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)

  • Francis Alÿs, The Making of Lima, 2002 (video still)

  • Installation view at CUNY Graduate Center, New York, NY

Curated by Nato Thompson

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 joined Creative Time in January 2007. Since then, Thompson, who is Chief Curator, has organized such major Creative Time projects as The Creative Time Summit (2009–2013), Kara Walker’s A Subtlety… (2014), Suzanne Lacy’s Between the Door and the Street (2013), Nick Cave’s HEARD•NY (2013), Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures (2012), Living as Form (2011), Paul Ramirez Jonas’s Key to the City (2010), Jeremy Deller’s It is What it is (2009, with New Museum curators Laura Hoptman and Amy Mackie), Democracy in America: The National Campaign (2008), and Paul Chan’s Waiting for Godot in New Orleans (2007), among others. Previously, he worked as Curator at MASS MoCA, where he completed numerous large-scale exhibitions, including The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere (2004), with a catalogue distributed by MIT Press. His writings have appeared in numerous publications, BookForum, Frieze, Art Forum, Parkett, Cabinet, and The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest among them. In 2005, he received the Art Journal Award for distinguished writing. For Independent Curators International (ICI), Thompson curated the exhibition Experimental Geography, with a book available from Melville House Publishing. His book Seeing Power: Socially Engaged Art in the Age of Cultural Production is forthcoming from Melville House in 2013.


touring schedule

Museum London
London, Canada
June 23, 2014 - June 23, 2014

Foreman Art Gallery, Bishop’s University
Sherbrooke, Canada
January 28, 2011 - March 21, 2011

The James Gallery, The Graduate Center at CUNY
New York, NY, United States
June 24, 2010 - August 27, 2010

The Colby College Museum of Art
Waterville, ME, United States
February 21, 2010 - May 30, 2010

Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA, United States
October 10, 2009 - January 30, 2010

The Albuquerque Museum
Albuquerque, NM, United States
February 21, 2009 - September 20, 2009

Rochester Art Center
Rochester, MN, United States
February 7, 2009 - April 18, 2009

Richard E. Peeler Art Center, DePauw University
Greencastle, IN, United States
September 19, 2008 - December 2, 2008

NEW YORK, NY 10013
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