Imperfect City / Imperfect State
Imperfect City / Imperfect State is a media installation and web-based social practice project that archives roadside memorials in the state of Delaware. It was commissioned by Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts and included in imPERFECT City, a conversation-based group exhibition initiated by Maiza Hixson. The exhibition evolved from an open call for proposals to conceptualize a utopian city within the DCCA. It was curated by all the City's participants: artists, administrators, and visitors alike.
Roadside memorials are ostensibly illegal in Delaware but are nonetheless ubiquitous, ranging from simple white crosses to elaborate tableaus, some anonymous, some carefully inscribed with the names of the deceased. The artists documented over 70 of these memorials in the northern half of the state, both photographically and through audio recordings made on site. The photographs were uploaded to a Panoramio group, Delaware Roadside Memorials, which is open to anyone willing to submit images and additional information. The photographs were also mapped using Panoramio, and all have thus far been selected for inclusion in Google Earth.
A single-channel video work pairs the audio landscape of each memorial with its photographic image: sounds of the highway, bird calls, wind, and rain filled the gallery space, bringing these marginal, external sites of death and mourning into imPERFECT CITY. The media installation also includes a map of Delaware made from combining smaller maps of the roadside memorials themselves. This map doesn't so much guide viewers to particular sites as it measures the scale of the state and the sheer number of memorials.
Participants were offered printed invitations that directed them to visit particular memorials. The invitations include an approximate address, precise latitude and longitude, a photograph, and a Google Street View image of the location, most of which show the memorials as well. Participants were also invited to share their stories and documentation of their visits.
The artists have also begun to leave cards near the roadside memorials that read as follows:
We were drawn to this memorial when we saw it from the road.We have photographed it and included it in an online archive of roadside memorials, which you can find here:www.panoramio.com/group/delawareroadsidememorialsWe would like to send you a photograph and learn more about your memorial.Please contact us at "John & Jeanne"