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The Los Angeles Urban Rangers: actualizing geographic thought


The Los Angeles Urban 
Rangers: actualizing 
geographic thought

فريق لوس انجلوس للمدن الحضرية والفكر الجغرافي 
Abstract
The Los Angeles Urban Rangers (LAUR) is one of a growing number of collectives associated  with the art world that offer new methods for expressing and performing insights rooted in 
geographical thought. Borrowing the US National Park Service ranger ‘persona,’ the LAUR  demonstrate a number of ways to untangle nature-society issues in cities. The ranger persona is  successful in part because of its ability to spatially relocate the affect associated with (supposed) 
pristine nature to urban places. The article contains a toolkit of programs that the LAUR have  employed to re-activate urban space.


Keywords
contemporary art, critical environmentalism, Los Angeles, performance, public space, tours, 
urban exploration.


 Introduction
In the last decade, a number of groups situated within the art world have begun to challenge and  expand what it is that geographers might do, offering new and unexpected ways they might prac-
tice. The best-known example, perhaps, is the Center for Land Use Interpretation, an organization  that has produced a vast body of (unorthodox yet widely used) research on ‘how the nation’s lands  are apportioned, utilized, and perceived’ in the form of site-specific tours, exhibitions, printed  publications, and an online database. Meanwhile, in New York City, the Center for Urban Pedagogy  creates ‘visually-based educational tools that demystify urban policy and planning issues,frequently working with public schools and other official institutions to expand their reach. Outside  the US,2 collectives such as the Bureau d’Etudes, multiplicity, and Raqs Media Collective have  taken up issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian border, ship piracy in the Mediterranean, and  networks of corporate outsourcing. These artist ensembles showcase, perform, and/or attempt to  remedy a variety of social and environmental issues, sometimes by physically intervening in the 
places from which they can be read.
In this article we offer an insider’s perspective of one of these entities – the Los Angeles Urban  Rangers (LAUR) – to explore how this nascent strain of art is adding tools to the ways that geog- raphers can express their insights and findings as well as extend them to publics beyond the acad-
emy. We are both active members of the LAUR, and through this – alongside more official  academic pursuits – have invested years in creating ways to translate complex nature-society  relationships in Los Angeles into interactive, place-based, educational, and cost-free public pro- gramming. By professional background, our group is comprised of a geographer, a public artist, an  architect, a non-profit consultant, an environmental historian, and an art historian. We have been 
working together in various constellations since 2004.

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