Road Trips, Routes, and Landscape Instrumentation

[Image: Venue at the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art; courtesy Nevada Museum of Art].

I'm extremely pleased to say that a small exhibition based on Nicola Twilley's and my project Venue has opened at the Center for Art + Environment, part of the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno.

[Image: Venue at the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art; courtesy Nevada Museum of Art].

Venue, in effect, was a 16-month discontinuous road trip around the continental United States, with a deliberate emphasis on the west and southwest states, during which we toured sites and interviewed people whose work foregrounded the intersection of human activity and the landscape—whether those landscapes were real, virtual, simulated, augmented, or "natural," in the broadest terms, but always extraordinary.

They ranged from mines to landfills, from a simulated lunar landscape in Arizona to the remains of a Hollow Earth cult in southern Florida, from a novelist to an historian of American river fish, from a speleo-biologist to an architecture critic, from neutrino detectors to the Astroturf factory in Dalton, Georgia, to name barely a few.

[Image: Venue at the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art; courtesy Nevada Museum of Art].

For example, we made a lengthy pilgrimage into the mountains of eastern Oregon to visit the world's largest organism; we learned how National Parks are curated, preserved, mapped, and remembered in our backstage visit to the archives of Arches National Park in Moab; we tagged along for a simulated military raid on a replicant Middle Eastern city made of shipping containers in the California desert; we went in search of darkness with author Paul Bogard, discussing the impact of light pollution on human history; we flew with aerial photographer Michael Light over the incredible shores of Mono Lake; we sat down with Edward Burtysnky to discuss the concept of primary and secondary landscapes of industrial production; and we learned about the strange paintings used as backdrops in prison photography with artist Alyse Emdur, among many, many other site visits and interviews, many of which have yet to be written up.

In fact, some of my favorite experiences of the entire project have yet to be written up, including our first-hand private tour of the nuclear waste repository at WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico; our no-photos-allowed visit to the GPS control room at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado; and the aforementioned tour of a factory in Georgia where Astroturf is woven on huge looms; but the opening of the exhibition is a good spur to get those online.

[Image: Venue at the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art; courtesy Nevada Museum of Art].

Of course, while we were traveling we also deployed our own landscape instruments—designed by the multi-talented Chris Woebken—allowing us to take our own readings of the U.S. landscape.

The huge sets of information produced by all this—what we called our "site readings" ran from details as simple as time of day, elevation, and ambient air temperature to more complicated parameters, like phases of the moon, number of sunspots, and local seismic activity—were then turned into some fabulous examples of data visualization for us by Everything-Type-Company; you can see those surrounding the giant map that adorns the back wall of the exhibition space.

[Image: Venue at the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art; courtesy Nevada Museum of Art].

The exhibition itself will remain open for most of 2014, closing on November 30, 2014, and the Venue website will continue to be updated as we comb through the intimidatingly deep backlog of material we accumulated during our travels. Nicola and I will also be presenting our travels at the Center for Art + Environment conference this October, specifically on Friday, October 10th; check out the conference website if you are interested in attending.

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