MAP Office / Disputed & The Invisible Islands

This work originally appeared in Issue 3.26 (Spring 2015).




Image: MAP Office, Disputed, 2014, wooden dart game, booklet, edition 1/3, 23.6" x 23.6" x 5.9".
Image: MAP Office, Disputed, 2014, wooden dart game, booklet, edition 1/3, 23.6″ x 23.6″ x 5.9″.


25°46’N — 123°31’E

Diaoyu dao
Diaoyu tai

Disputed responds to numerous recent escalations in island disputes around the world. These islands are much more than small uninhabited rocks lost in the ocean. With the exhaustion of natural resources, territorial waters are becoming a precious extension of land, explaining countries’ often-violent fights to claim them. With rich fisheries and natural oil and gas contained in their seabed, many times these islands are huge attractions in crowded regions with competing interests. Geopolitical strategies over contested areas foster nationalist sentiments and racism toward neighbouring countries. The role of militaries occupying the same strategic space and planting their countries’ sovereign flags is a visible sign of these tensions. Borrowing elements from these ongoing fights, MAP Office has created a dart game designed to conquer those disputed territories according to the countries that claim them. The competition is therefore transferred to players, who choose which country they want to represent in conquering an island.

Diaoyu dao > Diaoyu > China
Uotsuri-shima > Senkaku Islands > Japan
Diaoyu tai > Diaoyu > Taiwan

Area: 4.32 km2
Highest Point: 383 m

This is the largest island of the disputed archipelago and an important place for fishing activities. For many decades it was the site of a Japanese fish-processing plant since 1900 housing about 280 workers. It has been uninhabited since WWII except for a few academic scientific visits. In the 1970s, the island was one of the four sold to the Kurihara family who rented it back to the Japanese government from 2002 till 2013 leading to the escalade of the dispute. This island is currently home to domestic goats and albatross. A unique species of mole is also unique to this island. Translated to English, the Chinese and Japanese name means “Fishing Island,” and “Fishing Platform” in Taiwanese.


The Invisible Islands


MAP Office, The Invisible Islands
Two villages, Ha Tsuen and Sheung Tsuen, were abandoned when the most controversial detention camp for Vietnamese refugees was built in the 1980s. Disconnected from the development of urban Hong Kong, these villages were mainly involved in producing export shrimp paste to Europe and North America. A few deserted beaches give the scale of the small active ports and the fishing industry extending in China’s water to just two kilometers South.


A continuous metropolis, Hong Kong—Shenzhen is rapidly merging to become a megacity in the South China region. Closed between the China Sea and China itself, Hong Kong had no choice but to look in the direction of its twin sister Shenzhen. In this sense, Hong Kong may have been an island but isn’t anymore.

To respond to the “Urban Edge” combined with “the ideal city” theme of the UABB*HK2013 biennale, we propose to look at Hong Kong from the rearview mirror and to open new perspectives in the China Sea. Our proposal will clearly ignore the polarity established with Shenzhen, to construct a new horizon happening on the water and the hundred possibilities of island in the region.

Starting from the main exhibition venue, MAP Office will present an installation composed of a 33 islands manifesto, embracing as many possible island laboratories from the past to the present. A personal collection of photographs, videos, sculptures, shells, tools, and found objects will be exhibited to become part of a collective memory.


— Map Office, 2013

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