19 May 2009

Tunnel Vision

"[Ralph] Hotere was sitting beside the train driver, staring straight ahead as the train hurtled through the landscape then vanished into the blackness of the first tunnel. Then, just as suddenly, theywere catapulted back into blinding light. Then they hit another tunnel. As the artist described this journey he closed his hand when he mentioned the darkness of the tunnel then his fist sprang open when he mentioned daylight. [...] This sporadic immersion in darkness is what makes the visible world come alive, what makes it vivid and even profound; just as the stretch of daylight is necessary for the darkness of the tunnel to work its inverse magic."

Gregory O'Brien recalls Ralph Hotere sitting up front from Dunedin to Palmerston in After Bathing at Baxter's, 2002.

All this talk in the news of potential tunnels in Auckland reminded us of the extraordinary effect created when trying to navigate through Mt Victoria TUNNEL in Wellington using Street View, a curious phenomenon brought to our attention in the comments of Public Address. It's a bit like flying through the intro sequence of Dr Who.

Art From Space has long been interested in finding ways to unfold the 2-dimensional upper surface facade of the map; to somehow burrow within the information, breaking into the matrix, if you will. So our latest addiction is spelunking through the entrances and exits of the world's subterranean roads. Starting local, here are BOTH ENDS of the Lyttelton tunnel, including Peter Beaven's iconic toll BUILDING featured in Long Live the Modern.

With a little help from Wikipedia, here is a quick tour of the world's road tunnels. With six lanes and a good collection of popular culture cameo parts, HERE is the Lincoln Tunnel, which runs under the Hudson river to connect New Jersey with Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. Le Tunnel Sous la manche, or the CHANNEL TUNNEL, has the longest underwater section but no street view yet. Unfortunately there is also no street view or enough resolution to sight the architecture and sculpture that heralds your entry into the Mont Blanc Tunnel, providing a trans-alpine route between Italy and France. At 24.5km, the longest is Norway's Lærdal Tunnel, although there is very little MAP VIEWING yet but we look forward to seeing the sequence of caves added especially to keep drivers amused and alert. One of the longest in Asia is the Hsuehshan Tunnel, which runs from HERE to HERE and has its own FM radio station. Opened in 1897, London's Blackwall Tunnel displaced more than 600 houses, including an alleged former home of Sir Walter Raleigh, and has several sharp bends, apparently included either to keep horses from bolting when they re-encountered direct light, or to avoid tunneling through black death burial grounds. Starting from BLACKWALL (where the ROOFS are impressively landscaped) it brings you out near the MILLENNIUM Dome HERE.

Speaking of tunnelling to the millennium, we would reminisce for a bit about watching Irwin (The Swarm) Allen's The Time Tunnel but a lack of age would make that a fabrication. But we are rather fond of the literary wormhole (wordhole?) Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries have created between North and South Korea. The border town of Pal-Pan Dong is presumably just an artful figment , although it is hard to tell with so little of Korea (North and South) marked on google maps. They have info on the DMZ bus tour here (it takes a while) and here, or you can cruise the BORDER yourself, noting what are presumably military installations all the way along and looking for tunnels.

Within the DMZ you will find just two villages, Daeseong-dong on the South side HERE, and the allegedly uninhabited Kijong-dong in the North HERE, with lights turning on and off but nobody home, and sporting the world's tallest flagpole. As has been reported in the LA Times, google maps has done wonders for opening up North Korea to virtual tourism - bring on the duty free.

Image: The HOLLAND TUNNEL entrance, close cousin to the Lincoln, features on the cover of Yo La Tengo's 1997 album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One.


senhas said...

It is a message for Andrew Clifford. Sorry if it is not the properly space, but I could not find other way to contact in the blog or in the website.


I am a Brazilian journalist who is looking for artistic creation webs.
I am writing an article about the benefits and changes that the www brought to the artistic contemporary panorama. In this way, I am trying to analyse if the internet is the real place where the contemporary art lost his status of superior or holly, and became a subject accessible to everyone.

Could somebody of the SOS Art talk with me about it?

If you prefer, just answer me this questions:

Is correct affirm that the internet broke borderlines and make the art a common land for everyone?

The www is an important tool to art contemporary promotion. May we say also that it is a tool of art contemporary creation?

Thank you and my best wishes

Carlos Costa (carloscost@gmail.com)

artfromspace said...

Hi Costa, those are some big questions you're asking and I will send you an email to try address them more fully. But some of these issues are quite important to the ArtFromSpace project so, in the meantime, I will provide a few thoughts here for starters.

In many ways the internet 'landscape' is a very democratic one, allowing anyone to access anything and communicate anything instantaneously. In the early days the internet seemed like a utopian place free of geographic, political or commercial boundaries, like the discovery of a new continent where people could establish a new society. But power and commerce, and those with access to those, soon take control of the terrain, drown out the smaller voices, and start carving up the territory amongst themselves to reduce what was a liberating resource into yet another commodity. And lets not forget that access to the internet and all its capabilities is far from equal in all parts of the world. (http://artfromspace.blogspot.com/2008/06/map-of-browser-uprising.html)

More specifically, google maps seems to open up the physical world to exploration from anybody's computer but it is still a highly controlled and mediated landscape. Geo-political power influences the amount of information in different territories and military or commercial interests can filter the information that is made available. Also, as a digital representation of landscape, google maps has its own distinct quirks. So this is an area with its own media-specific language and formal possibilities, rich with context, content and sub-text, and ripe for making art from.



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.