Organized by Astria Suparak (Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University) + Golan Levin (STUDIO for Creative Inquiry) to accompany the exhibition Experimental Geography
January 28 – 30, 2009

Maps represent, maps reveal, maps entice, maps distort. They selectively omit, they unwittingly exaggerate, and they even make outright lies. Though maps strive to project authority and objectivity, they cannot help but embed the biases, blind-spots and idiosyncrasies of their human authors. As our lives are played out in increasingly networked realms, we have become carto-literate as never before; we read maps produced by governments and corporate interests, yes, but also collaboratively author maps online, inscribing new representations of ourselves and our priorities. Contestational Cartographies introduces the thoughts of leading “experimental geographers” who employ mapping techniques in new modes of critical practice and cultural research and, in so doing, help us “read between the lines” of the world around us.

Produced with support from the CMU School of Art Lecture Series, the Vice Provost for Education, Dorkbot Pittsburgh + the Brillobox.



Jan. 28, Thurs.
5-6:30pm: Blank Spots on a Map: Lecture by Trevor Paglen
Co-presented by the School of Art Lecture Series
@ McConomy Auditorium, University Center, CMU
Trevor Paglen has methodically amassed rich visual evidence for “nonexistent” military installations, secret prisons in Afghanistan, and a collection of even more obscure “black sites” startlingly close to home. Here, Paglen takes us on a road trip through the world of hidden budgets, state secrets, covert bases, and more, guiding us through a landscape that intelligence insiders call the “black world.”

8-10pm: Information Mapping: Dorkbot with Chris Harrison + Susanne Slavick 
A special edition of the world-famous geek salon.
Dinner (meat/vegetarian/vegan) + drinks available.
@ Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave, Lawrenceville
Slavick: A painter’s response to cartographies as: foils for manipulating and abstracting real and imagined space; conveyors of ideologies under the guise of objectivity; enablers of expansionism; and stages for dismantling the privileging of the measured over the immeasurable.

Jan. 29, Fri.
12pm: Experimental Geography: Tour with artists Lize Mogel + Trevor Paglen
@ Miller Gallery, Purnell Center for the Arts, CMU

1-2pm: Closing Reception: Experimental Geography exhibition
with refreshments
@ Miller Gallery, CMU

5pm: The World as a World Map: Lecture by Lize Mogel
@ STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, College of Fine Arts, CMU
As technology and commerce blur more and more geographic boundaries, the iconic world map can’t adequately describe the intricacies of globalization. In this lecture, Mogel presents ‘radical cartography’ projects that question and re-think familiar representations of the world.

6pm: Squatting the High Ground: Panel Discussion
with Pablo R. Garcia, Lize Mogel, Trevor Paglen, Rich Pell
@ STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, CFA, CMU

Jan. 30, Sat.
12-2pm: Make a Video Microscope from a Hacked Webcam: Workshop with Rich Pell, in connection with the UCLA BioOutlaws Conference
@ STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, CFA, CMU
Learn how to turn a cheap, off-the-shelf webcam into a video microscope that works with common video streaming programs like Skype and iChat. We will use them to explore the microbial lifeforms that are currently living around and on us and share the results on the web.

3-5pm: Basic Geographic Information Systems for Artists, Activists and Naturalists: Workshop with Jessica McPherson.
@ Baker Hall #140F, CMU
Maps are political documents because they define the contents of our world. Many of the ones we use the most leave nature out of the picture. We’ll learn how to use GIS to re-envision traditional mapping and display vital information about the state of the natural world. Ages 14 and up.




CMU’s Miller Gallery and Studio for Creative Inquiry hosted a series of talks by artists and scholars who question the means we use to abstract our notions of the space we inhabit.
Bill O’Driscoll, “Contestational Cartographies,” Program Notes Blog, Feb. 3, 2010

Justin Hopper, “X Marks the Blank Spot,” Jan. 21, 2010


“Mr. [Trevor] Paglen is among a stellar international gathering of artists and art collaboratives in this smart and relevant traveling exhibition in the Miller Gallery.”
– Mary Thomas, “Exhibition at Carnegie Mellon gives geography a new meaning,” Jan. 27, 2010

POP CITY: Jennifer Baron, Event of the Week:  Contestational Cartographies Symposium,” Jan. 27, 2010