure of the Earth and Sea and the changing history of landscapes from sea bottoms to mountains.

It is immanent to humankind to explore and strive for 'knowledge'; whereas the unknown — and for instance the void that is the sea — holds a certain power and freedom. It is this potentiality that the exhibition explores as well as the body's ability to gain knowledge through feeling and sensing, through the invisible and cryptic, beyond cognitively gained knowledge, beyond what one can see, and beyond the material. Overall, "Here be dragons" is not considered a warning, but the marking of a certain potential, which is accompanied by the trust in the unknown.

Text by Janneke Schoene

With support from:

Celsius Projects, Celsiusgatan 45, 212 14 Malmö