About iCI

The Center for Urban Pedagogy, The Cargo Chain (detail), 2008, from Daniel Tucker (project organizer),
The We Are Here Map Archive, 1997–2008

Experimental Geopgraphy

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. This exhibition 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 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.

Experimental Geography is curated by Nato Thompson, curator at Creative Time in New York. It is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, co-published by iCI and Melville House, that includes essays by Thompson, Jeffrey Kastner, and Trevor Paglen.

The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Untitled (image and text panels depicting the programs and
projects of CLUI)
, 2007

Exhibition Itinerary

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

Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota
February 7 - April  18, 2009

The Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
June 28 - September 20, 2009

Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
October 10, 2009 - January 31, 2010

Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine
February 21 - May 30, 2010

June - September 2010

Museum London, London, Ontario
October 9, 2010 - January 2, 2011

Foreman Art Gallery, Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, Quebec
January 21 - April 1, 2011






Guest curator
Nato Thompson

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


Exhibition Specifications


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