Where The Hell Am I

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Where The Hell Am I

or: *Where The Hell Am I?: Physical Location and Spatial Relation in Art*
Location is an integral problem (or inspiration) to all art. An installation piece, for example, is often very dependant upon its location to establish its effect. A piece of artwork hanging in a museum is contextualized by that setting, given, in this case, such things as credibility. The experience of viewing art is also changed by the location of other things relative to it---in the museum example, the other artworks hanging next to the piece. Furthermore, an artistic experience is greatly changed by our own location relative to it: we view a painting from several angles, we walk around a sculpture to take in its three-dimensional quality, we navigate through an interactive new media piece my changing the location of our mouse on the screen.

Location is fundamentally about space, but when applied to the New Media art works of this exhibit, that spatial quality can mean many things. Some artworks concern themselves with specific locations or landscapes, others do not. In some artworks, the location of the art is irrelevant or nonexistent, and the theme of location is instead physically manifest within the piece: location of elements of the piece on the screen itself, location of the elements in relation in one another or in relation to you, the world, or something else. Pieces about location raise questions like, where am I? How do I find my way?

The works of this exhibit, though diverse in their interpretation of the location theme, are connected by these ideas of spatial relevance. Furthermore, by placing them together within the location of this exhibit, I have created a new context and space by which they can be viewed, and thus created a new experience of the works themselves.
Rhizome.org refuses to allow me to alter my exhibit after I prematurely tried to save changes. Sigh. Below are descriptions for the 6 works I actually chose for my exhibit, although the one on Rhizome has several more. Here's the exhibition, though:


about: Saint Luke Drawing the VirginBy Markus Kleine-Vehn

Markus Kleine-Vehn creates an extremely interesting piece in regards to our theme. He reproduces the famous painting of the title in a new way, changing the experience of our location relative to it and thus our experience of it. In his piece the painting is displayed extremely close-up, such that it is difficult to make out any forms or gain any broader idea what the painting looks like. By changing the location of our mouse pointer over the piece, we find that overlaid on this close-up is a kind of map of the original image at a more viewable size. By clicking on segments of this map, we move the main image to that specific piece of the painting. Moving the mouse over the map also causes the segments of it to be highlighted, giving us a vague idea of the original piece, but fading too quickly for us to construct the entire thing. Through an alteration in our spatial relation to the original artwork, the artist creates something new and interesting.

Weather GaugeBy Jon Thomson

Thompson's piece's treatment of location is multifaceted. On first glance the piece seems to be entirely about location---real locations at that. We are presented with a screen full of place names. As we watch the names change, and we are instead shown real-time weather data for those locations. Soon all the names have been washed away by this data, and suddenly our locations are lost. Only by memorizing a place name before the change can we gain actual useful information and know what it applies to. Thus, a piece that seems initially very much about location loses this aspect and replaces it with ghosts; temperature readings that remind us that they represent a place in the world, but offer no clue as to what that place might be.


"THE MARS PATENT offers the MES to you as a free experimental area and invites every thing which does not fit on Earth but tends towards the MES. A thing? A real thing? Could be your idea, your object, your work, your protest, your desire..." The MARS PATENT claims to offer a location--on mars, no less--for experimentation and art beyond the earthly scope. What is interesting in our context is that the entire piece (a web-site with multiple pages, images, facts about mars, and explanatory text) is ABOUT a location, but that location does not actually exist within the piece. The piece refers to and promises something fantastic and, for all intents and purposes, practically nonexistent.


This piece explores location visually and interactively. We are presented with silhouetted nudes, black against a white background, and by dragging our mouse about the screen we can move around and distort the image. Thus we are in a way placed within the space of this location. By placing the nude figures on different layers and causing the viewer's navigation of the area to shift his view of them slightly, an illusion of three dimensional space is created out of two dimensional components. The interactivity and suggestiveness of the silhouettes draws the viewer into the piece's world.

Aerial Auto-SurveillanceBy Daniel Goodwin

Daniel Goodwin states: "As part of my most recent photographic and video installation work, I have constructed models of the homes of some members of the current Bush administration." This piece is notable in regards to the location theme because it creates a virtual representation of actual places. The images the artist worked with to create his models seem to come from Google maps or some other satellite photography source. By creating his miniature Bush family settings, he creates, as he puts it, a "frustrated attempt to invert the lens of the surveillance apparatus."

Nebula001By Russell Richards

In this piece, the artist uses simple AI code to color pixels in a way that, when viewed, appears to be the slow spread of a beautiful nebulous cloud from the center of the screen to its edges. Location becomes important visually in this piece; although there is no interaction, our eyes are bound by the nebulae's progress, our attention focused and altered by its spread. As tendrils of cloud fade into existence, the location of the art expands, and the piece changes in nature. The image itself creates associations with fantasy locations---nebulae deep within space, while in fact it is nothing more than a computer script.

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