There is a certain paranoiac ease with which the idea of the center of a country is made to stand in for certainties, stabilities, and an inevitable essence of citizenship. But of course this very idea of the center is in fact always on the move and simultaneously affirms a periphery—a site of encounter, of instability, and perhaps, precarity. What are we to make of this paradoxical notion of centrality? Precarious Centers revisits the defining material method by which the USGS geographer calculated the center of the lower 48 states. It is the point where a plane map would balance if it were of uniform thickness. The center of gravity. The gravity of arbitrary geographies colliding with applied values and meaning. A material and cartographic absurdity that cuts to the very heart of the assumptions that it is meant to prop up and support.
Jesse Vogler works at the intersection of landscape, politics, and performance. His projects address the entanglements between landscape and law, and take on themes of work, property, expertise, and perfectibility. Jesse is a land-surveyor, co-directs the Institute of Marking and Measuring, and teaches across landscape, architecture, art, and urbanism at Washington University in St. Louis. jessevogler.com | markingandmeasuring.org