Topographia Collective

Topographia Collective: Catherine Page Harris, Jessamyn Lovell, LeE Montgomery, Mary Tsiongas

The Topographia Collective has and will continue to visit PLAND for short visits, comprising what was proposed by the newly group as a serial residency. Together, they are learning the lay of the land – by listening with radio transmitters to tectonic movement, divining for water thousands of feet beneath the rocky soil, and pacing off property measurements.  The Collective was our first house guests; they slept among newly erected posts, built the first fire in our fire circle, cooked the first meal on the land, and helped clarify the pioneering spirit and enthusiasm that is inherent in PLAND.

Topographia Collective a collaborative of individuals that have formed around the idea of mapping, documentation, and extra-scientific research. We are particularly interested in engaging with the PLAND location in a very specific exploration of space, resources, and property lines with conventional and unconventional technologies.

Getting the lay of the land at PLAND

Lee Montgomery got his BA in Film at Bard College, and an MFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute. As the founder of Neighborhood Public Radio, Lee has received grants from CEC Artslink, the Creative Work Fund, and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund. He has been an artist in residence with kuda in Novi Sad, Serbia and the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunst in Hamburg. Neighborhood Public Radio has been named “Best Super Local Radio Station” by San Francisco magazine and has been featured in Punk Planet magazine, Artforum, the Chicago Reader, and Women’s Wear Daily. As a traveling band of guerila broadcasters, NPR has hosted thematic broadcasts far and wide, including both Artist’s Television Access and Southern Exposure Gallery in San Francisco’s Mission District, The DeYoung Museum, Chicago’s Version 5 Festival. In 2008, NPR completed an unprecedented 4 month residency in a storefront next door to the Whitney Museum as part of the 2008 Whitney Biennial. In his solo work, Lee continues to explore d.i.y. approaches to technology and issues of copyright law through the project “Broadcast Version.”

LeE Montgomery listens to PLAND

Mary Tsiongas is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work addresses human relationships to technology and the natural environment. Born in Greece and now based in Albuquerque, N.M., Mary Tsiongas has performed, exhibited and lectured extensively for the past ten years; her work has been shown in over forty solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. Tsiongas received her Master of Fine Arts in Film, Video, and Performance from the California College of the Arts in 1993 and her BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art. She is the recipient of several grants, awards, and residencies including a WESTAF NEA grant and a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts. She was a visiting artist with UNM’s Land Arts program in the fall of 2007. She is currently an Associate Professor in Electronic Media at the University of New Mexico.

Mary Tsiongas dowses for water

Catherine Page Harris addresses land and land use through her artwork. She holds an MFA from Stanford (2005) and a MLA from UC Berkeley (1997). She practiced as a landscape architect in San Francisco and in Albuquerque, working on residential and public projects including William McCovey Park in San Francisco and an historic Masterplan and renovation of St. Francis Woods’ parks and streetscapes. Her artwork has been shown in the DiRosa Museum in Napa Valley, the Lab and Southern Exposure in San Francisco, the Emily Harvey Gallery in New York, and the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis. She is currently working on understanding lines in the landscape and how built form alters the dynamic patterns of landscape.

Catherine Harris

Jessamyn Lovell, BFA Rochester Institute of Technology, MFA California College of the Arts is an artist and educator living in Albuquerque, NM. She spent the past eleven years working on Catastrophe, Crisis, and Other Family Traditions, a personal and social documentary photography project about her family in Syracuse, NY where she grew up. Most recently, she has been working on No Trespassing, a project in which she tries to build a portrait of an estranged family member without them knowing. Her photographs have been exhibited nationally, and she is the recipient of many awards, including the 2007 Aperture Portfolio Prize. Her work has also gained recognition and support from such institutions as the SF MoMA, Magnum Photos, Light Work, Richmond Art Center, and SF Camerawork.

Jessamyn Lovell

Topographia Collective’s LeE writes:

“The PLAND site has been invaluable in helping the Topographia Collective develop into something more than a small group of vaguely like-minded individuals.  The process of engaging with the land and thinking about where our various practices engage with it and each other has been a more significant evolution than I think any of us originally considered.  Our first visit was a bit difficult for a number of reasons…getting used to each other… understanding the reality of the space, and developing a practice relative to the site that was true to all of us.

Through various methods of research, both through direct interaction and historical investigation, our practice is being directed in unique ways that extend beyond the immediate concerns of the plot of land itself.  I have developed a greater understanding of organic forms of radio frequency generation and am considering a method of installing an unpowered crystal radio on the site this summer.  Mary is continuing to dowse for water, and she and I are developing a performance idea that would involve a metal detector and a system of verification for her predictions.  Catherine continues to explore the history and the maps relevant to the location; she is developing a video piece of her footsteps during various walks around what she understood to be the perimeter of your land.  Jesse has been photographing as form of documentation and has also made a couple of friends among the neighbors.

I think we all are fascinated by the mix of rural wilderness, urban decay, and suburban longing that is embodied by the land at PLAND.  These impulses clearly have synthesized unfamiliar realities alongside all too familiar structures.  Compare the former Hell’s Angel who sees the land as his retirement community, other neighbors who consciously operate in the margins of society, and the couple who parked a bus on their land to keep from working at Walmart.  People come to the region with modest dreams that redefine historic notions of utopia, and bring into stark focus a dystopian Marxist future and the ways that the margins of our society are already coping with a future we may all share one day.”

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