20 June 2008

Blowing in the wind

The Auckland Art Gallery's Outpost blog has just posted some great images of their George Rickey (1907-2002) Double L kinetic sculpture being put into storage for the duration of the gallery's lengthy redevelopment. Outpost also notes a couple of other editions of the same work; one outside the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, which has much better AERIAL IMAGERY (pictured) than its AUCKLAND COUNTERPART, which is essentially invisible. And also a third edition at the Pepsico Sculpture Park in New York. Strangely, although the surrounding properties have perfect resolution at the closest magnification, the GROUNDS OF PEPSICO look like they have been photoshopped with one of those watercolour-type filters. Is there a copyright issue with works of art appearing on google maps? Still, based on this record of what is at the park, we do get to play spot-the-mystery-object with all the large, dark blobs.

19 June 2008

A map of the browser uprising

It passed me by earlier this week, but apparently Firefox staged a download day as an attempt to set a Guinness Record for software downloads. The final count was more than eight million and, at time of writing, the record is being assessed by Guinness.

What is especially interesting is, if you look at the interactive map showing which countries downloaded how many copies, it provides a fascinating view of global connectivity. North Korea is amongst the few countries that rated zero. Does that mean no one is online in North Korea, or that download speeds there are so slow that this is beyond their capability, or the internet is so controlled that nobody could take part?

It is heartening to see that nearly 500 people in Myanmar managed to make the download, and even Bhutan got 55. Not surprisingly, most of Africa only made three-digit totals or less. It is strange that the OPEC nations didn't do so well, but it's possibly revealing that Iraq and Afghanistan struggled to come even close to the yet-to-be-demolished-by-the-axis-of-blunder country they flank: Iran.

I started wondering about density of countries, the economies that more populated places can support, and how that might relate to connectivity and technology uptake. Sifting the SpreadFirefox forum, I found this site that lets you sort countries alphabetically or by population, area and density - elsewhere on the site there is a map of computer language use, and google earth overlays to download too. From these figures, someone has already started analysing the Firefox download statistics. Of course, these figures can't be considered an assesment of pure connectivity. They could also be taken as an overview of where there is most resistance to Microsoft's Explorer monopoly. Perhaps North Korea are all happily downloading things at terrific rates on Internet Explorer because Bill Gates has become friendly with Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, much like google have become chummy with China?

I should acknowledge that it is quite probable my reading of the Firefox map has been influenced by Fiona Jack's Missing Peoples project, which lists the nationalities NOT included in the Merriam Webster's dictionary. The dictionary, it seems, has a conspicuous geographical blind-spot!

Image: Map of international character usage, downloaded today from World Gazetteer.

12 June 2008

Energy Fields

Yesterday I received an email at work about the falling storage in New Zealand's hydro lakes and the need to conserve power. You can check the daily status of the lakes here. I thought I'd have a look at the actual lakes...

Here is the CLYDE DAM on the Clutha River, forming Lake Dunstan. Notice the historic MINING SITE downstream towards Alexandra. This was one of several controversial hydro schemes of the era, another being the Manapouri Dam, which was stopped, perhaps partly thanks to a hugely popular protest song by John Hanlon. Check out the frosty water and wafting clouds of the SITE TODAY, which is completely shrouded if you zoom out. The most impressive is LAKE PUKAKI, with its glassy water and long SCULPTED CHUTE that rivals anything being done in the Nevada Desert.

Of particular interest now is THIS DAM, near the town of Horahora. As with many hydro projects, the harnessing of nature is at the expense of other sites that become flooded, washing away local histories. The story of Horahora has now been retold through Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena's 2007 project, Aniwaniwa, which recalls the flooding of the Horahora power station where Graham's grandfather worked. The exhibition catalogue has some great images, including the one above, of the power station's last stand.

So I started looking for other large power-generating land installations. There's a lot of solar activity going on in the Mojave Desert. Solar One and Solar Two make for good MAP VIEWING. There's something intriguing about looking from a satellite at what are essentially mirrors but are absorbing and storing the light that is essential to looking (note to self: re-visit Robert Smithson's writings). Lots of good IRRIGATION CIRCLES just to the east too. Someone has just pointed out to me how much they resemble Graham's Tangaroa sculpture, named after the Maori god of the sea. And there's no escaping the resemblence of HALF-CIRCLE irrigation fields to Gretchen Albrecht's lunette paintings.

