Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 157: Following the Lines

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Center for Land Use Interpretation, 2008

"LIKE STONE, BRONZE, AND OTHER fundamental materials that defined the ancient ages of human industry, oil defines these times. No other raw material has such a reach into our technologies and the products that we consume. How this came to pass should be the story of our age, told and retold like myth. But the knowledge is largely preserved in a highly specialized and protected corporate college of laborers, engineers, financiers, alchemists, druids, and lords."

So starts Matt Coolidge, the founder and director of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, in the Center's piece in this month's ArtForum. The article follows the pipeline from start to finish and tells the story only as CLUI could- a mysterious alchemy of factoid, research, tour-guide, artist/historian, and simply (though often this is not simple at all) going out to look and be directly with the forces that shape landscape and land use in the United States. I credit CLUI with completely infusing my perception and understanding of the natural and built environment of the United States with a sense of mystery, depth, and ongoing discovery. This shift has been irreversible and has most definitely been a predominate influence in my current work with Nevada's nuclear history and present.

Matt is the "tour guide" unlike any other. When he gave us (smudge) our tour, with other artists in residence, at CLUI's Wendover location in May of 2007 it was as though we had stepped into a portal within our own lived-reality. As we sped around the city, airfield, and landscape of the two Wendovers (East and West, Nevada and Utah) in the white SUV, the area became populated with converging histories, forces, laws, loop-holes- and ultimately resulted in an enormous sense of intrigue. Matt than drove away and we were left standing in the dust and salt of an abandoned air field from World War II and living at South Base's Clean Livin' for the next week. This quickly became one of the most incredible and intense experiences of my life. We were thoroughly "out there" and the result of this residency became the Limit Case postcard series.

While live-blogging the event New York, Past, Present, Possible Future at the New Museum this past fall, Matt "lectured" on the Hudson River valley. I wrote in response, "Matt zooms us in and out of our recognizable landscapes just enough to take the world that we know and flip it into something that is still familiar, but eerily now populated with bizarre, factual details and real materials. He takes us below a thin surface, and reveals with personal distance, the complex interconnections and histories that stretch the imagination. Essentially, our local views and national identities are thrown into upheaval through his talks and CLUI's research. They unsettled all simplified and isolated depictions of our national history. All landscapes in this country are tentacles of exchange, commerce, power, planning, and seemingly endless historical detail."

Today is my personal ode of thanks to CLUI and their most important- and exciting creative work. Enjoy the journey along the pipeline.

No comments: