The eco-monopoly series began in 2000 when I was invited to Japan: a group was organizing a symposium of artists, educators, and environmentalists in a park in Yokohama that was being proposed for development. The aim was to bring individuals together to create an exhibition of works in the forest, to program workshops and other educational events, and to provide opportunity for citizens in the area to experience the park as a vital element of their city, an element that should not be fundamentally altered through new roads being built.
In communications from the group, it was stated that one should come to the park with an open mind, rather than a preconceived notion of work they would make. During this residency, it was anticipated that invited artists would come and work with the elements one would find in nature. At the time I recall thinking that, much as I love the work of Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long, and many others who work with natural materials found in—and in concert with— the natural environment, my process is very different. It was summer 2000 and the residency would be in October. In the United States, George W. Bush and Al Gore debated on the national stage whether drilling should be permitted in federally protected parklands in the United States. I turned to this conflict as inspiration, and in thinking on the site and specificity. What did the drilling in US parklands have to do with development in Japan?
I’ve used maps in my work, to symbolize particular locations, or to call attention to the abstraction of keys, signs, and visual conventions as stand ins for real physical experienced locations. I turned to my collection of maps, which included some out-of-date Rand McNally atlas books of the United States. Usually with one spread for each state, I took apart two such booklets, and proceeded to X-Acto blade out the small and large green sections that designated federal and state parks on each map. The idea was to create holes in the maps, showing what we lose if our parks disappear. I can’t recall exactly when I began thinking of the maps related to the board game, but at some point I conflated the proposed development of the park in Yokohama with the developers game of Monopoly™.
Creating that first eco monopoly piece, I drew inspiration from those major contentions during the 2000 presidential campaign to present this modified game atop a tea table situated in that Japanese park threatened by developers. I invited viewers to sit and “play” with the territories on the table. Isolating designated park areas from each state map, I created transparent “green” houses modeled after houses and hotels in the Monopoly™ game. These displaced parks within the game reference the fragile protections we offer our environment and the tenuous shelter it provides us in our economy-driven world. I traveled to a Tokyo department to purchase a Japanese Monopoly game, and in that first iteration, I attached Japanese place names to the maps of ten American states. I hoped to suggest that—though separated through natural boundaries such as seas and rivers, and through geopolitical and national boundaries— we all live in the same world when considering the depletion of natural resources.