expgeo poster

downloadDownload: Contestational Cartographies Symposium poster

docEvent photos on Flickr

docVideo profile: Artist Trevor Paglen

docVideo: Susanne Slavick + Chris Harrison speak @ dorkbotpgh

downloadDownload: Contestational Cartographies Symposium map

Press Resources

Media Contact: Margaret Cox,

docPress release:Contestational Cartographies Symposium

doc Jan. 2010 E-News: Contestational Cartographies Symposium + LAST CHANCE > Experimental Geography


Pittsburgh City Paper Blog: "CMU's Miller Gallery and Studio for Creative Inquiry hosted a series of talks by artists and scholars who question the means we use to abstract our notions of the space we inhabit," Contestational Cartographies, Bill O'Driscoll, Pittsburgh City Paper Program Notes Blog, Feb. 3, 2010

Post-Gazette: "Experimental Geography is both the title of a mind-expanding exhibition and a term coined by contemporary artist/geographer/activist Trevor Paglen, who will speak tomorrow at Carnegie Mellon University, " Exhibition at Carnegie Mellon gives geography a new meaning, Mary Thomas, Post-Gazette, Jan. 27, 2010

Pop City Media: Pop Filter Event of the Week: Contestational Cartographies Symposium, Jennifer Baron, Pop City Media, Jan. 27, 2010

Pittsburgh City Paper: "This subject matter is the landscape of America's redacted geography: bases in the U.S. and abroad that simply do not exist, according to official maps and statements. Such sets of longitude and latitude prove our geography yet another victim of the modern information battle... Paglen has entered the popular canon for his intrinsically political research. As co-author of Torture Taxi, he and investigative journalist A.C. Thompson exposed to the general public the watchword practice of "extraordinary rendition" as practiced by arms of the American government. His latest book, Blank Spots on the Map, recounts his exploration of the "black site" geography of American intelligence: military bases, prisons and intelligence-gathering offices whose purpose depends on remaining shrouded in secrecy," X Marks the Blank Spot, Justin Hopper, Pittsburgh City Paper, Jan. 21, 2010





































Past Symposium

“James Thomas Harbison” (CIA Officer Wanted in Connection with the Abduction of Abu Omar from Milan, Trevor Paglen, 2007, Courtesy of the artist, Altman Siegel Gallery and Thomas Zander Gallery
downloadUnmarked 737 at "Gold Coast" Terminal Las Vegas, 2008, NV Distance ~ 1 mile 10:44 p.m., Courtesy of the artist, Altman Siegel Gallery and Thomas Zander Gallery, Trevor Paglen
download Mappa Mundi, Lize Mogel, 2008

Contestational Cartographies Symposium

Aug. 28 - Dec. 6, 2009

Maps represent, maps reveal, maps entice, maps distort. They selectively omit, they unwittingly exaggerate, and they even make outright lies. Though maps strive to project authority and objectivity, they cannot help but embed the biases, blind-spots and idiosyncrasies of their human authors. As our lives are played out in increasingly networked realms, we have become carto-literate as never before; we read maps produced by governments and corporate interests, yes, but also collaboratively author maps online, inscribing new representations of ourselves and our priorities. Contestational Cartographies introduces the thoughts of leading “experimental geographers” who employ mapping techniques in new modes of critical practice and cultural research and, in so doing, help us “read between the lines” of the world around us.

Contestational Cartographies is co-organized by the Miller Gallery and the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University.  Produced with support from the CMU School of Art Lecture Series, the Vice Provost for Education, Dorkbot Pittsburgh + the Brillobox.

Public Events 2009

All events are free + open to the public unless otherwise noted.

Jan. 28, Thurs.

5-6:30pm: Blank Spots on a Map: Lecture
by Trevor Paglen, co-presented by the School of Art Lecture Series
@ McConomy Auditorium, University Center, CMU
Trevor Paglen has methodically amassed rich visual evidence for “nonexistent” military installations, secret prisons in Afghanistan, and a collection of even more obscure “black sites” startlingly close to home. Here, Paglen takes us on a road trip through the world of hidden budgets, state secrets, covert bases, and more, guiding us through a landscape that intelligence insiders call the “black world.”

8-10pm: Information Mapping: Dorkbot
with Chris Harrison + Susanne Slavick
A special edition of the world-famous geek salon.
Dinner (meat/vegetarian/vegan) + drinks available.
(Event with DJ /rupture was cancelled)
@ Brillobox upstairs, 4104 Penn Ave at Main, Lawrenceville
Slavick: A painter’s response to cartographies as: foils for manipulating and abstracting real and imagined space; conveyors of ideologies under the guise of objectivity; enablers of expansionism; and stages for dismantling the privileging of the measured over the immeasurable.

Jan. 29, Fri.

