Experimental Geography

Installation view at Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Installation view at Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine
Raqs Media Collective, Erosion by whispers, 2007 (detail)
Installation view at CUNY Graduate Center, New York, NY.
Francis Alÿs, The Making of Lima, 2002 (video still)
The manifestations of “experimental geography” (a term coined by geographer Trevor Paglen in 2002) run the gamut of contemporary art practice today: sewn cloth cities that spill out of suitcases, bus tours through water treatment centers, performers climbing up the sides of buildings, and sound works capturing the buzz of electric waves on the power grid. In the hands of contemporary artists, the study of humanity’s engagement with the earth’s surface becomes a riddle best solved in experimental fashion. The exhibition presents a panoptic view of this new practice, through a wide range of mediums including sound and video installations, photography, sculpture, and experimental cartography.

The approaches used by the artists featured in Experimental Geography range from the poetic to the empirical. The more pragmatic techniques include those used by the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) in projects made with students and other non-art groups that aim to strengthen peoples’ roles as agents of change in their own environments. See, for example, their map intended to help longshoremen and truckers identify chokepoints in the cargo trade network. In their similarly empirical projects, the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), a research organization, examines the nature and extent of human interaction with the earth’s surface. CLUI embraces a multidisciplinary approach that forces a reading of the American landscape (such as the disfiguring effects of culling natural resources from the picturesque banks of the Hudson River), thereby refamiliarizing viewers with the overlooked details of their everyday experience.



Nato Thompson

Nato Thompson is Chief Curator at Creative Time, New York, as well as a writer and activist. Among his public projects for Creative Time are the last last five Creative Time Summits, Tania Bruguera’s Immigrant Movement International, Democracy in America: The National Campaign, and Waiting for Godot, a project by Paul Chan held in New Orleans. His book Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the Age of Cultural Production will be published in Spring 2014 by Melville House Publishing. Thompson was formerly a curator at MASS MoCA, and he also curated ICI’s Experimental Geography, which traveled to eight venues in North America.

Touring Schedule

  • Foreman Art Gallery, Bishop’s University
    Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada
    January 28, 2011 - March 21, 2011
  • Museum London
    London, Ontario, Canada
    October 9, 2010 - January 2, 2011
  • The James Gallery, The Graduate Center at CUNY
    New York, New York
    June 24, 2010 - August 27, 2010
  • The Colby College Museum of Art
    Waterville, Maine
    February 21, 2010 - May 30, 2010
  • Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    October 10, 2009 - January 30, 2010
  • The Albuquerque Museum
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    June 28, 2009 - September 20, 2009
  • Rochester Art Center
    Rochester, Minnesota
    February 7, 2009 - April 18, 2009
  • Richard E. Peeler Art Center, DePauw University
    Greencastle, Indiana
    September 19, 2008 - December 2, 2008