Artist and educator John Craig Freeman uses digital technologies to produce place-based virtual reality and site-specific public art. The virtual reality work is made up of projected interactive environments that lead the audience from global satellite images to immersive, user navigated scenes on the ground. As one explores these virtual spaces, the story of the place unfolds in a montage of nonlinear media. Working with monumental, sequential, computer generated imagery and text Freeman also constructs public roadside installations, which can span miles of highway. In some projects, individual images have been as large as 400 square feet. Freeman appropriates the strategies and forms of media culture in order to explore what happens when emerging technologies are used for artistic expression. He has set out to invent new forms of visual art that address the transition from industrial culture to an information technological paradigm. Recognizing the need to integrate the work of a variety of experts, Freeman has adopted strategies of project based interdisciplinary collaboration. The most recent work titled "Imaging Place" draws on the expertise of cultural theorists, architects, historians, scientist and community leaders.

Freeman's work has been exhibited internationally including at the Kaliningrad Branch of the National Centre For Contemporary Arts in Russia, Art Basel Miami, Ciberart Bilbao and Girona Video and Digital Arts Festival, in Spain, the Westside Gallery in New York, La Biblioteca National in Havana, Cuba The Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta, the Nickle Arts Museum in Calgary, Canada, the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City, the Photographers Gallery in London, the Center for Experimental and Perceptual Art (CEPA) in Buffalo, Mobius in Boston, and the Friends of Photography's Ansel Adams Center in San Francisco. In 1992 he was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His writing has been published in Leonardo, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Exposure. His work has been reviewed in Wired News, Artforum, Ten-8, Z Magazine, Afterimage, Photo Metro, New Art Examiner, Time, Harper's and Der Spiegel. Lucy Lippard cites Freeman's work in her book "The Lure of the Local," as does Margot Lovejoy in her book "Postmodern Currents."

Freeman received a Bachelor of Art degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1986 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1990. He began his academic career in the early 1990s in San Diego where he lectured at the University of California San Diego for three and a half years. Freeman was an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida from 1994 to 1999, where he coordinated the Photography Area. From 1999 to 2002 he ran the digital media art curriculum as an Associate Professor in the Art Department at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is currently an Associate Professor of New Media at Emerson College in Boston. The focus of his academic activities throughout the last decade has been to integrate computer technology and theory of electronic culture into visual art curriculum and to explore interdisciplinary approaches to education and technology. Freeman is active in the College Art Association and he served on the national board of directors of the Society for Photographic Education.

Imaging Place: Imaging Place is a documentary virtual reality method, which uses a combination of panoramic photography, digital video, and three-dimensional environments to investigate and document place. Although the method borrows freely from the traditions of documentary still photography and filmmaking, the Imaging Place method departs from those traditions by using the emerging nonlinear narrative structures made possible by interactive technologies and the apparatus of telecommunications. The project also seeks to expand the notion of documentary by exploring how place is internalized, thus a location is mapped as a state of mind. The work is projected up to nine by twelve feet in a darkened space with a podium and a mouse placed in the center of the space, which allows the audience to navigate throughout the project. When it is activated by the click of a mouse button, the project leads the user from global satellite images to virtual reality scenes on the ground. The user can then navigate throughout an immersive virtual space. Rather than the linear structures of the novel or cinema, this new form allows the story to unfold in a meandering labyrinth of discovery and associations. The goal of Imaging Place is to document sites of cultural significance, which for political, social, economic, or environmental reasons are contested, undergoing substantial changes, or at risk of destruction. This includes historic sites as well as sites of living culture which are being displaced by globalization and the collapse of industrial modernism.

Imaging Place is designed to accommodate interdisciplinary collaboration conducted across institutions and over distances. It uses new technology to bring disparate bodies of knowledge together through the investigation and documentation of place. The method attempts to bridge the gaps in understanding that exist between esoteric disciplines that have developed as a result of academic and industrial specialization. The technological tools are now available for bringing the work of experts together without sacrificing the depth and dimension of specialized knowledge and to connect the abstraction of highly specialized thinking with the visceral experiences of people on the ground. In addition to providing a form for the generation, dissemination and accumulation of interdisciplinary research and artistic production, the Imaging Place method provides a model strategy for collaboration.

John (Craig) Freeman
Imaging Place
About Imaging Place
A small movie