Geography as Art, Art as Geography

Published August 28, 2009 by Molly

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“Experimental geography, like it sounds, is more experiment than answer,” begins Nato Thompson in Experimental Geography, a book produced in collaboration with the Independent Curators Network.

The field–which is still new and loosely defined– concerns the intersection of contemporary art and contemporary geography, and aims to reveal in interesting ways the fact that “we make the world and, in turn, the world makes us.”

It’s a useful thesis for our times and one with dizzying implications. Thompson’s book is dense with illuminating essays– one suggests that a tour bus is a mobile theater; another claims that reality television can provide a model for urban planning theory.

Then there are the images. In terms of sheer visual impact, Experimental Geography is like a portable museum survey. A silkscreened image from a forged passport shares space with a map of Boston evacuation routes; video stills show a fellow mounting a telephone booth, and a model of Constant Niewenhuys’s 1958 Yellow Sector from the New Babylon project gets a two-page spread.

Few projects attempt to change the way you navigate the physical world. Fewer still succeed. One can only wonder what would’ve happened had Max been armed with a copy of the book as he made his way out into the land of the Wild Things…

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