The significance of geography is that it presents the earth as the enduring home of the occupations of man.

John Dewey

Looking at the world from their balloon, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn discuss maps. Huck believes that everything in the world has to do with color: he knows for a fact that Illinois is green while Indiana is pink because he saw that on a map. Tom is skeptical and mocks him; he yells: Huck Finn, did you reckon the States was the same color out-of-doors as they are on the map? Both Tom and Huck, anyway, are certain, as certain as children can be, that maps bear the signs of actual facts: that maps do not lie. From Mark Twain to here—but really, since forever—geographical representations of the world have been invariably suggesting the same question, attached to the same assumption: given that they tell the truth, what do maps say?

In the face of geography (whatever form may it take), human beings look for directions, sometimes for destinies. A proof of this is that the concept of ‘treasure map’ has flourished prosperously in everyone’s imagination and everyday language. Julie Polidoro’s works suggest, once again, the same kind of question.

What do these geographical canvasses, in which everything has to do with color, tell us? What do these frameless paintings, hanging in the void, say, with their tints changing hue when the passage and breathing of people make them wave and cloud? And what about the cubical world-dice, which will be governed by gravity, just as any other geometrical body, when rolled? Well, they tell us—and they tell the truth—that geography can be re-drawn from scratch because, as the title of this exhibition says, Dappertutto succede qualcosa, Something is Going On Everywhere.


Some artists alter their bodies (with insertions) or the world around them (with installations). Other artists—and Julie Polidoro is among them—work on the alteration of pure representations of such things, and don’t bother with any supposedly tangible body or world. Maps are Polidoro’s raw material: maps as we know them; maps as we learned them, while growing up, in the pages of the atlases that taught us the world from our own point of view—our own hemisphere, our own European continent that drew and charted and measured everything else. Julie Polidoro dismembers, folds, interlaces, arranges, cuts, and flips over: she turns our ordinary geographies into the scenery flats of a theatrum mundi. Together, we all inhabit this crowded world’s stage: audience and actors, servants and producers, prima donnas and extras. Those who look at these paintings (made out of varied mixed media but one single intention) experience such a theatrical world or, to be precise, the many ways in which the world coincides, time after time, with our representations of it.

We were supposed to take responsibility for such representations. Instead, we chose to draw borders that did not correspond to mountains or rivers, and, within our colonial empires, we forced together people and lands that water had wisely parted. We chose to trace, with the arrogance of wars and pens, the shapes of States that did not exist and the future of peoples that were yet to come (some of them never came at all). We changed many names, and many names we erased. We drew a Northwest passage that didn’t take ice into consideration. For centuries, we dyed snow in red. Everything in the world has to do with color. Our geographical representations of the world have been utterly irresponsible.

Julie Polidoro’s works exchange a 19th century philosophical conjunction (und) with an aesthetic preposition (der?), which in turn introduces a genitive: they don’t tell the world as will and representation but rather as will of representation—and therefore, on the other hand, as a representation of will. Through such an apparently small switch (i.e. depicting representations of the world, rather than the world itself), Polidoro corrects our lack of responsibility, of imagination, of otherness. All Countries and States can be represented on different scales and become grandi uguali, any map can be unsown so that a border becomes a cut (and through the cut air, water, and people can pass). After all, history is for those who stay still, while geography is for nomads. In fact, nomads have nothing but geography, especially now that journeys, like those of our ancestors, tend to be one way only, and those who migrate are often deprived of any chance to return. Geography is the key to our nomadic times.


Our representations of terrestrial, aquatic, and celestial worlds are so old that they almost count as experiences: they were born with our species, and share our nature. This is what Julie Polidoro’s work seems to say. Since our nature is metamorphic, maps are metamorphic as well. If one looks closely at these paintings (and collages, in which the continents projected by Marcatore look like dancers immersed in a whirling melody) it becomes clear that they are not variations, but indeed metamorphoses: transformations. They are transformations, of space and in space, that stage the conventional and partial (if not simply unjust) nature of our maps, as well as a chance to be courageous, correct, imaginative geographers. A chance to unite.


23 years before Christ, Strabo published his Geographica, the work in which he described the world as it was known in the Augustan age. Strabo’s atlas (if we can call it an atlas) is the only atlas we got from that time. Therefore, as a matter of fact, we do not know the Augustan world, but rather the borders that Strabo thought existed in the Augustan world—and he might have invented some. Strabo invented the borders of the world in which everything has to do with colors. 2018 years after Christ, we can choose to add Julie Polidoro’s vision to our geographical knowledge of the present world, a knowledge that became standardized, digital, hyperrealistic, uselessly precise, more exact than what our sensorial organs are even able to discerne. Polidoro’s geographies, with their moving and ripped borders, reverberate the compassion that we need to collect, welcome, and put together the world. Because of this (thanks to this), ‘something is going on everywhere’—and, more importantly, someone is.

Translation by Alessandro Giammei