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Adam Dant’s Map of Shoreditch as the Globe

November 6, 2010
by the gentle author

As we all know, for some people Shoreditch is the world. They do not need to go beyond this especially vibrant corner of the East End to find everything they require in life. If you would like to experience the total Shoreditch-centric view of the world for yourself, simply double click on the image above and this map will expand at once to fill your entire field of vision – providing a elegant visual parallel to the mysterious phenomenon that many discover when then come to Shoreditch and find everywhere else quickly retreats to the outer margins of their consciousness.

Adam Dant drew it ten years ago as a commission for the Shoreditch Map Company who produced a regular broadsheet listing all the bars and happening places that aspiring hipsters might seek out as a means to immerse themselves in the life of the neighbourhood. “There is a certain cliche you always hear, that London is a collection of villages,” he explained to me, “so I took that idea literally – as if Shoreditch was someone’s world.”

Adam found his inspiration in the fourteenth century Mappa Mundi that  described the medieval world view with Jerusalem and the Holy Land at the centre, and he transposed its guiding principles to Shoreditch which is focused upon the dynamic nexus of Curtain Rd, Rivington St and Shoreditch High St. Just as the Mappa Mundi ended at the edge of the known world, Adam’s map is circumscribed by Spitalfields to the South and Hackney to the North, while Arnold Circus and Old St Tube Station are the landmarks which define the Eastern and Western extremities of Shoreditchland, beyond which only the most adventurous hipsters stray.

There has always been a vigorous broadsheet and pamphleteering tradition existing here at the margins of the City, and Adam chose to draw upon the colourful iconography of these publications in peopling his map of Shoreditchland, as a means to evoke the exuberant life that these streets have witnessed over the past five hundred years. He has created a map to be relished by cartographic connoisseurs, full of myriad signs and wonders, from the Eskimo in the frozen North of Hackney to Neptune in his chariot proceeding along Norton Folgate and further South in Bishopsgate, you see the winged figure of Mammon rising triumphant over the City. The pretence of scientific objectivity that more conventional maps peddle is rejected here, in favour of Adam’s preference for plotting an imaginative landscape where the mythical, the temporal and the plain nonsensical co-exist side by side.

I can only wonder what those people thought who picked up Adam’s map in a bar as a guide for a night out, only to discover Shoreditch was an archipelago inhabited by freaks. Yet since Shoreditch is renowned for its exuberant fashion pioneers and stylistas, it is possible they were not in the least surprised, because equally extravagant sights are commonplace every day in Shoreditch High St, the major thoughfare through the mythical kingdom of Shoreditchland.

Adam Dant has more maps that we plan to show you over coming weeks, next time Shoreditch as Manhattan. His current exhibition Bibliotheques & Brothels runs at the Adam Baumgold Gallery, East 66th St, New York City until November 27th.

A satire upon the trial of Titus Oates from 1685, you will find Dr Degraded on Adam Dant’s map at the top just above Shoreditch Church.

The fight over the breeches from 1690, you will find this couple outside Shoreditch Town Hall.

The whale beached at Blackwall Dock from 1690, you will find this creature in Great Eastern St.

Isaac Ragg used this broadsheet to solicit New Year’s gifts in 1684, find him beside Brushfield St, Bell Lane, Spitalfields.

Hereford Mappa Mundi, c.1300

You might also like to take a look at Adam Dant’s Map of the History of Shoreditch produced to celebrate the centenary of the Arnold Circus bandstand this Summer.

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