Interview / Damien Rudd (Sad Topographies)

Interview with Damien Rudd, the creator of ‘Sad Topographies’.
– an Instagram account where he collects Google Map screenshots of the world’s most depressing sounding places.

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Hey- beside being the creator of ‘Sad Topographies‘- who are you Damien?

I’m 32, an Australian artist and currently live in Amsterdam.
My practice revolves around alternative historical narratives, working in installation, photography, text and sound.

When this ‘Sad Topographies’ project began? How this nice idea occurred to you?

It began, as most things do, by accident. I was searching for something on google maps and I found Mount Hopeless in Australia. I typed hopeless into google maps to find other places called hopeless, then other synonyms for sadness. I screen captured the results and soon had the beginnings of collection. It only made sense to put them on Instagram to a dedicated account.

Do you do that just for fun or are you an obsessive collector?

I have many collections, none that are complete as there is nothing more dead then a finished collection. I collect, among other things, old Viewmaster travel reels, discarded family photos, super 8 family vacation films and 16mm instructional and educational films. I have another instagram account @shapeofevidence which is a collection of found images from outdated library books. The size of my various collections is unfortunately restricted by the size of my apartment.

How do you find these places? It must take some time.

It’s actually extremely fast and easy. I simply type synonyms for sadness into Google maps. Anyone can do it.

I really wonder who gave those names and why. Which one is your favorite? :)

Many favorites. Probably the ones in Antarctica are the most interesting. There is Shapeless Mountain which was named as none of the exploring party could agree on its shape. So shapeless was Shapeless Mountain that when a later expedition attempted to climb it, they scaled the wrong mountain entirely—which they then in turn named Mistake Mountain. There is also a Wrong Peak, which earned its name in under similar circumstances. In 1963 Recoil Glacier was named by a geologist who was said to have “recoiled in disgust” at finding nothing of interest there. There is also Deception Island.

I love to imagine the lives of the people settled around those places. Do you think about them too?

Not particularity! It’s easy to get used to a name and not even think about it.

You have more than 67K followers now- What did the success of this Instagram account change to you?

I’m currently working on a book for Simon and Schuster. It will be called Sad Topographies and will be on shelves in the UK later this year. Personal fame and riches is still eluding me.

Do you have plans for this series in the future and do you think you’ll continue for a long time?

I’m currently doing a mini series called “Disappointing American Topographies” as a subtle protest to the current political situation. Otherwise I receive place suggestions every day so there’s no end to the collection in sight.

What’s next for you? Do you have other ideas of this kind in your head?

I’m still working steadily on my other collections and starting new ones often. In Japan there is a museum called Chinsekikan, otherwise known as The Hall of Curious Rocks, which is a large collection of rocks that resemble human faces. In the future I wish to begin such a museum with a collection still yet to be determined.

What are you going to do just after having answered to this final question?

Taking a shower then finishing reading Open City by Teju Cole, which by the way, is fantastic.

Merci Damien :)

instagram.com/sadtopographies

damienrudd.com