The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

CLUI Exhibits on the Road

Partnerships with other institutions enable CLUI-generated exhibits to be born or to acquire additional lives, traveling around to different places. Some recent CLUI exhibits include work generated specifically for presentation “elsewhere,” others incorporate existing work in new contexts, in each case they make CLUI projects available to new, and often larger, audiences. Here are some CLUI exhibits, displayed at non-CLUI venues, over the last year.

exhibit in gallery
CLUI photo
CLUI photo

CLUI Exhibits at the Smithsonian
Exhibit of Posters on Display until June 22
AN EXHIBIT FEATURING 15 CLUI programs and projects posters is on display through June 22, 2008 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington DC, as part of their exhibit Celebrating the Lucelia Artist Award, 2001–2006 (CLUI director Matthew Coolidge was the recipient of that award in 2006).

The posters, commissioned by the museum, are representative relics of CLUI programs. They are promotional materials that become artifacts in themselves. The posters depict executed CLUI programs and projects, such as the Margins in our Midst tour of gravel pits, the Loop Feedback Loop exhibit about traffic control, or the VORs of Texas exhibit.

"We are exploring the notion of the museum posterlike 'Monet: WaterliliesMetropolitan Museum of Art' and such, where the poster of an ephemeral exhibit becomes an artifact of that exhibit, and gets circulated as a representative shorthand, or signifier, of the exhibit," explains Matthew Coolidge. "Posters like those often end up getting seen more than the actual exhibit does, staying up on people's walls above the couch at home for years. They may have equal or greater power than the exhibit itself since they suggest, without defining, what the exhibit was like. They allow the imagination to fill in the rest, and like Einstein said, 'imagination is more important than knowledge.'"

Also, by being ephemeral objects that by themselves have no valuejust printed paperthe posters in the SAAM exhibit possess an immateriality that helps to counter their context: a very object-oriented heavy-duty art museum, where they are presented along with physical art objects (the work of the other Lucelia award recipients, Andrea Zittel, Kara Walker, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Liz Larner, and Jorge Pardo).

And, frankly, we liked the fact that the Smithsonian, as a museum's museum, would be showing objects that referenced things that occurred outside a museum context, in the field, or in the Center's own exhibition venues. The grand neoclassical institutional frame, built to collect and embrace objects, indicating a world outside, beyond their grasp. A full circle, of sorts.

And posters are, after all, the people's art.

The posters (now nicely framed, courtesy of the Smithsonian), will be displayed as part of the traveling exhibition Experimental Geography, curated by Nato Thompson for Independent Curators International, which will open September 19, 2008 at the Richard E. Peeler Art Center, DePauw University in Greencastle Indiana, and will travel to the Albuquerque Museum, 2009, and the Colby College Museum of Art, 2010.

But, if you can't wait, it is our hope to secure funding to print them out in quantity, and make them available for retail sales, so you can hang them above your couch. Maybe someday they'll even make it to the curb after an unsuccessful day at a garage sale. That really would be a full circle.

CLUI photo
CLUI photo
CLUI photo

Seeing the Forest For the Trees
CLUI Placed in the Middle of Climate Change
Recently the CLUI has been approached by a number of curators asking if we have work addressing climate change. Usually our response is "Yes we sure do. We have a lot of before photos." Then it occurred to us that we could also have a lot of during photos too, depending on your point of view.

The Center's exhibit about Dauphin Island vacation homes, built on high stilts to protect them from the surf, but battered nonetheless in recent hurricanes, were shown as part of the exhibit Weather Report: Art and Climate Change at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in Colorado from September 14 to December 21, 2007. The images depict habitation on the fringe of liveable space, places most vulnerable to storms and rising seas.

Multiple and attributed meanings are the subject of the curatorial context. The exhibit's curator, Lucy Lippard, wrote "CLUI's deadpan approach to dramatic issues reflects the public indifference to such obvious threats." That, for sure, is one way of looking at it.

Representative Locations
Exhibit Overlooks Bay State

Representative Locations: Six American Landscapes Selections from the Center for Land Use Interpretation Photo Archive. This was the rather long title of an exhibit about the CLUI Photo Archive, commissioned by the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, and on display there February 19-March 19, 2008.

All the images in the CLUI Photo Archive have been taken by members of the Center for Land Use Interpretation since the inception of the organization, in 1994. These images, now numbering over one hundred thousand, represent ground truths and primary source material compiled by the Center.

The images shown were selected from existing mounted prints within the archive, to show different types of representative landscapesplaces that are manifestations or distillations of larger systems. Each site depicted is part of something larger. These images also explore the role of the camera as a device for framing and contextualizing a place, and were arranged to suggest a few of the many possible thematic parsings of the American landscape, and the meaning these landscapes harbor.

As Mark Feeney, an astute reviewer writing in the Boston Globe, commented, the 11th floor gallery where the Center's 39 photographs were installed "has large windows affording a sweeping view of the cityscape to the north, east, and southeast. It serves, in effect, as the 40th image in the showand an implicit reminder that representative locations are all around anyone who has eyes to see them."

vehicle test track aerial
CLUI photo
CLUI photo

Vehicular Test Tracks in America
A research grant from the Heinz Architectural Center, at the Carnegie Museum of Art, enabled the CLUI to complete a series of images and related research into automotive test tracks in the United States, now on display as part of Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis February 16-August 17, 2008 and at the Carnegie Museum of Art October 4-January 18, 2009, with a companion publication out in bookstores.

Located, physically, between work by Ed Ruscha and SITE, the CLUI’s twelve images are arranged in a grid, with each image depicting a different track, as seen from the air. The project is entitled Autotechnogeoglyphics: Vehicular Test Tracks in America.

Like the lines on the Plains of Nazca, automotive test tracks are alluring earthen etchings on a huge scale, partly representative, partly enigmatic, pointing towards the future, and the past.

They represent the condition of America, land of the automobile, a syndrome that transformed the landscape of the nation, and the world, more than any other. These tracks are the nurseries for the vehicular companions that we can’t seem to live with, or without.

Despite their vastness, often a few square miles in size, these track complexes are a condensation of space, a microcosm of the country, built for subjecting vehicles to all the types of terrainfrom interstates, to suburban stop and go; from dirt roads to black ice that the vehicle might encounter in the real world.

vehicle test track aerial
CLUI photo
CLUI photo

The need for space pushes them to the edge of the suburbs, and beyond, where land is cheaper. And where visitors are less likely, as these are, famously, secret places, where new ideas in this competitive, capital intensive industry, are covertly aired.

Despite their size, they are supremely surficial, nearly two dimensional. Outside, on the ground, they are obscure horizontal bands of bermed earth, beyond a distant fence line. From the air, they are fully exposed, laid out like a diagram, hidden, in plain sight, and curious to behold.

The automotive test tracks of America are mostly in the West and Midwest. Around Detroit, each of the "big three" operates at least one major complex. Test tracks are located around Phoenix, Arizona, to test in conditions of extreme heat, on top of everything else. On the fringes of this city's sprawl are tracks for companies whose home terrain has no desert to work in, such as Volvo, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Nissan. Honda and Hyundai's tracks are in the desert north of Los Angeles—and, in Illinois, Caterpillar, the global earth mover, tests its machines in a giant hilltop sandbox. 

vehicle test track aerial
CLUI photo
CLUI photo