12pm: Experimental Geography: Tour
with artists Lize Mogel + Trevor Paglen
@ Miller Gallery, Purnell Center for the Arts, CMU

1-2pm: Closing Reception: Experimental Geography exhibition
with refreshments
@ Miller Gallery, CMU

5pm: The World as a World Map: Lecture
by Lize Mogel
@ STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, College of Fine Arts, CMU
As technology and commerce blur more and more geographic boundaries, the iconic world map can’t adequately describe the intricacies of globalization. In this lecture, Mogel presents ‘radical cartography’ projects that question and re-think familiar representations of the world.

6pm: Squatting the High Ground: Panel Discussion
with Pablo R. Garcia, Lize Mogel, Trevor Paglen, Rich Pell
@ STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, CFA, CMU

Jan. 30, Sat.

Workshops include snacks. To pre-register email

12-2pm: Make a Video Microscope from a Hacked Webcam: Workshop
with Rich Pell, in connection with the UCLA BioOutlaws Conference. $20 admission includes a webcam.
@ STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, CFA, CMU
Learn how to turn a cheap, off-the-shelf webcam into a video microscope that works with common video streaming programs like Skype and iChat. We will use them to explore the microbial lifeforms that are currently living around and on us and share the results on the web.

3-5pm: Basic Geographic Information Systems for Artists, Activists and Naturalists: Workshop
with Jessica McPherson. Ages 14 and up. $15 admission.
@ Baker Hall #140F, CMU
Maps are political documents because they define the contents of our world. Many of the ones we use the most leave nature out of the picture. We'll learn how to use GIS to re-envision traditional mapping and display vital information about the state of the natural world.


Pablo R. Garcia is the founder and principal of Pablo Garcia/POiNT, Pittsburgh, a multidisciplinary research and design studio dedicated to experiments in the spatial arts, in a variety of scales from the portable to the urban. From 2004-2007, Garcia worked as an architect and designer for Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Currently he is the Lucian and Rita Caste Chair in Architecture and Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon.

Jessica McPherson is a plant ecologist, independent journalist, and activist. Recognizing that many critical conservation decisions center on land use, she develops maps to help communicate the existence of natural ecosystems and explain their interdependence with humans. McPherson also produces radio news stories for Pittsburgh Indymedia.

Chris Harrison is a Ph.D. student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His research interests primarily focus on novel interaction technologies and input methods - especially those that leverage sensing and the environment in unconventional and expressive ways. In his free time, Chris gets excited about large data sets and how, through computation, they can be given form. Often, this is through the use of simple visual primitives that self assemble into rich information tapestries.

Lize Mogel (BFA ‘92) is an interdisciplinary artist who works with the interstices between art and cultural geography, and she inserts and distributes cartographic projects into public space and in publications. She has mapped public parks in Los Angeles, private military contractors in Iraq and Colombia, and future territorial disputes in the Arctic. She is co-editor of the book/map collection An Atlas of Radical Cartography and co-curator of the touring exhibition “An Atlas.”

Trevor Paglen is an artist, writer, and experimental geographer whose work blurs the disciplines of social science, contemporary art and investigative journalism. Paglen's meticulously researched books examine the secret relationships between land use and military power, and include Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights and, most recently, Blank Spots on a Map.

Richard Pell (BFA ‘99) is a founding member of the Institute for Applied Autonomy, an art, engineering and tactical media collective. His work includes robotic, web and video based projects that call into question the imperatives that drive technological development, and explore the individual’s relationship to authority. Pell is an
Assistant Professor in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon.

Susanne Slavick is an artist whose imagery relies on sources ranging from antiquated cartography to Persian miniatures to internet documentation of sites in conflict.  With the crossed eyes of a realist and idealist, her recent paintings and works on paper are attempts at empathic restitution, gestures of recognition, remorse and recovery in face of devastation. Slavick is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon.


The Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University supports the creation, understanding and growth of contemporary art through exhibitions, projects, lectures, events and publications. The gallery aspires to engage diverse audiences and to create and strengthen communities through art and ideas.

The STUDIO for Creative Inquiry is a center for experimental arts at Carnegie Mellon University, connecting artistic enterprises and research laboratories across the campus, the region, and internationally. The STUDIO supports atypical, inter- disciplinary, and inter-institutional research projects and educational initiatives at the intersections of arts, sciences, technology and culture.

Related Exhibition

Guest curated by Nato Thompson
Organized by iCI (Independent Curators International)  ici]
Oct. 9, 2009 - Jan. 31, 2010

Artists: Francis Alÿs, AREA Chicago, The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), e-Xplo, Ilana Halperin, kanarinka (Catherine D'lgnazio), Julia Meltzer and David Thorne, Lize Mogel, Multiplicity, Trevor Paglen, Raqs Media Collective, Ellen Rothenberg, Spurse, Deborah Stratman, Daniel Tucker, Alex Villar, Yin Xiuzhen

This exhibition explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the juncture where the two realms collide, through a wide range of mediums including interactive computer units, sound and video installations, photography, sculpture, and experimental cartography.

Experimental Geography is a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by iCI (Independent Curators International), New York. 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.

Exhibition page + more information >>>


expgeo poster
Experimental Geography