Sans Terre

Sans Terre: A Temporary Institute for the Investigation of Urbanism
May 30, 2004 – March 2005
Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA (as part of “The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere”, curated by Nato Thompson)


Sans Terre is a project for developing global collaborations that rethink urbanism as both a concept and an actuality. It begins with the observation that the world is now composed of a radically different urban geography. Currently, half of the world’s population lives in cities. From this factual observation spurse extends the idea of the urban condition as a mode of distributed agency in the world where the world is full, active and participatory across all levels of organization, forms of agency, systems of incorporation and hierarchies. Many of the ways in which questions are framed regarding urban dwelling–city vs. country, region vs. globe, nature vs. culture, urban vs. suburban, subject vs. object, etc.–seem to have little purchase given this new urban reality. Spurse’s research, then, centered around three primary questions:
1. Can the separation between the natural and artificial be reconceptualized under the rubric of urbanism (Is there a way outside the phenomena-neumena divide)?
2. Can urbanism as a concept allow a vectoral method of understanding place?
3. What happens when the world becomes fully urban?


A Large archive and research space. Archive contained materials gathered and developed globally. Research space supported work from mapping and diagramming, to microbiological work, to systems based understandings, to formal discussions and debates.


A series of public “Imanent Collection Walks” in the North Adams area.
A series of research and archive work days.
A public walk through of the archive
An open invitation and support to global collaborators.


  • Individuals: Jared Huke, Daniel Ting, Bang Dang, David Munoz, Christian Garcia, Fernanda Covelo, Tania Rodriguez, John Kramer, Katarina Weslien, Armin Linke, Chris Thompson, Nichole Catchcart, Katie Atkins, Nathaniel Edmunds, Roger Cosseboom, Jim Kingsly, George Smith, J. Morgan Puett, Miki Desai, Boris Richter, Cesare Petrouschi, Catherine D’Ignazio, Brian DeRosia, Karl Unnasch, Greg Lendeck and others.
    Groups:Institute for the Study of Society and Environment, Maine College of Art, University of Texas at Austin
    US Sites: Austin, Marfa, Dallas, Houston, Portland, ME, Beach Lake, Boston, Chicago, Harrisonberg, Brockport, Oswego, Rochester, Seattle, San Diego, New York
    International Sites: Bangkok, Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo, Mexico City, Arusha, Rome, Ahnimdabad, Berlin, Kingson, Braunlage, Athens, Vancouver and others.
  • "What would it mean to devise a series of practices of everyday life... for mapping the planet not according to how it may be occupied, managed or conquered but, rather, how it may be reimagined as, in spurse’s words, “an experiment in the production of what is in common”? In Sans Terre, this rethinking takes shape through the dispersion of the centrality of the human subject... Spurse postulates what it would mean to move away from the idea that only a human subject is possessed of agency and allows for the possibility that agency occurs in a variety of forms, unfolds in a range of processes and is embodied in a multiplicity of materialities. Sans Terre’s success as “intervention” resides in the shift from posing this question to actually experimenting with ways of inhabiting it". (Chris Thompson, "spurse: The Interventionists Art in the Social Sphere")