History and context of Locative Media works
The primary concern in locative
media has been, understandably, location. This has been a great
new leap in terms of art, technology, science and narrative. Locative
Media Art consists of artworks utilizing locative technology to
trigger artworks in a specific physical space.
Locative media art goes back to
early experiments such as Telepresent by Steven Wilson in 1997
that was an object equipped with GPS left to be communally interacted
with and moved while continually sending images via the Internet.
Another key development was the
GPS drawings of Jeremy Wood in 2000 in which he discovered that
by tracing his movements as he drove or walked with GPS that he
could form shapes formed by the sequence of plotted movements.
Other projects worked with Geo-Annotation which placed a comment
or reflection on a physical location (similar to what hikers for
years would do at posted signs on certain trails). Then came the
project 34 North 118 West that was the first locative narrative.
34 North 118 West was a mapping
of a four block area of Los Angeles where the primary non-passenger
rail yard and related infrastructure at the turn of the last century
and the original grand passenger station of Los Angeles (La Grande
station) once stood. The majority of the buildings are the same
but have changed in usage in time, state of disrepair and who
has come to live and work in them in waves of development and
Other buildings were destroyed over
the years and only the ghosts of historical information and personal
accounts remain. The project created a "narrative archaeology"
as the layers in time were to be agitated into being. In one place
would be narrativized data from 1936 a few hundred feet from a
spot before a building that triggered something from 1910.
Now groups such as the C5 collective
are doing work such as the GPS mapping of the entire great wall
of china and then placing the coordinates in another location.
This type of work creates a layered commentary and plays with
form and semiotics as well as referencing the Situationists who
developed absurd commentaries like a walk through the streets
of Paris following a map of another city.
and the New Locative Paradigm
The untapped area of great possibility
is perspective. The obvious example would be the base semiotics
of "seeing New York". The city is iconic, has great
architecture, history and mythology, but it also is quite large
and with great variance in layout, architecture, and micro communities
such as the art district, financial district, parks, boroughs
of residence, etc.
(3 different pictures
of New York)
If you drove in a cab down Broadway for
an hour in a fog and rain is that New York? If you spent
2 days in the outer boroughs and caught an art opening one
night is that New York? If you flew across the heart of
downtown in a low flying plane is that New York? If you
saw it as a grouping of lights at night near a coastline
from space or simply as the coordinates and name and all
you know and imagine of the city is that New York? Which
is most truly "New York" in the most iconic
sense? The question is the basic core of semiotic theory.
What defines the city? Is it one or the other or all of
these things? You can even discuss it in hierarchical terms;
How do you weigh specificity versus scope?
as Multiple senses of place/distance and viewing
Shifts in perspective allow a prismatic
definition of location and forms layers and tension between multiple
possible viewpoints. There are a thousand New Yorks and yet still
it is New York. This is what projects utilizing elevation and
perspective can now work with in ways currently untapped in the
The technology exists to alter data
on the ground based on individual gestures (turning, direction
change, shifts in location) the same is true for above the ground.
This allows GPS based data to trigger above locations and at different
altitudes. The shifts in scale, in semiotics, in totality and
inclusion in the sense of the amount of space accessed at once;
these are all factors to be quantified into shifts in sound, scope
of data and narrative of data/history and are ultimately as malleable
as is one’s gaze and position in a 3 dimensional space.
International Space Station and Flight Paths: Gps signal triggered
works above the Earth
The International Space Station
ISS orbits the Earth in a near-circular orbit at an average altitude
between 330 to 400 km. Traveling at a speed of 7.7 km per second,
the projection of the orbit onto the Earth’s surface ( i.e.
ground track) extends over an area containing 95% of the world’s
population, completing one orbit every 90 minutes.
As The Global Positioning System
(GPS) constellation of navigation satellites orbits the earth
at an altitude of 20000 km, the ISS altitude is concurrent with
the higher echelons of the gps signal .
This creates a fascinating possibility
for a massive paradigm shift in locative media and in art dealing
with space. The number of crossed cities on a flight path and
their variations in landscape , history ,layers of identity (architectural
, semiotic , ethnographic , historic , economic , political, etc.)
creates the possibility of "reading " multiple cities
from above. The space between then opens up the pure geography,
cartography and landscape of the earth as projects can triggers
anywhere outside of cities. These will tell of scientific data,
of changes in time, of what is and what was. Essentially any place
along the earth beneath a flight path can be a trigger point and
is lush with potential.
Variant Altitude: multiple artworks
to be created by distance and scope
The specific example of the flight
path of the international space station and all other vehicles
of flight cross specific cities, landscapes, natural landmarks,
waterways. All of these are open for works to trigger signals
up to the station as it passes. The earth can be "read"
in works in and out of cities and again both on the ground and
The potential now exists for works
to trigger at many altitudes. The concepts are applicable not
only to space stations and shuttles, but most importantly by planes
and helicopters as well. Shifts in altitude are also shifts in
perspective and scope of what is seen. Artworks
may generate different data, narratives , images and sound depending
on not only location, but relationship of distance to it.
This is an area of massive possibility.
Another amazing area of possibility
is of information triggered by flying craft crossing the flight
paths of former entities on specific missions/flights. The "ghost"
of the trajectory hangs in space as a series of plotted points
as well as an event. One can cross the former paths of the Hindenburg,
Lindbergh’s historic flight, historic balloon flights, the
fall of Skylab, below the trajectory of Apollo etc…
A new sense of Location
Location has long been seen as a specific
area, a static point in latitude and longitude and other
measure. The meaning essentially is of flat navigation,
but navigation is 3 dimensional and can include elevation,
topography and pure point of entry. Location is seen as
a stationary point, mapped and fixed. But what defines a
location, a point? If you have a functional environment,
temperature, life form , a functional shape and can be plotted
by latitude and longitude and altitude is this not a location?
