Tag Archives: Surrealists

Street View and Beyond: Google’s Influence on Photography

When Google Street View started as an experiment in 2007, the company sent SUVs equipped with cameras, GPS and lasers to collect its first pictures. The idea of capturing images of the entire world from the perspective of the street was revolutionary, if not a little insane. Now, five years later, Google has recorded 360-degree photographs of streets in more than 3,000 cities in 43 countries around the world. Google Street View cars—along with snowmobiles, giant tricycles and Trekkers–have covered more than five million unique miles of road since the project began, making tens of millions of still images in even the most far off places on the map, such as Antarctica.

The massive and growing archive has spawned a virtual world of images like we’ve never seen before in the history of photography—and its accessibility has inspired a new generation of photographers who are using the tool to document the world while simultaneously redefining the boundaries, quite literally, of contemporary art photography.

While critics bemoan the trend of artists using Google imagery in their works, the artistic appropriation of photos is as old as photography itself, employed by everyone from the Surrealists to the post-modern Pictures Generation of the late 1970s.  Google’s Street View images aren’t a commentary on the world, but are surveillance photos taken for the practical purposes of just showing us places we may not be able to visit. The machines and cameras used to collect them have no discretion, much less artistic influence. Through meticulous research, framing, grabbing and reformatting, photographers themselves are assigning photos artistic value, in much the same way they do when  shooting, toning or retouching a raw file or an analogue negative. “In its raw form, satellite imagery can be quite dull,” says Mishka Henner, an artist who often works with Google’s images. “Cropping, adjusting, and forming a body of work out of them completely transforms these images into something that can be beautiful, terrifying and also insightful. If the internet remains free and open, I’m confident that in ten years photographic work like this will be as prevalent as imagery produced by hand-held cameras.”

Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images

The Google street view mapping and camera car is seen as it charts the streets of Washington, DC, on June 7, 2011.

At this point, all the Street View images are created by a human-operated Google cars with a spherical camera affixed to the top. The device looks like an all-seeing eye that has nine directional cameras for 360° views at a height of about 2.5 meters. The new high-resolution replica of the world that Google provides is every voyeur’s dream—one can virtually visit an endless variety of places from the comforts of one’s own home.

In the catalogue to the show Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera since 1870, editor and curator Sandra Phillips compared the biblical story about elders spying on Susannah to present day, saying: “Today, however they would use cell phones to grab a picture of a young woman in a compromised position and send it to friends, having located her garden through Google Earth. Human hunger for seeing the forbidden has not changed. The technologies to facilitate it have.”

And she’s right—this technology has been adapted quickly by artists and devoured by the art world. Doug Rickard used Google Street View to see the back roads of the nation in a series called A New American Picture, which was featured at New York City’s MoMA last year and is currently on view at Yossi Milo Gallery. Geoff Dyer wrote extensively in the Guardian about Rickard, saying: “Any doubts as to the artistic – rather than ethical or conceptual – merits of this new way of working were definitively settled by Rickard’s pictures. It was William Eggleston who coined the phrase “photographing democratically” but Rickard has used Google’s indiscriminate omniscience to radically extend this enterprise – technologically, politically and aesthetically.”

Rickard says he probably made 10,000 images of this work before narrowing the selection down to just under 80 images. “The only difference [between this work and traditional street photography] is that the world’s frozen, so you’re limited to that surrounding,” he says. “You’ve got a fixed lens and your distance is determined by the width of the street, not where you walk. But there’s a lot in kinship with traditional photography that was really partly responsible for me being able to embed 1,000 hours into this in four years.”

Jon Rafman’s project 9-Eyes captures uncanny images of reality and provides a case study on the unrelentingly objective aesthetic that comes from Google Street View. ”The potential sentimentality of these photographs is counteracted by the manner in which they were captured,” he says. “There is a tension between the indifferent robotic camera, and the human gaze that sees meaning and interprets narratives in these images. That tension is the essence of the project. People often say that technology is changing our perception of the world, changing our perception of reality, but I think that the inverse is also occurring—a technology becomes successful because it taps into something fundamental about contemporary consciousness, it expresses how we are already experiencing the world.”

