The CLUI is a nonprofit art/research organization. It uses multimedia and a multidisciplinary approach to increase and diffuse knowledge about how the nation's lands are apportioned, utilized and perceived. As Matt puts it, the Center sees "landscape as a medium for conveying stories about who we are as individuals and a nation."
The CLUI maintains a Land Use Database of "unusual and exemplary sites" throughout the United States. The database is designed to educate and inform the public about their landscape as it is altered to accommodate the complex demands of society.
The CLUI straddles the borders distinguishing artist and collective, observer and activist, micro and macro. Its eclectic program of activities invites a closer examination of "humankind's interaction with the Earth's surface." The Center has been applauded for offering programs that do not "polemicize the issues" that are unavoidably political.
Matt Coolidge serves as a project director, photographer and curator for CLUI exhibitions. He has written several books published by the CLUI, including: Overlook: Exploring the Internal Fringes of America with the Center for Land Use Interpretation (2006); Route 58: A Cross-Section of Southern California; Back to the Bay: An Examination of the Shoreline of the San Francisco Bay Region (2001); Around Wendover: An Examination of the Anthropic Landscape of the Great Salt Lake Desert Region (1998), and The Nevada Test Site: A Guide to America's Nuclear Proving Ground (1996). Matt received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 2004 and the Smithsonian Institute's Lucelia Artist Award in 2006.
Matt lectures widely in the United States and Europe on contemporary landscape matters. He is a faculty member in the Curatorial Practice Program at the California College of the Arts, where he teaches a class about "nowhere".
smudge studio interviewed Matt in February of 2008 about the Center's work. We focused on how the CLUI uses media to create a perspective--a way of seeing the landscape.
What the CLUI "does" (0:53):
"We encourage more people to be involved in their surroundings . . . but that's not everything we do..."
The CLUI's approach to programming and places (1:35):
"We look at the entire landscape as the material artifiact and bring the museum to the place."
Take a CLUI tour
Aesthetic experience and monitorial citizenship (2:04):
"Uncertaintly is a condition of change and inclusion."
The CLUI's use of design in the art of land use interpretation (1:25, 2:44):
"We look at what the government does... the National Park Service is perhaps the premier landscape interpreter."
Design, Interpretation, and The National Park Service.
The CLUI's process for site selection (1:26):
"We call it unusual and exemplary...it's . . . a curatorial process."
The role of media in land use interpretation (2:42):
"We obviously understand the message is altered by the media . . .
we encourage research into the relation between medium and message."
Explore how participants in the CLUI's Wendover Residence Program use media to interpret the landscape.
Matt's advice to students (0:21):
"Be careful of what you are looking at."