MoCA’s ‘Jerry’s Map’ invites cartographic adventure

Thursday October 4, 2012

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art hosts a short, two-week run of Jerry Gretzinger’s "Jerry’s Map" -- in the vein of popular world-building games like "Sim City" and "Minecraft," Gretzinger has created a vast living map comprised of individual, handcrafted panels, a map which evolves and shape-shifts as he reworks a panel every day -- in the Hunter Center from Oct. 5 to 14, and open for viewing during gallery hours.

With over 2,600 painted and collaged panels spanning a jaw-dropping 2,000 square feet, the project -- part cartography, part imaginative narrative -- will be displayed in its entirety. During the exhibition, Gretzinger will continue to work on the project, while documentary filmmaker Greg Whitmore uses this opportunity to convert the entire Hunter Center into a film soundstage, documenting the artist and this project.

MASS MoCA will host a special meet the artist party with Gretzinger and Whitmore on Saturday, Oct. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m.

"Jerry’s Map" began in 1963 when Gretzinger doodled a map of a small imaginary town on a piece of paper. Then, according to supplied material, "there was this moment when I came to the edge of that sheet of paper and got out another sheet of paper and ... I taped them together," Gretzinger said. "That’s when I kind of realized, it had a life of its own."

Gretzinger’s world, the country of Ukrania, changes every day through a unique combination of detailed procedures and pure chance. To guide this evolution, Gretzinger devised an elaborate card deck inscribed with instructions -- the map’s "future predictor." Each morning he chooses a card that determines his course of action for the day -- one day he might add new features to a panel; the next, he might completely void one out.

In his two-week MASS MoCA residency, Gretzinger will reveal the process and philosophy behind his decades-long mapping project during the production of the documentary film by Whitmore.

Whitmore’s most recent feature documentary, "Kabul Transit," debuted at the Full Frame Documentary Festival and traveled to film festivals in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. His work includes video and photographic archive preservation at the Afghan Media Resource Center, the Williams Afghan Media Project, and short films including a look into the pneumatic garbage system disposal system in use on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, profiles of contemporary American photographers, and an instructional film about the construction of a double reed wind instrument called a murali played by the Merasi of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan in India.

MASS MoCA is located off Marshall Street. Tickets to the Oct. 6 after-hours party, or entry to the Hunter during gallery hours, are $5. MASS MoCA members are admitted free. For information call 413-662-2111 or visit


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions