Experimental Geography opens June 28 at The Albuquerque Museum and explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the juncture where the two realms collide and possibly make a new field altogether. The exhibition 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 19 artists or artist teams from six countries as well as the United States. Experimental Geography will be on display at The Albuquerque Museum through September 28 and is organized by Independent Curators International of New York.

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 Boston’s evacuation route. 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 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, as well as other details drawn from everyday experience.
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, the iCI Partners, Gerrit L. and Sydie Lansing, and Barbara and John Robinson.

Experimental Geography is part of a larger project of New Mexico arts organizations known as LAND/ART, which will explore relationships of land, art, and community through exhibitions, site-specific art works, lectures, and a culminating book. Focusing on “environmental” or “land” art, the collaboration seeks to address our changing relationship to nature, and to offer a new or previously unconsidered understanding of the place in which we live. A complete listing of LAND/ART activities from June to November of 2009, visit www.landartnm.org.

LAND/ART Symposium Weekend

The LAND/ART Symposium Weekend will take place around the opening of Experimental Geography at the Albuquerque Museum and include a series of artists’ talks, discussions, excursions and tours.

Symposium events at The Albuquerque Museum include:

Sunday, June 28, 11am
Artist talk with Lynne Hull: Environmental Art from Lascaux to Last Week
presented with THE LAND/an art site, www.landartsite.org

Guest artist Lynne Hull will give a talk spanning the history of the earliest human art (which
was environmental art) through contemporary artists interpreting nature, artists interacting
with environmental forces, artists proposing new relationships with the environment and artists
intervening in the environment on behalf of conservation and restoration. Hull creates sculpture
installations as wildlife habitat enhancement and eco-atonement for human impact. She has worked in eight countries and fourteen U.S. states with a wide variety of wildlife agencies and communities. In the American West, she works with state wildlife departments, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.

Sunday, June 28, 1pm
LAND/ART Panel Discussion

Laura Steward, Director/Curator of SITE Santa Fe, will moderate a panel discussion with Matthew Coolidge, Director of the Center for Land Use Interpretation; Bill Gilbert, artist and Lannan Chair of the Land Arts of the American West program at UNM; and artist Katie Holten from Ireland/New York.

Sunday, June 28, 2-4pm
Opening receptions for Experimental Geography and The Shape of Time: Photographs of Star Axis by Edward Ranney, 1979 – 2009

Edward Ranney has photographed the growth of the earth-sculpture Star Axis since 1979, when Charles Ross began excavation of the southern edge of Chupinas Mesa, near Las Vegas, NM, for the construction of the site’s eleven story Star Tunnel. The large-format photographs Ranney has taken each year since then reveal a major site growing out of its own rubble. For Ranney, with his extensive experience photographing pre-Columbian sites of ancient America, this process might be described as a kind of visual archaeology in reverse. Inherent in a project spanning a generation are visual observations of the power of a specific site as it grows and changes over time, as well as a poetic sense of the changing shape of time itself. Here photographic documentation speaks not only of architectural construction, but also of process and duration, intuition and aspiration, and a shared desire to understand cosmic phenomena on a human scale.

Sunday, June 28, 4pm
Artist Talk & River Excursion with Basia Irland

Presented with the Center for Contemporary Arts, www.ccasantfe.org. Basia will show a short film at the Albuquerque Museum about her carved ice books embedded with riparian seeds that have been gifted to streams around the world. Immediately following the film, she will lead a short excursion to the Rio Grande for the “launching” of ice books into the river. The seeds will be released into the river as the ice melts in the current. When the plants regenerate and grow along the bank, they help sequester carbon, hold the banks in place and provide shelter. Basia Irland’s work has been exhibited internationally and is in 22 permanent collections.

For additional information or visual materials, contact Connor O’Laughlin at 505-243-7255, tcolaughlin@cabq.gov.