Los Angeles Urban Rangers is made up of Emily Scott, Sara Daleiden, Therese Kelly, and Jenny Price. The group of artists, historians, geographers, and a former park ranger, is attempting to provide a guided and educational "tour" of the various ecologies that make up Los Angeles.
Part of what makes the LAUR so unique, apart from the obvious fact that they're women, is that they take the role of the ranger rather seriously, even in a tongue and cheek sort of way. Formed in 2004, the group has steadily generated a dialogue around the urban/natural habitat we live in but very often ignore. After all, how often do we equate nature and urbanism together in the same sentence? Tours, or safaris, to use their term, the LAUR have organized include hikes through the LA County Fair, Malibu's public beaches, and Hollywood Blvd. Well-researched and detailed visitor information guides, similar to what you would find at a typical state park or nature preserve, generally accompany these events.
The language and rigor of this professional persona, that of the park ranger, is no coincidence. These tours are for the public and rangers are as accessible as they are well informed. It certainly makes the presentation all the more believable when the artists show up in full uniform and conduct their urban tour with as much skill and organization as the real thing. That performative slippage in reality facilitates in helping us, the public, rethink the contexts we've created for our urban environment. Why don't we think about of our geography more often in urban centers? That's what rangers do after all; they facilitate rather than dictate our own questioning and discovery of new places and information.
Given the perfomative nature of the work, words play a central role. In the language of the LAUR sidewalks are trails, architecture is topography, dogs and cats are fauna. There is a concerted effort to ride that slippery metaphoric slope once again when it comes to the contrasting language of the natural world and the cultural world. Again, it becomes a tool to not only be playful but to encourage new ways of seeing things.
Issues of public space and our relationship to our landscape are explored through a variety of geographic/cultural zones: freeway landscaping, public beaches, historic boulevards, but always with an eye on having us appreciate the everyday environment that we already have.