Andy Lee


Interior: A Memorial to Interiority from the Department of the Interior

Advised by Robert Pietrusko

The US Department of the Interior has consistently conceived of interiority as outside the sovereign bounds of the United States, training its view toward the exterior. Framed as a history of westward expansion, a true Department for and of the Interior has never existed. Interior proposes memorials to interiority, commemorating the absence of interiority for the American capitalist project while monumentalizing the methods used to territorialize exterior lands.

Central to the thesis is the relationship between two interiors: Arizona, the site for the memorials, and Afghanistan, a country commemorated in one of the memorials. Throughout the Cold War, the Department of the Interior produced films of American states, including Arizona, to gain support for its Cold War development aid projects abroad. These films captured American landscapes and distributed them to countries receiving aid, including Afghanistan, a major aid recipient in the United State’s effort to combat the spread of Soviet Communism.

The film Arizona and Its Natural Resources demonstrated American technical expertise, the transformation of Arizona landscapes, and the ensuing bounty that characterized American life. As a result, the landscapes produced through US involvement in Afghanistan were constructed in the image of American landscapes captured in the film. The Memorial to Interiority in Afghanistan is a cinematic tour of such landscapes. It enervates audience members—American tourists—out of the role of placid spectator into the role of engaged visitor, asking visitors to see themselves in the grounds of our many embroilments abroad.

Andy Lee, MLA I AP. An image containing overlapping images including houses, a desert landscape, an explorer, and the words "Little America in Afghanistan"
Andy Lee, MLA I AP.
This plan is an overview of the Helmand River Trail at 1:20,000 scale, at the eastern end of the National Monument to Interiority in Afghanistan.
Andy Lee, MLA I AP.
Plan at 1:2500 depicting the landscape constructing the image of the diversion dam as it was constructed in the Helmand Valley.  Large monoliths and earthworks fragment the largely flat landscape, breaking up the visitor’s path as it navigates the park.  The image of the old plots of farmland is projected against the diversion dam.
Andy Lee, MLA I AP.
Plan at 1:2500 depicting a portion of the landscape constructing the image of the Kajaki Reservoir in the Helmand valley.  Hills, grottoes, a grove of trees, and campgrounds allow the visitor to wander the absurdity of the image’s construction.
Andy Lee, MLA I AP.
As visitors walk from view to view, the landscapes converge, clash, and explode, highlighting their constructed nature and absurdity.
Andy Lee, MLA I AP.
The United States’ vision of its interior has always been at the edges of westward expansion, and has defined its interior outside its jurisdictional bounds, questioning whether or not a true US interiority has ever existed.  This map depicts 5 main phases of US westward expansion as it pushed out of the continent and across the globe.