“plan b is the name that Sophia New and Daniel Belasco Rogers take when working collaboratively as artists. They are amongst the leading figures to engage with GPS technologies since their widespread availability over the last decade or more. Their practice is based on both walking and on data collection including, most notably, their GPS traces. Rogers has tracked every single one of his journeys for a whole decade. New has done the same since 2007. On several occasions they have exhibited an entire year’s worth of traces in one space, effectively making every action they take become public knowledge.
Such actions present ethical problems for us, as much as for the artists. The viewer becomes privy to the artist’s habits and, hence, inner life. If information about apparently innocuous activity such as walking through one’s own city can be timed, monitored and recorded by an artist, such information can easily be known by technology providers and sold to others. Those who might want to observe, redirect, restrict or control our behaviour have new ways of doing so. Most recently, plan b have engraved a whole year’s worth of GPS data onto a transparent acrylic sheet. The journeys that they routinely or repeatedly undertake are ‘dug’ out of the material in an almost archaeological manner. Their habits and ways of inhabiting the city are simultaneously made both monumental and as ghost-like traces.”
“Brian Thompson has described his work as being “topographical in nature” – concerned with how places become known, understood, named and described. He is interested in the different ways in which we measure, describe and figure the land, and how his experience of walking through a landscape can be re-imagined through sculpture.
He uses a mixture of traditional craft skills allied to new technologies. His works ask us to imagine the formation of landscapes over a long timescale and explores the two- and three-dimensional forms and shapes associated with (amongst other things) walking through a site in order to map it and to unearth its history.
Thompson’s walks, recorded through GPS tracking or tracings from maps and aerial photographs, become the ‘line’ of the walks and the starting point of the sculptures and prints. These ‘lines’ are cut usually by hand and often in wood, with each layer becoming the template for the succeeding layer. Through small increments of size the sculptures evolve, tapering downward from top to base, incorporating errors and corrections; marking layer upon layer, in geological fashion, the history of their making. Sometimes these become ‘patterns’ for fabrication in materials and colors directly relevant to the location or simply have ‘come to mind’ when he makes the walks.
The work seen here combines forms alluding to archaeological and geological understandings of place, and to the imagined objectivity provided by Ordnance Survey mapping. Thompson notes of his three-dimensional works that “the sculptures serve as diaries, records, memories, souvenirs or trophies – celebrations of experiences of particular places”.”
“Jeremy Wood describes himself as “an artist and mapmaker”, and was one of the first artists to make use of GPS technologies creatively. These technologies have allowed him to trace his daily movements and to present a personal cartography. “Most GPS receivers record your whereabouts as a track, like a dot-to-dot or a digital breadcrumb trail. When the line is viewed on its own, you have a GPS drawing”, the artist says.
‘White Horse Hill’ is a scaled cardboard representation of forty-three kilometers of GPS tracks of methodical walks over the area round White Horse Hill in Uffington, Oxfordshire. The walking was informed by the making; a forty kilometre walk at 1:1 scale was translated into forty metres of card at 1:1000 scale. There were limitations; the walk had to achieve a certain density of tracks to capture the intricacy of the terrain, and no paths were to cross.
“We cannot know where we are on the ground without first looking up at the stars. The horse from the Bronze Age was made to be seen from the heavens and with Space Age navigation the heavens are used to see where we are. We don’t know why the figure of a horse was created, for a viewpoint unachievable then. And most of us don’t know how GPS works with orbiting satellites to tell us where we are now. The Uffington White Horse was chosen as a location for its wondrous communication between the ground and the sky; a relationship it has in common with the magical properties of satellite navigation technology.” (Jeremy Wood)”
Video still. CREDIT: //www.gwenmacgregor.com/three_months_new_york_toronto.html
GPS Series – 3 months New York / Toronto
single-channel video, duration two minutes, 2004; exhibited: librairie-galerie Histoire de l’oeil, Marseilles, France; Rencontres Internationales Paris–Berlin, Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain; Theatre Babylon, Berlin, Germany, 2007; Transmedia Dundas Square, Year 01 Artist-run Centre, Toronto, 2006
THE FIRST OF THE GPS SERIES, this animation charts my movements for three months in New York and in Toronto. Each day is drawn and then partially fades to allow the day to be seen in the context of the accumulation. By leaving the page white, the identity of the locations are revealed over time. In this way the works uses walking as a creative drawing tool.
ABOUT THE GPS SERIES:
Since 2004 I have been carrying a GPS everywhere I go to record my movements. This raw data is used to create animated drawings for an ongoing series.
The film 0º00 Navigation Part I: A Journey Across England shows an obsessive and deranged journey exactly along the Greenwich Meridian.
Always seen from behind, a figure first swims out of the seawater where the meridian hits the south-coast of Britain at Peacehaven in Sussex. The solitary person emerges out of the water carrying a hand held GPS device and using this implement he proceeds to walk directly north along the 0º00’00” line of longitude. Any obstacle encountered is negotiated – fences climbed, properties crossed, buildings entered via nearest windows, streams waded, hedges crawled through. The figure gradually makes his way up through southeast Britain, through London, the Midlands and ultimately re-enters the sea at Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. The figure then slowly swims away into the North Sea heading ever further north.
In 0º00 Navigation the hypothetical, geographic construct that is the zero line of longitude is treated as if it were a real phenomenon – a path mapped out to follow. The Greenwich meridian bisects southern England because it was here that it was once fabricated out of treaties, maps and the mechanics of naval power.