The Los Angeles Urban
فريق لوس انجلوس للمدن الحضرية والفكر الجغرافي
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.
contemporary art, critical environmentalism, Los Angeles, performance, public space, tours,
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.