Inland Parkway is an exploration along the boundaries of New York City parks, documenting the intersection of the urban built environment and landscaped nature. My interest lies in the points of convergence where I am confronted by a different kind of landscape that challenges the picturesque views of what a natural landscape is and looks like.
Inspired by 19th Century naturalists I set out to walk the borders of the parks and experience the edges of domestic wildness with the goal of creating a topographic survey that reflects the diversity of natural landscapes across the city’s five boroughs, and as a way to acknowledge the intertwined role of nature in our everyday lives.
Nature in the form of a local park represents a domestic wildness for city dwellers to escape to, but it is hard to determine if we are going out to nature or into nature. Walking along these lines of separation, of being inside or outside, of looking from the outside in or the inside out prove to be physically, conceptually, and visually disorienting. To experience nature as an external place untethered from us is to negate our own biological roots and detach ourselves from nature’s rhythms and patterns. Instead, we are choosing to develop relationships with the urban built environments that surround our lives and inform our perception, behaviors, and actions.
The physical act of traversing through the complex systems of urban spaces most of us live in can radically shape the narratives we tell ourselves. In the city, we are constantly trespassing the lines of power within a fractured landscape: political, cultural, economic, and environmental lines dissect one another and mark the territory, creating a map where landscaped nature is enclosed and limited. Forcing nature outside of our daily experience negates the presence of it, and as we push it out of our immediate perception we diminish its reality.
GPS mapping renders a simplified map of park areas with clearly delineated borders for the sake of easy navigation. In reality, what constitutes a park is more complex and indistinguishable and is the reason why the act of physically walking and tracing my paths along the borders is crucial to my exploration. Accessibility to nature in the form of a sidewalk or trail reshapes and labels the landscape, creating points of both union and separation where the concepts of city and park become more fluid, less discernible, and at the same time accessible and out of reach. The nature I encounter is resilient in ever-changing ways pushing through our built environments of control, where the lines at the edges are blurred by vines and rubble, but reveal an unobstructed truth of the natural landscape around us.
Each landscape is accompanied by its corresponding map, tracing each path I walked throughout my expeditions.
Alvaro Keding (b.1984, Colombia) graduated with a Masters in Photography from the School of Visual Arts (NYC). His work explores how manufactured nature within the built environment shapes our perception and influences how we experience the landscape and our relationship to the natural world. He currently lives and works in New York City.
© text and pictures by Alvaro Keding