Some artists, however, are looking at another aspect unique to the use of Google imagery. Clement Valla, through his project, Postcards from Google Earth, is finding the glitches and bugs unintentionally captured by Google Earth’s lens and documenting them to comment on the mistakes resulting from technology’s limitations. “Because Google Earth is continuously updating, there’s kind of no archive of these particular moments or situations,” he says. “So I thought it would be interesting to take them and print them as postcards.”

The prevalence of Google’s imagery and technology is already permeating the aesthetic of more traditional photography and even artists working in myriad disciplines from sculpture to street art. Manuel Vazquez still begins his process with taking his own pictures but later intergrates the aesthetic of surveillance imagery and Google Street View, as seen is his project Lonely Crowd, which incorporated the pixelated nature of digital works to convey the physical and emotional distances between strangers in a crowd. “The web has changed the way we access and read the city, through technologies that have shortened and broken the boundaries of space and time,” he says. “It is like a walk with no specific destination, affecting time, space and perspective with every click. There is not a linearity of past-present-future. It feels like a continuous flow of information that is updated.”

Fake Google Streetview car urban invention by artist group F.A.T. Lab, February 2010 at Transmediale 2010, Berlin. Image courtesy of Aram Bartholl.

Fake Google Street View car urban invention by artist group F.A.T. Lab, February 2010 at Transmediale 2010, Berlin

Interdisciplinary artist Aram Bartholl, meanwhile, has used Google imagery as the inspiration for some of his work but hardly produces only photography. Bartholl creates sculptural objects that represent virtual objects such as the red map marker icon found on Google Maps. “Services like Google Maps change the way we perceive the city,” he says. “I remember once I had a parcel service on the phone claiming my address didn’t exist because it couldn’t be found on Google Maps.” His works, which have been shown at Rencontres d’Arles, among other festivals, aim to explore how technology imitates reality and vice versa. “The map marker icon is just a 20 pixel interface on the screen, but when you switch to satellite mode and then zoom in more, it looks like it becomes part of the actual picture, casting a shadow on the city,” he says.

Despite the growing number of photographers who use Google in their works, it remains unclear how this technology will influence our perspective in photography—and perceptions of spatial reality—outside the virtual world.

In the meantime, we’d love to continue the conversation and hear your thoughts about how other artists are using Google Street View and Google Earth in the comments section below.

Paul Moakley is the Deputy Photo Editor at TIME. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulmoakley.

Reporting and interviews by Zara Katz, TIME photo intern and graduate student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. You can follow her on on Twitter @zarakatz.

Eugène Atget’s ‘Documents Pour Artistes’

Outside his studio in 19th-century Paris hung a sign that declared “documents pour artistes”—documents for artists—a statement that captured the modest intent of Eugène Atget. His legacy, the result of a career that spanned more than 30 years and nearly 8,500 photographs, is one of relentless curiosity, devout investigation and masterful craftsmanship. Drawing from its expansive collection of Atget’s work, the Museum of Modern Art in New York will present a selection of more than 100 images from Feb. 3 through April 9, as an exhibition titled with inspiration from the artist himself: Documents Pour Artistes.

The exhibition, which is divided into six sections, examines the various subjects the artist approached during his life. Atget is primarily known for his images of the streets of Paris, romantic landscapes and images of storefronts (which inspired Surrealists such as Man Ray and Tristan Tsara, although Atget denied any ties to the movement)—but, in this show, MoMA includes a refreshing display of his rare photographs of people, which are equal in their formal rigor and topographical, objective approach.

Atget’s approach is paradoxically both intimate and anonymous; despite having photographed seemingly every inch of the streets of Paris, from whole buildings to window displays, Atget never photographed the Eiffel Tower. His sense of dedication to detail, found in his street photographs, extends into his images from the abandoned Parc de Sceaux, from March and June of 1925. During this time, Atget took vast images of the serene landscapes, all while taking dutiful notes of times of day of the photographs, revealing his highly proximate relationship with documentation.

Drawing inspiration from Atget’s vision of objectivity for his photographs, it is perhaps best for viewers to develop a more personal relationship with his work, undistracted by the perceptions of the outside world. The scenes captured in Atget’s images cannot be adequately illustrated with words—luckily for us, he took pictures instead.

