Posted March 4th 2010 at 1:20 pm by
in Art and Culture Mapping on the LA River, Los Angeles

Map Love, Part II

The Llano del Rio’s A Map for Another LA as illustrated by Katie Bachler. Check out the cool spots along the LA River.

.In Map Love, Part I I talked about the history of creative mapping projects at MIT.  Now I want to list amazing mapping projects throughout the United States.

Last November I attended an inspiring lecture sponsored by MIT’s History, Theory, and Criticism Forum. The lecture was titled Producing Geopolitics and featured Nato Thompson, Chief Curator at the public art agency Creative Time, New York, covering his research on his forthcoming publication, Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the Age of Cultural Production. Thompson talked about the importance of urban planners to understand the important of arts and culture to inform the future of our cities. Along with the Independent Curators International (ICI), Nato also wrote Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism, as well as curated an international and currently traveling exhibition. Of the many great mapping projects developed by artists and artist collectives featured by Thompson and the ICI, some of my favorites include:

1. those designed by the Los Angeles-based Center for Land Use and Interpretation,

2. Center for Urban Pedagogy,

3. my good friends at the LA Urban Rangers (look for a Downtown/LA River project in 2010!), and

4. Notes for a People’s Atlas of Chicago, a project of Area Chicago and the very project which inspired me to incorporate cognitive mapping into my own thesis research on artistic expression along the Los Angeles River’s Eastside waterfront.

Speaking of mapping the LA River, you should check out:

5. the Llano del Rio Collective’s A Map for Another LA, featured above in this blog post.  Last year the Llano del Rio collective put out a call to map LA in a different way because they sought alternative spaces for creative expression that had the power to expand possibilities for neighborhoods. From guerilla historians to under-the-radar non-profit organizations to planting urban gardens in traffic medians to bicycle masses, the map features many unknown spots, including several sites along the LA River. A Map for Another LA includes “Beekeepers, Greywater Operators, Hacker Spaces, Cooperatives, Collectives, Art Spaces, Radical Places, Gardens, Swimming Holes, Cooking Collectives, Think Tanks et cetera”.  The map is free and available at a network of independent creative sites (check by clicking here) or by emailing llanodelrio(at) Pick up your copy today or make your own!

6. Another really awesome LA River-based mapping project was ReMap, a project based out UCLA’s Center for Research, Engineering, Media and Performance – a joint effort of the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. Building on the work of UCLA’s HyperMedia Studio, a center which “explores the unique creative expression enabled through the collaboration of media, the performing arts and engineering,” ReMap developed JUNCTURE. Through a partnership with ReMap, UCLA Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS), Walt Disney Imagineering, and California State Parks, JUNCTURE was installed over an entire weekend period in November 2007 near the site of the archaeological remnants of LA’s historic Zanja Madre, or Mother Ditch, the main aqueduct system that channeled water near the confluence of the LA River to build the settlement which is now Los Angeles State Historic Park.  UCLA’s goal for the project was to create a participatory, public space, and media environment about historical memory, cultural identity, and collective recognition in Los Angeles.

At the core of the project was an interpretive media database that contained thousands of cultural and historical images, videos, and sounds categorized by metadata and temporal geo-coding. Standing in front of the project, participants could chose what type of media to activate by sending text messages of words or themes to the development of Los Angeles.  For example, texting “water” might bring up a historical image of the LA River. Another user could text ‘landscape, which might bring up a historic or contemporary photograph of Elysian Park, one of LA’s four original parks, adjacent to the LA River.  A series of lights, traced by sensors and activated by real-time movement, lit up the project in the nearby LA River. Additionally, the screen, which was positioned behind the tracks of the Metro Gold Line, would clear every time a Metro Gold Line train passed (at least every 15 minutes). By allowing the project to be primarily controlled through water and transportation, JUNCTURE provided a public art installation that gave people space to interact with the dynamic forces that shaped Los Angeles’ development.  Furthermore, JUNCTURE achieved a civic engagement goal by giving people an opportunity for “collective investigation, reflection, and dialogue about the city we have and the city we want.”

Way cool stuff!

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