landscapes and instruments

Landscapes and Instruments is a theoretical and technical research project examining the way that instruments make landscapes.  The thesis, to put it bluntly, is that a landscape is made up of instruments, and nothing but instruments.

[mapping environmental factors with cultural dynamics to analyze the performance of the Riachuelo River landscape in Buenos Aires, Argentina]

[mapping environmental factors with cultural dynamics to analyze the performance of the Riachuelo River landscape in Buenos Aires, Argentina; drawings by Darren Graffuis, Julia Gold, Amelia Jensen, and Brian Davis]

Though brewing for some time, these ideas have been developed most thoroughly to date through my recent publication in Landscape Journal entitled “Landscapes and Instruments”.


The research for that project brought me in to contact with the work of historians of the American frontier including Herbert Eugene Bolton and philosophers in the tradition of American Pragmatism such as John Dewey, as well as contemporary thinkers including Levi Bryant and Graham Harman.  I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to their work and have had the good fortune to interview Bryant and Harman both on my old blog faslanyc.  You can read the interviews by clicking on their names above.


Through the Tierra Plastic project I began working towards an idea of landscape information modeling.  For that project I worked with two computational fluid dynamics models, a simple matlab script, and a changeable analog model in addition to the typical suite of analytical and representational tools such as Rhinocerous, Autocad, GIS, Google Sketchup, and Adobe Creative Suite.  My results thus far have pointed away from trying to find a single informational environment for landscape representation because it is actually the process of working between media- comparing them, interrogating the assumptions and limitations of each medium- that has been the most useful and revelatory.


Currently I am working with graduate assistants on using GIS, grasshopper, and UCL Depthmap to model environmental factors (such as water quality effects) and social dynamics of river/city complexes in South America and New York State.

[“Section 11” from my Landscapes and Instruments project showing the multiple purposes and effects of sediment barges; the small tables along the bottom are instrument tables which categorize the effects created by the instrument and the assemblage the instrument takes part in, all tied to the form of the particular instrument; more in depth explanation here]

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