Documents Pour Artistes is on display from Feb. 3 through April 9 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Ruth Van Beek’s Hibernators

In the early 20th century, around the time cars filled our streets, planes found their way into our skies and cameras began to capture our daily life, we started to see space being cut up and transformed in art works. Inextricably linked to this rise of modern technology, collage art took on a new role. While once strictly fantastical, now collage could be utilized to visually pull together reality-based images of day-to-day life. In keeping with the fast pace of 20th-century life, multiple ideas could now exist within one frame.

This new way of creating photo collages took many forms in the past hundred years—seen most distinctly in the works of the Surrealists in the 1920s and the pop artists in the 1960s. Today’s generation of photo collage artists use everything from found images on the Internet and historical reportage to references appropriated from mass global media. Dutch artist Ruth van Beek’s newest book and installment of photo collages, Hibernators, represents this new direction of collage art.

Van Beek uses found photographs, amateur family photographs, newspaper clippings and magazine tears in her work, in which she tries to create something that never existed before. “I try to make the animals come to life again by cutting and folding the paper,” she says. “I restrain them in a new shape. This way I turn them into creatures that are silent like stones, but are also showing a tension.”

Van Beek’s work represents a more controlled, more intimate breed of collage work. Hibernators cuts and folds common domestic pets and animals into creatures that exist somewhere between photography and collage. Through van Beek’s handy work, the facial features of the animals are often removed—further abstracting them from a sense of space. With the loss of distinguishing features, the altered animals begin to take on new identities.

The Hibernators was published this month by RVB books.

Ruth van Beek graduated from the renowned Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 2002. She has shown her collage work both in her native Netherlands, as well as throughout Europe and North America.

Thomas Demand for the opening exhibition of Villa Paloma

paloma

The Nouveau Musée National de Monaco entrusts German artist Thomas Demand with a role of guest curator for the opening exhibition of Villa Paloma. send out cards . customer service portal . oklahoma foundation repair . The NMNM is now a whole, with two Villas, Villa Sauber and Villa Paloma.

“Monaco! Surrealism! Nature? There’s not much nature to be seen, even though the whole country of Monaco sits on a rough rock riddled by caves that were inhabited by homini grimaldi even before anyone painted animals on the walls in Lascaux. There are traffic islands, well-tended hydrocultures, and small parks, but there is nothing here that could cater to my inborn Teutonic yearning for the wild. However, there is a lifestyle that would have appealed to the Surrealists (and, in fact, did): fabulous botanical gardens, which provided the basis for the image for the show’s invitation card, and, next to the Villa Paloma, an almost vacant anthropological museum that gave us the showcase for Chris Garofalo’s porcelain models. So, I thought to myself, if there is any talk of nature here, it has to be of domesticated nature †that is, potted plants, gardens, theme parks and models of wild growth. Transformations, every kind of presentation, interpretation and, finally, symbolic representation.” It’s in these words that Thomas Demand introduces his text in the catalogue of the exhibition, explaining why he agreed to get involved in the adventure.

Thomas Demand

The concept of the exhibition refers to Magritte’s short-lived magazine, “La Carte d’après Nature”. From 1952 on, and for only fourteen issues, he encompasses poetry, illustrations, short stories and other contributions, and sends them out as postcards. In a similar way, the artist Thomas Demand has selected artworks for the exhibition, which are interconnected in a poetic, associative and elegant manner from artists who all have their lines of thinking about Nature and her representations.

luigi-ghirri Luigi Ghirri

Two ideas dictated the combination of the works by the selected artists: forms of a tamed nature and the abrupt dialect of Surrealism fashioned by Magritte, which subsequently became a source of inspiration. Just as Magritte himself always related works to virulent ideas of diverse origins, works of a wider generational span have been included in Demand’s selection which includes amongst others Kudjoe Affutu, Saâdane Afif, Becky Beasley, Martin Boyce, Tacita Dean, Thomas Demand, Chris Garofalo, Luigi Ghirri, Leon Gimpel, Rodney Graham, Henrik HÃ¥kansson, Anne Holtrop, August Kotzsch, René Magritte, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Jan and Joël Martel and Ger Van Elk.

