Experimental Geography

Experimental Geography, a traveling exhibition that explores the intersection of geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, comes to the James Gallery from June 24 through August 27. Curated by Nato Thompson and organized by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York, the exhibition will be on view Tuesday–Saturday, 12-6 p.m., on the first floor of the Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue (between 34th & 35th Streets).
ICI’s critically-acclaimed exhibition Experimental Geography debuts in New York this summer at a moment when human engagement with geographic phenomena—from earthquakes to oil spills—are markedly on our minds. The James Gallery is an ideal venue for Experimental Geography as the scholarship and activism of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the Graduate Center has informed the foundational methodologies behind this exhibition. The exhibition and a related panel discussion (see below) are part of a year-long exploration of "place" in public programs at the Graduate Center in 2010-2011.
Experimental Geography explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the junctures where the two realms collide. The exhibition presents a new practice through a wide range of mediums including sound and video installations, photography, sculpture, and experimental cartography created by nineteen artists or artist teams from seven countries including the United States. As Thompson states, “Experimental Geography considers numerous aesthetic approaches that emerge from interpreting space as a cultural phenomenon. As the artists and researchers in this exhibition comfortably move between discursive territory from geography, to urban planning, to cartography to art, so too should the audiences.”

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, diverse cultural landscapes, and a dash of empiricism. These manifestations of “experimental geography” (a term coined by geographer Trevor Paglen in 2002) run the gamut of contemporary art practice, ranging from a poetic conflation of humanity and the earth to socio-cultural and scientific studies of our planet. The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), a research organization, will often use a bus tour as a way to introduce their guests to the uses of the land around them, re-familiarizing the viewers with the overlooked American landscape. The collective Multiplicity presents a provocative look at the territory that defines Israel and Palestine in a work that resonates with contemporary headlines. Their project The Road Map, 2003, uses a simple empirical formula that ties the land to the life it underpins, comparing the time it took for a person holding an Israeli passport and a resident of Palestine to go the same distance.

Artist Ilana Halperin fuses the geologic with the domestic, attempting to boil milk in a hot spring in Boiling Milk (Solfataras), 2000. Lize Mogel, concurrently participating in Greater New York at MoMA’s PS1, challenges familiar mapped boundaries in favor of associative and globalized geographies in Mappa Mundi, 2008. Other works in the exhibition include sewn cloth cities that spill out of suitcases, bus tours that weave through water treatment centers, performers climbing up the sides of buildings, and sound art made from the breaths exhaled in running Boston’s evacuation route. As Thompson concludes, “this project has no intention of being seen from the tired lens of removed art practice, but instead as a laboratory to consider the aesthetic and political engagement with the spaces that shape who we are.”

Panel Discussion
Tuesday, July 20, 6:00–7:15 p.m.
Issues of artistic engagement with the earth’s surface will be explored in this panel discussion with Experimental Geography exhibition curator Nato Thompson, artists Lize Mogel and Trevor Paglen, and David Harvey, social theorist and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center. Free, but seating is limited and reservations are required. Reservations can be made at www.gc.cuny.edu/events.  For further information, call 212-817-8215.

About the Curator
Nato Thompson is chief curator at Creative Time, 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.

Artists in the Exhibition                                        
Francis Alÿs
AREA Chicago                                                           
The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI)                                                          
The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)             
kanarinka (Catherine D’Ignazio)         
Ilana Halperin                                                 
Julia Meltzer and David Thorne
Lize Mogel                                                      
Trevor Paglen                                    
Raqs Media Collective                                               
Ellen Rothenberg                                           
Deborah Stratman                             
Daniel Tucker, The We Are Here Map Archive                     
Alex Villar                                                       
Yin Xiuzhen

Credit Line
Experimental Geography
is a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by Independent Curators International (ICI), 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, the ICI Partners, Gerrit L. and Sydie Lansing, and Barbara and John Robinson.

About ICI
Founded in 1975, ICI (Independent Curators International) produces exhibitions, events, publications, and training opportunities for diverse audiences around the world. A catalyst for independent thinking, ICI connects emerging and established curators, artists, and institutions, to forge international networks and generate new forms of collaboration. Working across disciplines and historical precedents, the organization is a hub that provides access to the people, ideas, and practices that are key to current developments in the field, inspiring fresh ways of seeing and contextualizing contemporary art.

About the Graduate Center
The Graduate Center is the primary doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). The school offers more than 30 doctoral programs, as well as a number of master's programs. The Graduate Center is also home to more than 30 interdisciplinary research centers and institutes and offers an extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events. Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at www.gc.cuny.edu.

Submitted on: JUN 24, 2010

Category: James Gallery