Steve Rowell

Routes of Least Surveillance

In collaboration with the Institute of Applied Autonomy (Rich Pell) and credited as "SITE-R".

A map, published in the Atlas of Radical Cartography, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, 2006.

In taking up the term 'tactical' in an arts context, we link cartography with 'tactical media,' an approach to art production that privileges critical social engagement. Since the early 90's the tactical media label has become something of a house brand for a host of widely divergent media practices embracing themes of politics and empowerment. Particularly, the term has expanded from its origin in interventionist art to ultimately include a wide variety of "alternative" and "indy" media strategies. In considering the term here, we emphasize its connotations of instrumentality.

At root, tactical media is about intervention - it is concerned with creating disruptions within existing systems of power and control. Less a methodology than an orientation, it is fundamentally pragmatic, utilizing any and all available technologies, aesthetics, and methods as dictated by the goals of a given action. Tactical media events are necessarily ephemeral - they exist only as long as they continue to be effective; once their utility has been exhausted, they vanish into thin air. While it may form a part of a long-term strategy, tactical media itself is concerned with temporary destabilization rather than permanent transformation.

Extending these notions to spatial representation, then, we claim that "tactical cartography" refers to the creation, distribution, and use of spatial data to intervene in systems of control affecting spatial meaning and practice. Simply put, tactical cartographies aren't just about politics and power; they are political machines that work on power relations.

The Institute for Applied Autonomy

The map has been translated into over a dozen languages and widely exhibited as a poster over the years, including:

  • Greater New York 2010, P.S.1, New York, 2010
  • Saint Étienne International Design Biennial, Saint Étienne, France, 2010
  • Basekamp, Philadelphia, 2009
  • Redhouse Arts Center, Syracuse, 2008
  • Gallery 400, Chicago, 2007
  • LACE, Los Angeles, 2007

See the full exhibition list