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Iconoclasistas is a Buenos Aires-based design duo led by University of Buenos Aires professor Julia Risler and graphic designer and comic strip author Pablo Ares. The mission is to use cartography (maps) and other graphic art forms to create new visions of historic representation, societal growth, and participation.

Building on longstanding social justice work, Risler and Ares founded Iconoclasistas in 2006 out of a desire to create graphic resources that could be circulated among their network of activists. Maps were chosen as a medium because they are broadly understood and easily amended, using icons that transcend language and educational barriers. The resulting maps range from the local and literal (e.g., an overlay of a street grid peppered with icons designed to illustrate issues like safety, gentrification, etc.) to the political (a map of mining-related destruction in Argentina’s heartland).  

Iconoclasistas’ maps question dominant symbolism and ideologies to help community organizers build strategies of resistance. They are used as tools to lend legitimacy to complaints to local governments and industries. The work of Iconoclasistas falls into three different categories: artistic (production poetics and graphic devices), political (territorial activism and institutional drifts), and academic (critical pedagogies and participatory research). 

A major focus of Iconoclasistas is to inspire and enable others to use their strategies in their own communities. In 2013, the duo published the “Collective Mapping Manual. Critical cartographic resources for territorial processes of collaborative creation,” in which they systematize and share methodologies, resources, and dynamics for the self-organization of workshops, exercises, tables, and interventions of collective mapping and the development of collaborative research processes in the territories.

Iconoclasistas also holds collective mapping workshops and collaborative research in various countries and social, community, cultural and educational institutions. They organize training sessions with mapping tools focused on topics such as gender violence, the plundering of natural resources, urban gentrification, agroecological alternatives, fair trade, and environmental justice. These workshops are carried out with urban, peasant, and indigenous communities.

We had an opportunity to speak with Julia and Pablo about this process on our podcast, Social Design Insights. Listen to the episode below.

51 | Collective Mapping as a Tool for Social Change


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "Awtar W'Haneen" by Josй Luis Monton & Hossam Ramzy from the album "Flamenco Arabe 2."