The PS10 project in Spain (pictured) has a particularly sculptural look, but unfortunately ISN'T VISIBLE on google maps just yet. This BBC report gives a full rundown on how the tower works and I can't wait to see how it looks from above with the jets of light and surrounding "aura". Also yet to be added to the GOOGLE MAP is Nellis Solar Power Plant, the largest of its kind in North America. Nellis is part of the Nellis Air Force Base on the outskirts of Las Vegas and has all kinds of INTERESTING CONFIGURATIONS of military HARDWARE SITTING AROUND.

Images: Brett Graham and Rachael Rakena, Aniwaniwa (still), 2007; Horahora Power Station being flooded as villagers look on, 1947; PS10 tower power plant, Sanlúcar la Mayor, Spain.

11 June 2008

Battle of the Triffids

Currently on show at Te Tuhi, Pakuranga is Land Wars, an ambitious multi-platform exhibition curated by Emma Bugden, which looks at the ways land is contested in our present age. John Hurrell has reviewed the show on his eyeCONTACT blog.

Amongst the usual contemporary range of documented sites and actions, relational projects and moving image footage, there is a set of intentionally old-fashioned looking paintings by Michael Shepherd. Michael is the master of artificial aging and could probably paint a convincing looking plasma screen and still have it look like it was made 50 years ago. He was also acknowledged with a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MoNZOM?) for services to art in the latest Queen's Birthday honours list.

I was particularly taken by the wall-label description of his work in Land Wars, which proposes an interesting analogy between the serried ranks of garden centre products and fascist processions:

[...] The three works exhibited here consider changes to the natural wilderness through human intervention. In this, Shepherd includes destruction through development of land but also well intentioned acts of cultivation which unwittingly have an impact on reshaping nature.

The painting Versailles refers to perhaps the most famous garden in the world, the Château de Versailles, described by the artist as the “ultimate constructed landscape”. In Shepherd’s version the formal garden of Versailles is replaced by the Oratia Native Nurseries in the Waitakeres, where native seedlings are laid out waiting to be purchased and planted, a precise and somewhat unnatural arrangement which the artist has likened to a “Nuremberg rally for plants”. [...]

Here, for your own consideration, are the battlegrounds of ORATIA and VERSAILLES.

Image: Michael Shepherd, Versailles 2007/8. Oil on linen. Courtesy of Jane Sanders, Auckland

9 June 2008

Sculpture parking

A recent post on overthenet had me wondering about just how impressive sculpture parks might look by satellite. There's a bunch of them around and they're specifically set up for big outdoor work.

Here's Vigeland Park, as recommended by overthenet. An impressive setting but not much to be SEEN FROM ABOVE.

There are two public parks just out of Auckland. Connell's Bay on Waiheke Island; the YELLOW SPECK ON THE RIGHT of the path going north from the bay is probably the Phil Price piece gyrating away. And Brick Bay Sculpture Trail near Matakana, with an impressive piece of land work that can be SEEN FROM A LONG WAY UP. No sign of the pavilion on the lake so the current map must pre-date the official opening of the trail. Not to forget Alan Gibbs' estate on the Kaipara Harbour, which is unfortunately (suspiciously?) OUT OF FOCUS.

The Cass Sculpture Foundation near Goodwood, UK is the model for Brick Bay, but not much that's recognisable to be SEEN FROM ABOVE except the roof of Alex Hartley's Pavilion.

Finally, here's the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. Nice to SEE SOME MODERNIST BOXES out in the desert.

6 June 2008

Break on through to the other side

I've been thinking a lot about how I'm using google maps as a ready-made material for curating (art-making?), and therefore wondering about the materiality of this resource. How to consider the surface and is there a way to punch through it; to rupture the material? More on that later, but here's a strange IMAGE-HOLE I've found just off the coast of San Diego. Kind of like a portal of some sort.

Burning up years

Hard to tell what we're looking at in this strange LIBYAN LANDSCAPE I chanced upon yesterday while admiring the incredible desert patterns just to the east of here. Presumably it's got something to do with oil production as I've just noticed a burn-off happening just over HERE. All very impressive when you realise the scale of these images. A view of the ENTIRE INSTALLATION is comparable to the same magnification required for a view covering the width of New Zealand's NORTH ISLAND.


Art from Space is an exploration of art-related phenomena that manifests in interesting ways on Google’s aerial maps. It is also an experiment in curatorial practice; collecting, presenting and contextualising items in ways that users can explore, free of curator-imposed framing and sequencing. This blog is Art from Space’s developmental musings made public, where items are introduced to the project in real time, rather than awaiting the grand unveiling of a completed exhibition. Specific locations of interest are highlighted in CAPS and linked to a map for further exploration. Visit the mother ship HERE.