Experimental Geography, Museum London

Curated by Nato Thompson Museum London
October 9, 2010 — January 2, 2011

Francis Alys, AREA Chicago, The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), kanarninka (Catherine D’lgnazio), e-Xplo, Ilana Halperin, Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, Lize Mogel, Multiplicity, Trevor Paglen, Raqs Media Collective, Ellen Rothenberg, Spurse, Deborah Stratman, Daniel Tucker (project organizer), Alex Villar, and Yin Xiuzhen.

Experimental Geography presents a panoptic view of this new practice through a wide range of mediums including interactive computer units, sound and video installations, photography, sculpture, and experimental cartography created by 18 artists or artist teams from six countries as well as the United States.

Geography can involve the study of specific histories, sites, and memories. Every estuary, landfill, and cul-de-sac has a story to tell. The task of the geographer is to alert us to what is directly in front of us, while the task of the experimental geographer — an amalgam of scientist, artist, and explorer — is to do so in a manner that deploys aesthetics, ambiguity, poetry, and a dash of empiricism.

The manifestations of “experimental geography” (a term coined by geographer Trevor Paglen in 2002) run the gamut of contemporary art practice: sewn cloth cities that spill out of suitcases, bus tours through water treatment centers, performers climbing up the sides of buildings, and sound art of the breaths exhaled in running the evacuation route of Boston. In the hands of contemporary artists, the study of humanity’s engagement with the earth’s topography becomes a riddle best solved in experimental fashion. The approaches used by the artists featured in Experimental Geography range from a poetic conflation of humanity and the earth to more empirical studies of our planet. Ilana Halperin melds immediate physical and personal actions with geologic contexts; she offers poetic conflations of differing fields of interest. Creating projects that are more empirically minded, The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), a research organization, explores the nature and extent of human interaction with the earth’s surface, embracing a multidisciplinary approach to fulfilling its mission. Using skill sets culled from the toolbox of geography, the work re-familiarizes the viewer with the overlooked American landscape, including man-made islands, submerged cities, traffic in Los Angeles, and the broadcast antennas in the San Gabriel Mountains, and other details drawn from everyday experience.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue co-published by iCI and Melville House Publishing. The catalogue includes essays by curator Nato Thompson, art historian Jeffrey Kastner, and artist Trevor Paglen; artist’s statements; and brief texts on forms of artistic practice.

Experimental Geography is a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by iCI (Independent Curators International), New York. The guest curator for the exhibition is Nato Thompson. The exhibition, tour, and catalogue are made possible, in part, by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the iCI Advocates and the iCI Partners, Gerrit L. and Sydie Lansing, and Barbara and John Robinson. Its presentation at DePauw University has been generously funded by the Richard D. and Barbara Dixon Harrison Exhibition Fund.

Nato Thompson is a curator at Creative Time, New York, as well as a writer and activist. Among his public projects for Creative Time are Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, a project by Paul Chan in collaboration with The Classical Theatre of Harlem, and Mike Nelson: A Psychic Vacuum. Thompson was formerly a curator at MASS MoCA, where his exhibitions included The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere and Ahistoric Occasion: Artists Making History.

Founded in 1975, iCI is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the understanding and appreciation of contemporary art through traveling exhibitions and other activities that reach a diverse national and international audience. Collaborating with a wide range of eminent curators, iCI develops innovative traveling exhibitions, accompanied by catalogues and other educational materials, to introduce and document challenging new work in all mediums by younger as well as more established artists from the United States and abroad.

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