Proposal: A Map To Nowhere


A short film about place and perception

Proposal: A map to nowhere

A short film about place and perception


For artist and amateur historian Khris Soden walking is a fundamental part of his creative process and his day-to-day life. Since arriving in Portland in 2002, Khris has committed to traveling by foot whenever possible, logging between five and seven miles on an average day.  He champions walking as a benefit to both the individual and to the community, as the public engagement that occurs while walking allows (and requires) the traveler to develop empathy, bearing daily witness to the public effects of societal problems such as poverty, houselessness, and mental health crises.  

Walking as a conscious method of changing one’s perspective also informs Khris’ creative practice.  Keenly interested in the aesthetic benefits of walking in an unfamiliar space, Khris has created performances that encourage audiences/participants to embrace disorientation, such as walking tours that take place in downtown Portland, but which use the maps and landmarks of other cities as a guide.

Khris’ use of pedestrianism to discover or reveal or hidden elements of the city echoes a practice known as psychogrography, or   navigating urban spaces in ways that intentionally disrupt the paths encouraged (or enforced) by the constructed environment. First proposed by members of the french arts movement Situationist International, psychogeography combines elements of the dérive (or “drift”)

One such method is the algorithmic walk, in which the traveler defines a short, repeating pattern of turns and directions, (e.g. walk one block, turn left, walk two blocks, turn right, walk one block, etc).  Even when embarking from an area familiar to the walker, relying on this predetermined pattern instead of a destination bypasses the traveler’s subconscious biases we use to navigate space on a daily basis. One may quickly find oneself on an “ugly” corner that has been previously avoided, or viewing familiar landscapes from a new perspective.



A Map To Nowhere is a short film exploring the mechanics and results of engaging in algorithmic walking that invites viewers to examine their own relationship to the constructed space and they biases that influence their paths through their neighborhoods.  The foundation of the piece is an interview with Khris Soden about his interest in walking as a creative and empathetic practice, conducted in the courtyard of his apartment building to imbue the audio with the characteristics of an urban walk; traffic, birds, and passersby are part of the texture of our conversation, just as they are relevant to the subject.


This audio will be combined with visual documentation of an algorithmic walk taken with Khris, and of the observations made during that walk.  The third person perspective of his walk will be captured in flat, geometric compositions that reference the grid of streets and blocks in which the walk occurs, while the first person observations from the walk will be captured in black and white super-8 film, creating a visual contrast between the prescriptive nature of urban spaces and the beauty revealed by exploring these spaces in a new way.

Additionally, a variety of visual systems to fully convey the mechanics and meaning of algorithmic walking.  A series of “direction” cards depicts the repeating pattern at the heart of the algorithmic walk. As these cards are collated, then laid out into a looping pattern, they demonstrate the unexpected patterns that can result from a simple algorithm.  The size and shape of these cards, combined with the motion of laying them cards out onto a table, evokes the anticipation and delight of a magic trick as well as the narrative elements of a tarot reading.



Dispatch from the Boiler Room – April 29, 2019

It can be a challenge to maintain focus on our work here in the basement headquarters of Potboiler once the sunshine returns, luring us to frolic outside. Luckily, our projects are providing many opportunities to get out and start generating some vitamin D. Last weekend, podcaster/writer/filmmaker Chris Higgins joined interns Janelle Lasalle and Aaron McAdam to capture

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