This exhibition is organised with the support of the Ren̩ Magritte Foundation РBrussels.

It is accompanied by a catalogue in English and French published by MACK with a complete photographic documentation, essays by Thomas Demand, Christy Lange, Tacita Dean, Rodney Graham, Luigi Ghirri and René Magritte.

* La carte d’après nature, based on an original concept by René Magritte (1952)- © Charly Herscovici †Bruxelles

Practical information
Nouveau Musée National de Monaco †Villa Paloma
56 boulevard du Jardin Exotique
MC †98000 Principality of Monaco
+377 98 98 19 62
www.nmnm.mc

Graphic Intersections & The Portrait As Allegory at the Umbrage Gallery

THE EXPOSURE PROJECT & UMBRAGE EDITIONS PRESENT:
Graphic Intersections and The Portrait As Allegory
Curated by Ben Alper & Anastasia Cazabon


© Grant Willing

Graphic Intersections & The Portrait As Allegory
May 4th – June 26th, 2010
Opening Reception: Thursday, May 6th, 6 – 8pm

Umbrage Gallery
111 Front Street, Suite 208
DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Graphic Intersections is a collaborative project loosely based on the old Surrealist and Dadaist game The Exquisite Corpse. Designed to unite disparate artists in an interconnected photographic relay of images inspired by one another, or as the Surrealists put it, to exploit “the mystique of accident”, this project strives to emphasize a system of response entirely rooted in unmediated visual reaction.

This exhibition includes photographs by Ben Alper, Anastasia Cazabon, Thomas Damgaard, Scott Eiden, Grant Ernhart, Jon Feinstein, Elizabeth Fleming, Alan George, Hee Jin Kang, Drew Kelly, Michael Marcelle, Chris Mottalini, Ed Panar, Bradley Peters, Cara Phillips, Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, Irina Rozovsky, Brea Souders, Jane Tam and Grant Willing.


© Susan Worsham

The Portrait As Allegory is an exhibition that examines the work of three artists who utilize the figure metaphorically in service of a broader discourse on the human experience. In addition to exploring the personal identities of their subjects, these portraits simultaneously become vehicles which speak to a variety of social, historical, and familial histories.

This exhibition includes photographs by Timothy Briner, Birthe Piontek and Susan Worsham.

To see more from Graphic Intersections, please visit our website. We hope to see you at the opening in May!

Graphic Intersections & The Portrait As Allegory at the Umbrage Gallery

THE EXPOSURE PROJECT & UMBRAGE EDITIONS PRESENT:
Graphic Intersections and The Portrait As Allegory
Curated by Ben Alper & Anastasia Cazabon


© Grant Willing

Graphic Intersections & The Portrait As Allegory
May 4th – June 26th, 2010
Opening Reception: Thursday, May 6th, 6 – 8pm

Umbrage Gallery
111 Front Street, Suite 208
DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Graphic Intersections is a collaborative project loosely based on the old Surrealist and Dadaist game The Exquisite Corpse. Designed to unite disparate artists in an interconnected photographic relay of images inspired by one another, or as the Surrealists put it, to exploit “the mystique of accident”, this project strives to emphasize a system of response entirely rooted in unmediated visual reaction.

This exhibition includes photographs by Ben Alper, Anastasia Cazabon, Thomas Damgaard, Scott Eiden, Grant Ernhart, Jon Feinstein, Elizabeth Fleming, Alan George, Hee Jin Kang, Drew Kelly, Michael Marcelle, Chris Mottalini, Ed Panar, Bradley Peters, Cara Phillips, Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, Irina Rozovsky, Brea Souders, Jane Tam and Grant Willing.


© Susan Worsham

The Portrait As Allegory is an exhibition that examines the work of three artists who utilize the figure metaphorically in service of a broader discourse on the human experience. In addition to exploring the personal identities of their subjects, these portraits simultaneously become vehicles which speak to a variety of social, historical, and familial histories.

This exhibition includes photographs by Timothy Briner, Birthe Piontek and Susan Worsham.

To see more from Graphic Intersections, please visit our website. We hope to see you at the opening in May!