As part of the POI exhibition based in the Cornerhouse Gallery in Manchester, “Obscure View” is an interactive piece with which participants can reflect on the subjective and partial nature of publically accessible satellite imagery. Google Earth has provided people with a new visual representation of their environment not previously available. On very high resolutions people, dwellings and vehicle are increasingly recognizable. Much of the U.K. is now visible to within 25cm a pixel providing a high level of detail.
But what about those places with low resolutions? Where are they, and what does it tell us about our process of mapping and our emphasis in resolution? The vast swathes of desert and oceans barely represented. The poorly populated, or just poor environments. What does it tell us about the values we place on the environment. How focused are we on the urban and western? Following research into these questions, and through software analysis, resolution data was collected.
A globe is placed onto a low table and participants can rotate the globe in directions of latitude. The globe has been altered by high-resolution geographical areas cut-out from the globe surface. These spaces allow the inside of the globe to be partially visible. Inside the globe, a camera is viewing the participants through the holes. The camera image is processed using computer software and a resulting real-time image is visible on a monitor or projection behind the globe. The monitor displays a planetary sphere suspended in cosmic space. This sphere shows the camera image on its surface – a distorted and partially visible view of the participant.
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Postcards from Nowhere
“Postcards from Nowhere” where created as a result of a city walk that took place during the Trip Psychogeography Festival in Manchester 2008. About a dozen participants began walking the streets of Manchester. The route of the walk was unexpectedly-directed by the positioning and direction of CCTV cameras that were spotted on the sides of buildings. Following the lines of sight of the cameras, the walkers followed a meandering path through the streets of Manchester. This ‘surveillance of surveillance’ drew awareness to the often overlooked culture of public observation by businesses. As the walk was taking place, I logged the position of the walkers using GPS logging software. The data was then used to create 3D visualizations or ‘islands’ of the walk taken, from which postcards were made and sent a few weeks later to the participants in the walk.
I was interested in stripping away the references to place and static objects in an environment as is typical of SATNAV and trying to produce alternative visual representations of a journey. I began to experiment with identifying time spent in locations. I was interested in the locations where a traveller would stop – would the places be significant in the memory of the traveller? How would it be possible to record this? Mapping out different walking journeys I tried to show some representation of the time spent at a location by developing a graphical image based on the route travelled and using landscape generation software to create a virtual island showing the peaks of interest in the journey – places stopped for a longer period of time. Low lying land was travelled through quickly.
The images intended to make parallels between the confines of geographical space in the city, and an island environment. As I grew up on the island of Jersey, it reminded me of both the claustrophobic sense of being trapped by a geographical location, but also the contrasting sense of safety from the sea that an island may represent to seafarers. Similarly travelling through the city can be represented by these elements of both being trapped by predetermined routes and environments or the safety of a known environment. The island metaphor follows a psycho-geographical tradition of viewing the city as an archipelago of islands of activity. The postcards also alluded to idyllic holiday experiences contrasting not only the real experience of the cityscape, but also the real with the virtual.
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The Royal Exchange Theatre was the venue for “Pedestrian Traces”, an interactive installation that explored movement and relationships between different pedestrians walking in St Anne’s square. A floor projection outside the theatre café displayed a modified real-time camera image of the square. The image records areas of movement and therefore shows the moving pedestrians devoid of their surroundings. With no static landmark objects, the viewer experiences the mass of pedestrians in a new way. The spatial distances seem to be emphasized as the walkers weave in and out of each other. A sense of narrative develops when only key elements are visible.
Charity collectors and people giving out flyers suddenly appear out of nowhere and, like predators, seek out their prey from the herd of pedestrians. A door appears out of the void and consumers stride out into the throng as the door closes and vanishes. Like seeing footsteps in freshly fallen snow, the effect of the image processed gives a heightened sense of ‘the human’ in a once familiar scene but also an amoeba-like separation of the individuals as they embark on their different paths.
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