Thursday, November 12, 2009

Real, Desired & Recreated Geographies

Along with our recent proposal for the mMigration Recreation and Research Center to top the iHotel and Conference Center, we also produced a micro exhibit to occupy one wall of the Conference Center Lobby area. The space of the conference center and hotel is one conceived for consumer-users that are frequently mobile populations who occupy the space for very specific and short periods of time. Not unlike airports, conference center hotels are places designed for people who are assumed to be universally mobile and act as temporary, modular inhabitants. We don't agree with conceptions of such places as non-places, put forward by scholars like Marc Auge, however. While such ideas provide a way of understanding a form of architectural and relational instrumentalization and homogenization, they only deal with the space from the position of mobile consumption. The idea that such non-places are spaces in which "no lasting social relations are established" overlooks the production of these places in very basic material and human terms. Airports, subways and hotels are places of work for large numbers of people who are not temporary, transient inhabitants. The workers who produce these places, or at least keep them operating, create and maintain meaningful, interpersonal relationships as most of us do when we work with others. Our mini exhibit at the iHotel Conference center was one way for us to think through this reality. Below is a basic description.

A Study in Migration Through the Real, Desired & Recreated Geographies of 8 Employees is a commissioned exhibit for the iHotel & Conference Center in Champaign IL.

Although we have maps of the world that show us the forms of oceans, land masses, and political boundaries, such maps can only be aggregations of the experiences and hypotheses of specific social formations. The flattening of the globe requires projections.

This map, for example, charts the experience, both real and imaginary, of land by eight employees of the iHotel Conference Center in Champaign, IL. These employees responded to short surveys, answering questions about where they have lived, where they have visited and where they desire to go. Land masses not named, are not pictured. They also described valued souvenirs collected from these locations. Some of these souvenirs are on display in facsimile form - they are represented by approximations purchased from the online auction house Ebay. The origin of the described souvenirs, and the location from which their facsimiles were obtained, are also located on this map.