“Meredith Lynn has populated the fortuitous placelessness with a deliberate, playful, and participatory placemaking process.”
West Fargo, MN
When you post to Facebook from certain areas of Fargo, North Dakota, your post will be place-stamped with the name of a town called “West Fargo, MN.” This place does not exist in the physical world; it is an accident that occurs somewhere between your phone’s GPS and Facebook’s location software. According to Facebook, 1,818 people are from West Fargo, MN, and a McDonald’s, a Starbucks, two Subways, and the Fargo, North Dakota, courthouse are all within the city limits. This digital mishap creates an opportunity for the kind of reflection that can be difficult in the physical world. The project West Fargo, MN encourages us to examine our own roles in an economic and social system that we may prefer to distance ourselves from.
The real towns of Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota, are experiencing a period of rapid transformation fueled by the Bakken oil boom two hundred miles to our west. Intense population growth and newfound economic prosperity have led to a rate of social change last seen during the original frontier days.
West Fargo, MN allows us to explore these issues from scratch. Participants in this project can become residents, landowners, oil developers, and pipeline constructors in West Fargo through a website. These roles force the users to confront their own real-life involvement in the oil industry. As users develop their land and utilize their mineral rights, they encounter the ways in which they act in and benefit from the oil-based economy, blurring the lines between our digital involvement and our real-life participation in an exploitative and unsustainable system. It can be easy to distance ourselves from global economic forces, especially when the environmental and social ramifications occur in a remote region of a sparsely populated state. West Fargo, MN recreates those circumstances closer to home.
Methodologies on the Verge (excerpt)
Kirsten Valentine Cadieux
As you move into the second gallery, snow blows across West Fargo, MN on the far wall, and you face another aspect of the Internet’s capriciousness. After discovering the mislocation glitch that created the (accidentally fictitious) Facebook location of West Fargo, MN, Meredith Lynn has populated the fortuitous placelessness with a deliberate, playful, and participatory placemaking process. Providing smartphones to volunteers interested in constructing an identity for the (already existing North Dakota) neighborhoods now remapped (for an unknown duration) as the nonexistent town of West Fargo, Lynn methodically built up a process for demarcating, claiming, and inhabiting this virtual community.
Connecting a geographically widespread network to reflect back into place ideas about the virtual topography of a new layer of the Bakken-era boomtown, Lynn’s project mines the familiar mechanics of social media geolocating and place boosterism to develop a critical process for “owning” the troubled dynamics of extractive economies. The beauty and solidity of the actual place are represented by a three-legged table built of wood from a reclaimed North Dakota building, on which participants can play the interactive game that stakes their claim and structures their involvement in actively imagining West Fargo, MN into being. Placement of geodetic survey marks establishes the act of bounding and calls out that act as a noticeable practice, one that might be changeable, hackable, or reimaginable in ways less than obvious in the straightline grid of a place where geologists are so powerful. Enrolled in fantastical geomancy through the literal concrete marks and the erroneous place, we must navigate our place biases as well as our distantiated relationships with the stuff places are made from—and the places stuff comes from.
b. 1984, Boston, Massachusetts
Lives and works in Moorhead, Minnesota
Mentor: Natasha Pestich
I am a collector and archiver of anecdotes. Culling through historical research, meteorological and geological information, oral histories, myths, legends, and my own personal experience, I search for small stories with broader emotional content. I am interested in the obvious narratives that arise when words are paired with visual material but also in the more subtly implied emotion that the relationship between the two forms of communication can illicit.
Through a wide variety of text, image, and media I highlight and share these collected and curated stories. My work most frequently sorts itself into distinct projects, and I use drawing, painting, book arts, and digital media as each idea dictates. Although the projects vary in form and material, a common theme in my work is the ways in which the landscape and history of a place affect us. I have explored such topics as the emotional power of bad jokes, the physical manifestations of spiritual knowledge, and the contemporary frontier. These themes are present in West Fargo, MN.