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docPoster: Experimental Geography

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docExhibited works: Experimental Geography

expgeo poster

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Press Resources

Media Contact: Margaret Cox,

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


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Beyond the Best of 2010 lists “mind-expanding exhibition Experimental Geography,” Mary Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Beyond the best: 2010's top 10 list not big enough to hold art critic's favorites, Jan. 05, 2011

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

Pittsburgh City Paper: "Carnegie Mellon's Miller Gallery continued its recent trends with Experimental Geography, drawing again from the well of intersecting cultural studies and social practices. This time, guest curator Nato Thompson assembled a show featuring exemplary feats of data-visualization, conceptual land-art and urban anthropology, to name a few, and impressively managed to glean a strong collective resonance out of the multidisciplinary hodgepodge." - Curt Riegelnegg, "5 Shows That Helped Pittsburgh Survive Its Carnegie International Hangover," Highlights of 2009, Pittsburgh City Paper, Dec. 31, 2009

Pittsburgh City Paper: "The most exciting aspects of Experimental Geography inspire visitors to seek new ways of looking at their own surroundings, and to re-examine their place in the world. We live in a time when borders can disintegrate and reintegrate in changes both slight and tremendous, and in which mapping becomes less a means to an end than a launch-pad for new ideas. Through Experimental Geography, we can see some of the world's most important contemporary artists taking just such liberties." - Justin Hopper, "An international array of artists smartly explores and re-imagines the modern sense of place," Pittsburgh City Paper, Dec 3, 2009

The Nation: Interview with Experimental Geography Curator Nato Thompson

ART 21: "International Geographic"

"Another step in the ongoing quest for social energies not yet recognized as art, Experimental Geography brings together a significant group of artists and collectives looking seriously at land use—urban and rural, local and global. Leaving behind the earthworks of the past, and reviving the line-blurring process that defined art and lived experience in 1960s conceptualism, much of this work is not about geography but exist within geography, exploring the politics and infrastructures that can either change or stall the world."
—Lucy Lippard, author of The Lure of the Local

The  Christian Science Monitor: "Experimental  geography as art: Traditional geography meets politics – plus multimedia  and performance art."

Get Involved

download Map out sites that are significant to you in Pittsburgh.  Return to the Miller  Gallery for inclusion in our exhibition. Project  by AREA Chicago.















Past Exhibition

The Cargo Chain, The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), 2008
s Mappa Mundi, Lize Mogel, 2008
sNear ITTOQQORTOORMIIT (from the project Towards Heilprin Land), Ilana Halperin, 2007
cup map
downloadGarbage Education Display System (Garbage City & Landfill vs. Incinerator), The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), drawing by Damon Rich, 2002-08
aIt Takes 154,000 Breaths to Evacuate Boston, kanarinka (Catherine DʼIgnazio), 2007
cup map
downloadExperimental Geography exhibition
cup map
downloadExperimental Geography exhibition
cup map
downloadExperimental Geography exhibition
cup map
downloadExperimental Geography exhibition
Credit all exhibition photos as: "Experimental Geography, Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University. Tom Little photography."

Experimental Geography

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

About the Exhibition

Experimental Geography is an exhibition that 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.

Geography benefits from 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 today: 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 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. Francis Alÿs, in collaboration with Rafael Ortega, Cuauhtémoc Medina, and 500 volunteers, created a human comb to move a sand dune outside Lima, Peru. Although the actual displacement was infinitesimal, its metaphorical resonance was colossal. 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, CLUI forces a reading of the American landscape (which includes man-made islands, submerged cities, traffic in Los Angeles, and the broadcast antennas in the San Gabriel Mountains) that refamiliarizes the viewer with the overlooked details of their everyday experience.

Nato Thompson is a curator at Creative Time, as well as a writer and activist. Among his public projects for Creative Time are Waiting for Godot in New Orleans, a project by Paul Chan in collaboration with The Classical Theatre of Harlem, and Democracy in America: The National Campaign. Thompson was formerly a curator at MASS MoCA, where his exhibitions included The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere and Ahistoric Occasion: Artists Making History.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue co-published by iCI and Melville House Publishing. The catalogue includes essays by Nato Thompson, art historian Jeffrey Kastner, and artist Trevor Paglen; artist’s statements; and brief texts on forms of artistic practice.

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.


Oct. 16, Fri.
A Continental Reception

Nov. 14, Sat.
11pm (new time):
The Body Double Explorers Club, organized by Dawn Weleski and Jon Rubin
 @ The Waffle Shop, 124 S. Highland Ave. at Baum
Join us Saturday night at the Waffle Shop when six fascinating people from around the world will take the stage for a not-to-be-missed edition of the talk show. The only catch is you, the audience, have to sit in for guests or their voices won't be heard. Audience members will act as local physical avatars for global guests from countries including Iran, Finland, and India. As our host asks questions, participants in the shop will wear headphones and repeat the virtual guests verbatim.
Contact Dawn Weleski to reserve your 30 minute slot, starting at 11pm, or just show up for your chance to let a global voice be heard. THE BODY DOUBLE EXPLORERS CLUB is an open league whose members explore the world through the bodies of others.


Jan. 28-30, 2010 Thurs.-Sat.:
Contestational Cartographies Symposium

@ Carnegie Mellon University + Brillobox Upstairs, organized by the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry + Miller Gallery

Jan. 28, 2010 Thurs.
5pm: School of Art Lecture Series: Trevor Paglen

@ McConomy Auditorium, Carnegie Mellon University Center, 5000 Forbes Ave. at Morewood