When you post to Facebook from certain areas of Fargo, ND, your post will be place stamped with the name of a town called “West Fargo, MN”. This place does not exist in the physical world; it is an accident that occurred somewhere between your phone’s GPS and Facebook’s location software. According to Facebook, 1818 people are from West Fargo, MN and there’s a McDonald’s, a Starbucks, two Subways, and the Fargo, ND courthouse all within the city limits. This digital mishap has created an opportunity for the kind of reflection that can be difficult in the physical world. The project “West Fargo, MN” provides an opportunity to examine our own roles in an economic and social system that can be all too easy to distance ourselves from.
The real towns of Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN are going through a period of rapid transformation fueled by the Bakken oil boom two hundred miles to our west. Intense population growth and new found economic prosperity has led to the kind of social change last seen during the original frontier days.
West Fargo, MN gives us an opportunity to explore these issues from scratch. Participants in this project can become residents, landowners, oil developers, and pipeline constructors in West Fargo through a website. These actions, however, will force the user to confront their own real life involvement in the oil industry. As users develop their land and utilize their mineral rights, they are forced to encounter the ways in which they are participating in and benefiting from the oil based economy, blurring the lines between our digital involvement and the real life roles we play in an exploitative and unsustainable system. It can be easy to distance oneself from global economic forces, especially when the environmental and social ramifications are playing out in a remote region of a sparsely populated state. West Fargo, MN recreates those circumstances closer to home.
This project was funded by Northern Lights and the Jerome Foundation, as part of the Art(ists) on the Verge program.