the lost highway project

CHARTS regularly invites visiting lecturers — notable artists, scholars, researchers and theorists — to participate in scholarship and share their thought-provoking ideas and research practices with students and the local community. In February 2009, artist Michael Alstad will work with participants in an intensive workshop within the advanced interdisciplinary seminar offered by Shauna McCabe. Titled
Anarchitecture: The Lost Highway Project, the seminar is presented as an architecture/landscape studio and will introduce participants to ideas of "locative practice" and interdisciplinary creative forms as a means of researching built landscapes, at once documenting and inventing place.

Locative art is often described in terms of technologies - tools such as microphones, cameras, GPS, wireless communications protocols, and a host of other sensors and technologies, all means of connecting information to geography, to explore and engage with the spaces which we inhabit. Locative media is not necessarily "high tech," however; even hand-drawn maps and poetry are marks of personal cartographies and senses of places. Extending ideas of Walter Benjamin and, later, the Situationists, many artists use walking and "drifting" as means to generate alternative maps of space.

In Anarchitecture: The Lost Highway Project, diverse creative practices will underlie the locative research tools, and the psychogeography consists of contemporary spaces - transitional zones, outskirts and remnant landscapes - encountered as a global community. Working with a local site which will offer the substance and backdrop for research and creation, the landscape studio will investigate the imaginative identity of this and other “lost,” marginal spaces.

Integrating the research within a web framework, participants will work with Alstad to give virtual presence to the investigation and the new landscape that emerges. The website will merge the creative information and media by utilizing collaborative software, social networks and georeferenced material. By generating new and contrasting myths and stories through space, the project will create 'Anarchitecture', an alternative use of architecture. In this way, The Lost Highway becomes a shared imagined space: it exists only in virtual space, and only as we have imagined it.

Michael Alstad is a Toronto-based researcher, artist and curator working in installation and digital media. He is a founding member of the Canadian artist collectives Year Zero One and Symbiosis. Michael has coordinated several site-specific projects in Toronto including The Bank of Symbiosis, The Hoarding Project, the Transmedia video billboard exhibitions, Geostash and Terminal Zero One. His web/video/interactive works have been exhibited in several media arts festivals and online exhibitions. His previous work includes Pixelgrain, documenting and mapping disappearing prairie structures of the grain elevator, to portray a parallel rural landscape in the midst of transition, and Teletaxi, an ongoing series of videos/animations that examine the mutation of specific urban sites in Toronto documented over multiple time frames and perspectives, created and exhibited via a moving taxi.