Milan, New Mexico

Milan, New Mexico: A Photographic Exploration of Cultural Identities through Place Names in North America

Collaborative curatorial project with artist Frédéric Bigras-Burrogano

Conference presentation, 50th Meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Place Names, University of Calgary, Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities

May 28, 2016

Abstract

Milan, New Mexico is an ongoing arts-based research project that explores the North American practice of borrowing names from other cities of the world. This project studies the connection between these new places, their relationship with nationalism, colonialism, and their European namesakes. Through online data mapping interfaces and photography, this project seeks to re-examine the relationship between these hundreds of North American towns and their cultural and visual identities.

This project focuses on the tensions these expectations and visual representations create while interrogating the futures and cultural visions these places had for themselves in their conception and ongoing development. Do these place names represent a longing and nostalgia for a distant home or an aspirational prophecy for the future? How does the viewer’s expectation of these places’ namesakes influence their experience of the project? In mapping these places and researching them in relation to each other, what can we dissect and learn about North America’s colonialization?

Feature image: Geneva, Georgia, Frederic Bigras-Burrogano, 2014

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