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Automotive Test Tracks

Over a year since their last newsletter, the CLUI has now put up the latest edition. Among the many wonderful things worth noting, there is their aerial photographs of automotive test tracks — those concrete hieroglyphs, in the fringes of urban sprawls, recording “the condition of America, land of the automobile, a syndrome that transformed the landscape of the nation, and the world, more than any other.”

Automotive Test Tracks

Vast asphalt geometries and bounded trajectories tattooed on the surface of the earth, they are described as the “nurseries” for our vehicular companions, reared in “a microcosm of the country, built for subjecting vehicles to all the types of terrain - from interstates, to suburban stop and go; from dirt roads to black ice” — where America is geographically, meteorologically and infrastructurally condensed.

The automotive test tracks of America are mostly in the West and Midwest. Around Detroit, each of the “big three” operates at least one major complex. Test tracks are located around Phoenix, Arizona, to test in conditions of extreme heat, on top of everything else. On the fringes of this city's sprawl are tracks for companies whose home terrain has no desert to work in, such as Volvo, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Nissan. Honda and Hyundai's tracks are in the desert north of Los Angeles. And, in Illinois, Caterpillar, the global earth mover, tests its machines in a giant hilltop sandbox.

You can tour these places, at least via photographs, in Autotechnogeoglyphics: Vehicular Test Tracks in America, CLUI's contribution to the Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

The exhibition lasts till August 17, 2008.

Dugway Proving Ground
  • David Whitehill
  • April 18, 2008 at 1:17:00 PM CDT
  • "...the automobile, a syndrome that transformed the landscape of the nation, and the world, more than any other."

    My vote is for the "syndrome" of agriculture for top landscape - transformer.

  • Alexander Trevi
  • April 18, 2008 at 9:49:00 PM CDT
  • Meanwhile, today's Earth Observatory image happens to be the Nardo Ring, a test track in southern Italy.

  • Anonymous
  • April 19, 2008 at 10:17:00 PM CDT
  • A test track outside of Phoenix features at the end of Delillo's Americana.

  • Anonymous
  • April 22, 2008 at 2:18:00 PM CDT
  • i saw an amazing photo by andreas gursky of a race track somewhere in the emirates. it looks completely distorted, but in fact is not.

  • Anonymous
  • July 3, 2008 at 10:45:00 AM CDT
  • I don't know about agriculture . . I think the effects of road building will be longer lasting, and cars etc have opened up previously inaccessible places, perhaps to allow agriculture, perhaps for other reasons.

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