19 December 2008

Bring Back Buck

As overthenet recently reminded us, this year is a significant one for the legacy of Buckminster Fuller, who popularised the geodesic dome and the term Spaceship Earth. A travelling retrospective exhibition resulted in a substantial feature in the November ArtForum, which also includes a piece on the Centre For Land Use Interpretation, an organisation we'll discuss on a later date.

Fuller's Axiometric contructions result in ideal architecture for admiring from the fifth facade. So, predictably perhaps, based on Wikipedia's list, here are some of Bucky's biggest extent domes:

TACOMA DOME, Washington, USA
The former SPRUCE GOOSE HANGAR, California, USA

Interesting to see another 20th C. visionary, Howard Hughes, had his Goose parked in a dome. According to a recent NZ Listener article, Chris Booth has plans to tunnel a subterranean land art project beneath the Eden Project.

Image: The Buckminster soccer ball, official ball of the FIFA Word Cup from 1970 - 2006.

17 December 2008


A few months ago photographer Frank Breuer was in New Zealand to exhibit some work and talk about his cool, typological surveys of seemingly banal subjects, such as shipping containers, warehouses and power poles. Working methodically in series, his images manage to extract an enigmatic poetry from these otherwise generic scenes.

In one of his talks he mentioned that he often explores sites in advance on google maps. Excellent! We had been looking for a good excuse to present the colossal colour-field abstracts we have long admired, stacked up in some of the world’s major freight yards. So here is ANTWERP, LOS ANGELES, LIVERPOOL, KOWLOON, TOKYO, SYDNEY, and TAURANGA.

Image: Frank Breuer, Untitled, 2005, (1578 Antwerpen)

15 December 2008

The Yellow Peril

In 1995, Claudia Bell and John Lyall wrote a book about the big sculptural things provincial towns like to put up as a kind of local signifier. The book not only became a TV documentary, but also a set of postage stamps, but darned if we can find any convincing views of one on google maps yet. A recent tip-off alerted us that Australia is also rife with Big Things so, while searching for a giant penguin in the Tasmanian town of (wait for it...) Penguin, we came across a blog entry on the Big Banana, the Yellow Submarine, and Melbourne's infamous 'YELLOW PERIL', now accomodated in a more sympathetic setting at ACCA.

BTW, we did eventually find the penguin, but only by cheating and driving around for ages using STREET VIEW. Likewise the OHAKUNE CARROT and the GORE TROUT.

Image: The Big Cheese, in Bodalla, NSW.

14 December 2008

Wild Bill in Cloudland

Painter Bill Hammond's 1989 visit to the Auckland Islands has become somewhat of an apocryphal story, which we are told resulted in the brooding bird paintings that followed. What little most of know of this forsaken place are the hallucinatory images Hammond has fed into our imaginations. It is shrouded in further mystery from the fact that Hammond, who does not do interviews, has never spoken publically of his experience there. Photographer Laurence Aberhart was on that same expedition and last year added to the legend in the Jingle Jangle Morning exhibition catalogue with the tale of a long, cold night on Enderby Island, holed up in car cases and being entertained at "Bill's Bar". To conclude the catalogue's written section, there are two nocturnal photographs by Lloyd Godman, also on that trip along with Gerda Leenards, of a possessed-looking Hammond stalking through a Rata forest - these photos are now on show in the Auckland Art Gallery's Enchanted Garden exhibition.

But what is the reality of this mythical, far-off bird-land? Even a search on google maps sheds little light, with none of these subantarctic islands yet being marked. With some guidance from a traditional atlas, the ISLANDS are easily found and, at first appearance, present a primal view of the chiselled, craggy landforms on which shipwrecked castaways have often had to survive. Wikipedia tells us the MOSTLY uninhabited islands form the southern-most edge of the submerged continent Zealandia and are formed from volcanoes, with the main strait that is the hub of the southern end being the crater of an extinct volcano.

Zooming in, the crater seems completely shrouded in shadow and cloud, until one seemingly bursts through to a CLEAR VIEW of grey, icy waters and bare hills. Up on Enderby, you can almost smell the salt air as rows of Hokusai-waves queue to crash over CRAGGY ROCKS encrusted with dribbling layers guanno. Off the west coast is the evocatively named DISAPPOINTMENT ISLAND, which sits within a blurred circle of digital void, much like the time warp which has carvedthe island's NORTH-WEST TIP into several overlapping temporal zones.

Nearby Macquarie Island is not only draped in cloud from LONG-RANGE, it is completely LOST from the map, forcing you to drive blind until you get into close-range. At its northern tip a striking HORIZON LINE is formed at the point where the map disappears back into cyberspace.

Image: Cover of F.E. Raynal's Wrecked on a Reef, a tale of shipwreck on the Auckland Islands

7 December 2008

The Fifth Facade

Last weekend saw the death of Danish architect Jørn Utzon, famous for building (and not completing) the Sydney Opera House. Today, 95bFM's Sunday Breakfast played an interview with Utzon's biographer, Richard Weston. In particular, we couldn't help being impressed with Weston's description of Utzon's awareness of the Opera House's visibility from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and that the building needed a 'fifth facade' so it would also look good from above. Nice phrase, we thought, realising we'd found a great way to refer to many of the things that Art From Space is interested in: art, architecture and landscapes that carry content in their horizontal axis as much, if not more, than the vertical axis, which is traditionally the focus of most monumental structures that have the sort of scale to be visible by satellite.

As Weston noted, the Opera House's site is remarkable, jutting into a picturesque harbour amidst boats and alongside the BRIDGE, something that is immediately evident when zooming in by satellite, even from a GREAT ALTITUDE. Zooming further in, the elegantly tiled shells of the ROOF/WALLS, all precast in concrete from the same sphere, curve in a way that defies the simple distinction of vertical and horizontal, which has long been a favourite site here on Art From Space.

Image: Sydney Opera House under construction in 1968, found here.


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.