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Week 48: 4 August 2012

Matthew Coolidge

Director of the Center for Land Use Interpretation

This land is your land


Since we here at the Center generally deal with the examination and presentation of pre-existing artifacts and found objects, my thought was to just let the great bard of the American Land do the talking. I initially dismissed this idea as too simple and obvious, but there is sometimes revelation in considering the obvious in a new context. Maybe it should be said just as he put it down. Though there are countless versions and reworking of the lyrics - he often changed lines depending on where and when it was performed, and he encouraged people to add their own words, considering the song a sort of template - this version may be the closest to the original, and in any case, might be the most appropriate for Nowhereisland's promise to a potential world community, emerging from under the shadow of America, floating in its meltwater.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway 
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps 

To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting
This land was made for you and me

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." 

But on the other side it didn't say nothing
That side was made for you and me

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people
By the relief office I seen my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway
Nobody living can ever make me turn back 

This land was made for you and me

- Woody Guthrie, 1956

Matthew Coolidge

Matthew Coolidge is the founder and Director of the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and organization that produces information and public programming about the built landscape of the United States.

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Nowhereisland is a Situations project led by artist Alex Hartley, one of 12 Artist Taking the Lead projects for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad funded by Arts Council England. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the University of the West of England, Bristol; Bloomberg; Nicky Wilson Jupiter Artland; the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Yellowbrick Tracking.

Identity designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio and Wolfram Wiedner, website by Wolfram Wiedner.