They are far less interested in producing art objects than in providing an experience of the world through a scientifically based aesthetic language of symmetries and disharmonies, tones and shades, concreteness and abstraction. Like the earth artist Robert Smithson, they locate the poetry of dissolution in geology. Unlike him, they don’t physically shape the land itself, but shape the way you think about it. Through their art-as-science, or science-as-art, you make the environment, natural and constructed, your own without owning it.
– Holland Cotter, The New York Times
Everybody likes or finds some places interesting, but CLUI makes every place interesting. For those of us who wander around ordinary neighborhoods with our eyes peeled for the sublime and the ridiculous, who writhe with curiosity as we fly over unidentified terrain, who consistently take our eyes off the road, endangering life and limb to read a sign we’re passing at 75 mph, CLUI delivers the goods. The Center tells us more we ever thought we wanted to know about places we thought we would never even recognize, much less pore over and analyze in CLUI’s bizarrely bland but thought-provoking style. The arcane becomes the ordinary, and vice versa. I like the Center’s researches/activities for all of the above reasons, because of its insatiable thirst for knowledge, because of its unpredictable choice of subject, and its casual, often humorous, fusion of geography and art. But most of all I like it because it sends me back to my own surroundings with heightened interest. And the more I know about what’s going on around me, the more I’m likely to act on behalf of the local.
– Lucy R. Lippard, writer
There is no institution working in the area of studies and analysis of land use that even comes close to CLUI’s power and impact. Most of us are limited to one or two forms of expression: scholarship, writing, curating, land use planning, landscape design work, architecture, public art, etc. CLUI’s exhibits, publication programs, workshops, residencies, training programs, interpretive sites, etc. constitute the most energetic, sophisticated, and wide ranging intervention across these important areas.
– Dean MacCannell, professor of Environmental Design and Landscape Architecture, University of California, Davis
It is a persistent dream: to make the map and the land one. To drive along and see the name of the state in gigantic letters, laid out across the adjacent prairie, to see the state borders running in strips or dots right through Texarkana or Texico. It’s why we love the Hollywood sign, a gigantic pun of a map, and revel in the visions of Saul Steinberg. It is also what I think of as the achievement of CLUI, whose exhibitions and expeditions annotate the real world so it seems like the map of itself. The CLUI gang is a band of roving scholars–they have redeemed the tradition of landscape studies embodied elsewhere in the writing of John Stilgoe and William Cronon and others. That tradition is to track the spiritual in the mundane. CLUI’s project is therefore also a descendent of all our great explorers of the American open space–Powell, Pike, Lewis and Clark...The folks at CLUI are engaged in the same endeavor as the first explorers, only now seeking connection among container ports and sewage plants rather than connection via a fabled northwest passage....
– Phil Patton, writer
I would like to posit that The Center for Land Use Interpretation can be seen as the Andy Warhol in the field of geography...Clearly the polar opposite in terms of a relationship to glamour (Warhol was obsessed with celebrites; CLUI is obsessed with landfills, airstrips, and freeway on-ramps), they both retain a dry form of pointing as methodology. Acting as a facilitator, each artist simply points to the phenomena that condition our lives. While Warhol dryly points at Marilyn Monroe, CLUI points to a water-treatment plant. Warhol wasn’t explaining what these images mean so much as placing a mirror in front of the viewer and implying, “This is who we are.” We are these images. It is not that we simply watch television, but that we take the phenomena around us into our ourselves. We become what we experience. The same can be said of CLUI, which points toward the geologic and urban conditions around us and indicates that these forces produce our sense of self.
– Nato Thompson, artistic director, Philadelphia Contemporary (former chief curator, Creative Time)
To be sung to the tune of This Land Is Your Land (sort of):
"From above or below, these guys know their land.
From crust to core, these guys know how to interpret how we use our land.
This land was made for you and me and interpreted by the CLUI."
– The Art Guys
The Administrative Sublime, or The Center for Land Use Interpretation at the Circumference, Michael Ned Holte
Centers of the USA at the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Christopher Hawthorne
Finding Tarzan at the Sanitation Department, Nicola Twilley