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An Iconography of Movement



Jean Gottmann 

18 juillet 2022 - 2 septembre 2022 - Vernissage le 19 juillet à 17h

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An iconography of movement

Sorbonne Artgallery is proud to present the first ever exhibition of a collection of slides and photographs from the archives of geographer Jean Gottmann (1915-1994). In Jean Gottmann: An Iconography of Movement, scholars work towards shedding light on his concept of the 'megalopolis': field documentation becomes art.


Half of the photographs on display were taken in North America, a third in Europe, 10-15% in Latin America, while the remaining 5% consist of diagrams, maps, and artworks. The collection, not limited to traditional geographical study, includes field shots, personal, professional, and intellectual elements; and material drawn from previous projects. The intermingling of his field work with his intellectual and professional life across his 'Atlantic transhumance' reveals his vision of the variety of human geography. 


Beyond documenting the Transatlantic landscapes, the collection also traces his intellectual transition from French regional monograph to an innovative understanding of territory, for him consisting of a multiscalar geography of nodes and networks, informed by the cultural and psychological projection of the peoples sharing it as their common habitat. It also follows his early discovery of the symbiosis of the rural and urban in the Northeastern seaboard of the United States, which, for Gottmann, was the hinge of a complex network.


Surpassing the limits of national frameworks in political geography, Gottmann wondered about the possibility of a world community in the future, considering that a planetary political organization would function on condition that it respected the world’s cultural variety. Thus, his work becomes even more interesting— and important— in today's troubled times.

Gottmann's never-before-exhibited landscapes, many of which were shot 'on the road' or on the street, offer lively glimpses of people and places, emphasizing his attraction to the cultural diversity of human settlements. They reflect his unique approach to geography: that landscapes are a living theatre. These 'living theatres' transcend pure geography: they betray an artistic gaze.


The exhibition will be on view from July 18th to September 2nd. The exhibition is part of the official program of the International Geographical Union (IGU-UGI) Centennial Congress, organized by the French Committee of Geography (CNFG) from July 18th to July 23rd. In the morning of the show’s opening (July 19th) a full session dedicated to Jean Gottmann and his photographic collection will take place in Room 307 of the Centre Panthéon. The catalogue Jean Gottmann: An Iconography of Movement was created under the direction of Olivier Labussière & Luca Muscarà, Olivier Loiseaux, Jean-Paul Hubert, Anne-Laure Amilhat Szary, Yann Toma and Louise Hantson, and published by Editions Jannink. With the contributions of Andrea Masala (Pacte) and Nicolas Tixier (ENSAG-AAU-Cresson). 


Interns following the exhibition: Marthe Beseme, Gladys de Cambourg and Lulu Fleming-Benite.

Sorbonne Artgallery wishes to thank its partners in the exhibition:
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