How do we navigate unfamiliar places? How do we learn about an environment we know nothing about? We typically need to rely on other sources for this type of specific information – we need a guide.
The New Scout Group Guide to Obscure Places is a navigation book to a fictional place. It takes on the form of the classic field guide aesthetic, but functions as a humorous critique of the way these publications are created and used. With chapters ranging from Location, Things to Know (Customs, Leading Export, Architectural Styles), Things to See (Landscape, Flora and Fauna, Landmarks, Natural Phenomena), and Helpful Information (Weather, Transit), the guide questions the ways in which we intake and inherently trust information about things that are unfamiliar to us.
Through presenting entirely fictionalized information as fact, in a serious and formal manner, Guide to Obscure Places responds to the current climate of “alt-facts”. The history and facts presented in the book through text and images are ambiguous and vague, giving just enough information to make the reader believe that just maybe, this place could really exist somewhere in the world. It also aims to address themes of how histories are parsed, how we decide what is important enough to share and what gets left out in our carefully edited narrations of places. The recording of physical and social histories of cities or countries through writing and imagery is interesting because of the fact that we truly do not know what is real and not real. Everything and anything can be modified and the authors of these histories often choose not to acknowledge, or gloss over “true” histories in attempts to seduce tourists and make a place seem less offensive than it may be.
The New Scout Group Guide to Obscure Places looks like an everyday, common travel guide. It looks like a guide to an ordinary place, something anyone can pick up at a library or book store. The serious presentation of the fictional information is important to the role the project is playing. This book is a performance - a play on expectations and an absurd narrative of a made up place – and the costume is essential to the character.