Bureau d’Etudes – An Atlas of Agenda’s: Mapping the Power, Mapping the Commons


Onomatopee, ISBN-13: 978-9491677229, English,, 270 pages, 2014, The Netherlands

Bureau d’Etudes’ maps have been recognised not only as fascinating artworks, but also as mirrors of power systems, and have been unveiled through a clever and self-aware use of networks. This book, appropriately defined as an “atlas”, is a systematic accumulation and reproduction of these maps, properly documenting their unique work. They helped to define a different meaning for “info-graphics” imbuing an exquisitely political attitude. Bureau d’Etudes’ maps have consequences, and their concept of info-graphics describes “dangerous liaisons,” where the relationship creates new meanings. The value of these power relationships is then quantified through design, which is re-appropriated and transformed into a pure political instrument. In fact, the semiotics of these maps trigger the ability to reprogram the perception of power systems, through a carefully checked and information rendering. The book is indeed beautifully and functionally designed, brilliantly solving the structural limits of this type of work. For example a plastic magnifier card is provided to explore the essential details of the painstakingly designed maps (sometimes even folded in spreads), and a long name index at the end helps readers to quickly find relevant subjects hidden in the details. After more than a decade Bureau d’Etudes aesthetics can be considered a paradigm, and in this respect Brian Holmes, who works closely with the group, defines the maps as “working sketches for cosmologies of liberation.”