This is the international space station.
This is a commercial or private plane.
A moving point.
This may seem like quite an extreme paradigm
shift, the clichéd wrenching of the gears etc, but
location is not simply a point on a map. Topography tells
us this, elevation tells us this, the adjustments of maps
after extreme earthquakes tells us this. The space station
already can be mapped on a free public site by latitude
and longitude. Planes and balloons are mapped as well. These
moving points not only cross the cities below in a patterned
arc thus creating the possibility of triggering artworks
from above, but are themselves moving locations.
The key in broadening the consideration
of location is that the concept of communication comes in the
fore in terms of GPS, signal data, distance and perspective. The
astronauts and passengers in planes can trigger artworks on the
ground from locations plotted in the GPS grid, but importantly
will also be a moving place above, the astronauts living and working
in shifts in a floating plotted place and space.
Points" is a locative media experiment for the International
Space Station in three sections
1. It aims to investigate the locative
narrative of the ISS in relation to the ground and astronauts’
relationships to a temporary place and its created community.
The use of GPS at ground level and above will allow a whole new
contextualization of position and location. The city is a shifting
confluence of shapes, boundaries, landmarks, events in time, people,
moments and semiotics. The inclusion of perspective and scale
allows a whole new area of locative media to emerge that previously
has not been tapped. The levels of data, the scope of information
and metaphors, the sense of place and its connectivity within
as well as disparate layers in form and in time ; all of these
elements will differ depending on point of reference. The works
on the ground will be traditional in the field as it so far has
established itself, the fascinating new area is in the corresponding
works triggered from above. The artist and scientist now have
a whole new list of parameters, modes, contexts and shift determination
materials to work with.
The types of data, how it is presented,
the sense of a sort of typographies of form from above the language
of cartography, GPS mapping in coordinates and of scale ) all
will allow a new list of metaphors to emerge, of data forms to
be utilized previously untouched, and of new layers of how to
structure and shift the work formed from the lives of cities in
time and the landscape and its processes that would not be possible
in the immediacy of single scale formed with land based interaction
2. The astronauts will write about
their thoughts at certain points in the mission and at other times
of tasks carried out. There already are blogs available during
flights but these have been more one way communication and not
spatial. In the floating points project, the astronauts will blog
and when it is sent it will form an icon on a rotatable 3d globe
graphic of the Earth (think: advanced Nasa Worldwind /Google Earth
Each entry will be encoded by time
and date, but also by GPS coordinates and thus will hang above
this graphic earth as an artifact of a moment of coming into being
and as an interface between cartography, geography and the inner
workings of space flight and the lives of the astronauts while
People on the ground could potentially
even leave notes in orbit, for the ISS to pass through…by
a correlation between the ground based 3D earth interface and
the GPS based locative media artwork onboard the ISS. This way
people leave small notes above their town at the altitude of the
ISS…the ISS could pick them up as it flies through them.
In time these graphics will form
an interesting pattern of when and where each astronaut completed
their thoughts in orbit. And each entry graphic will become a
floating point; each will be a floating point of text and thoughts
but encoded with latitude and longitude and altitude as though
an abstract "location."
3. Located onboard the ISS, a graphic
generating program will develop an architectural form based on
when each astronaut blogs and the variations in their language
and subject matter. The form will build laterally if there is
no interaction and comments on each others posts, becoming a solitary
spire. When there is interaction the form will continue to grow
laterally as a unified structure. A large percentage of work on
the ISS is essentially construction. This part of the floating
points projects takes that fact and questions what would be the
shape of experiential and interpersonal construction while co-habitating
in this temporary existence and place? It will be interesting
to see how the form shapes in time and if it will at times be
more of a rounded, smooth form and at others made of sharp harsh
lines and spires in times of stress.
After an astronaut’s mission,
which at present time takes 6 months, one will be able to see
graphically as which parts of the whole were formed by who and
how in a sort of lego way, they commingled structurally and interacted
as a model of communication and dialogue in a mission.
The Floating Points experiment and other projects
like it will open up a new area of possibility in terms of art
as well as a re-contextualization of what is location and how
it is to be interpreted. GPS can not only plot points on a flat
plane as is the current perceived norm, but can also do so with
a sense of depth akin to perspective. Shifts in altitude and distance
are to be a component in shifts of not only seeing, but of interpretation.
A location is not simply a spot on the ground
affixed with latitude and longitude. The GPS grid is truly a net
of plotted points affixed from far above the earth. It is 3 dimensional
as are high rise towers and mountains from a flat surface of earthen
ground. The inclusion of elevation allows the awareness of a sense
of shifts in perspective and perception of a space by how it seen,
both with naked eye and the mind’s interpretation of what
is experienced and the science of measurement and shifts in data.
We now can "read" the different faces
of cities as one pulls farther away or closer in as well as of
the landscape. Most importantly, we can do this from above. There
are the ghosts of air flights past and their history to cross
in the air and cities in shifting forms below to pass at various
altitudes as much as there are layers of history in cities and
the landscape. A location is malleable as it is seen and experienced
as many versions of itself. All plotted points are essentially
locations regardless of if they are still or in motion or at sea
level, 500 feet or 22,000 feet above. By utilizing these "floating
points" informational narrative can become a fluid, ever-shifting
entity free from the confines of rigid and fixed location on a