THE CENTER FOR LAND USE INTERPRETATION | MATT COOLIDGE
"Repeated travel over the same road increases our familiarity with it, and we think we come to know it better and better. But . . . experiential habits become common corridors of perception that merge into the superhighways of convention. To avert whatever crisis might be forming in the present and awaiting us in the future, the world needs to maintain its interpretive diversity, along with its biological and cultural diversity. The tool kit needs to be fully stocked." - Matt Coolidge, OVERLOOK
Elsewhere, we traced how the CLUI's resources and events have the potential to alter how audiences see and relate to land and therefore to each other as "citizens." CLUI contributes to what has been called "democratic monitorial citizenship" by inviting the public to sense geo- and human forces that directly shape their lives, and then to network their responses in ways that do not channel them into narrow partisan habits or what Coolidge calls "superhighways of convention."
In a recent interview for this project, Matt Coolidge described the CLUI's interpretation of infrastructure:
"Infrastructure . . . for us means the underlying connective tissue--whether it is a literal civic infrastructure such as a water treatment system or whether it is the underlying, thematic design for a certain type of collective activity. The manmade landscape is a cultural inscription that can be read to better understand who we are, and what we are doing."
"So much of infrastructure is about flow and about linear elements. We often pick up linear elements as sort of the skeleton for a project. Whether that’s a literal pipe or a river or a network--it is often about flow. It's the physical core which you then build the flesh and bones or the mass of the experience onto it and use that as a structure to look out at culture. So yes, infrastructure--whether it is transportation or drainage or waste--all our work is about the physical landscape and the infrastructures are in many cases the things that unite us, that connect the social fabric together physically."
Matt Coolidge on noncompliant, non-disciplinary pedagogy and the CLUI:
"You have to in a weird way not say what you are trying to say. And that’s a trick, especially if you are coming at from an institutional--academic, scientific setting--where you really have to spell out your intentions and goals and tasks. That is one of the reasons we are outside those structures. We wouldn’t satisfy the terms of those institutions because we don’t have the things spelled out in terms of objectives and methodologies as much. And also, we wouldn't want to be a commentary on those structures, but to be able to exist outside them and include them in the view and to provide an alternative. There is something contrarian about what we do--always reacting to existing conditions, looking for the other so that when things get too clear or when we develop something that becomes rote, we try to get outside of it again and move on to the next thing. We try to never really settle because it is in that uncertainty and that unsettled ground where things can come together freely. We often introduce ideas, mystery and uncertainty, which is not just strategic. And one effect of that is that it keeps people engaged because when you don’t resolve things completely that’s when you continue to be interested in resolving it. I think all of us are seeking resolution and understanding so we don’t want to have learning stop with the learning. It’s nice to have things not be all tied up, like: "this is this." It is that, but--it can also be other things--and this is also one way of understanding what this is."
The CLUI shifts the public gaze from the pictoral--from landscape as representation--to what is usually left outside the frame:
"The fabric of Los Angeles, a continuous cloth of development, draped on the surface of the land, is shallow, but its roots, thousands of meandering straws of oil, dig deep into the soil. Like tree roots, these veins extract the living essence of the ground, fueling this city of the car. Like historical roots, these oil fields are the progenerative substrate, the resource pool, where the economy of Los Angeles originated, driving the development and culture of the city. Today, it continues. Los Angeles is the most urban oil field, where the industry operates in cracks, corners, and edges, hidden behind fences, and camouflaged into architecture, pulling oil out from under our feet." -CLUI website
"The end of the Mississippi River Delta - the Birdfoot - is a national landscape of disintegration, a fractal labyrinth of dendritic channels, a blend of water and earth, bisected and rerouted by linear, engineered forms of pipeline canals and levees. The people who live and work here, beyond the reach of roads, do so tenuously, in a delicate, disappearing place that is battered by hurricanes, and eroding into the sea." -CLUI website