Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Synapse posting 02

July 28, 2008

For the Synapse list I promised to write about the successes and failures of the Souvenir project. Yesterday finally I found time, and I decided to publish a summary of my text here as well.



To look at your own or to other peoples tracks

July 13, 2008

Hereby a reaction to Asta, one of the contributers to the Synapse-list and her question about the farmers engagement the project:

“Esther Polak’s farmer-tourist project is fascinating. The engagement of the farmer community is also very interesting and like Simeon pointed out I’m curious on what level they engage.”

my answer:
This is an important question: the motivation for continuing to work with GPS visualization for me lays in the fact that by designing a special visualization and context, I can evoke different kinds of interactions or engagements between people and GPS tracks. In the case of the Souvenir project the interaction is more intended to be between the local tourists and the visualization than on the farmers and their own tracks. The track we use is as said that of a crop farmer on the field, and during one week we will make rather abstract monoprints of that track, and fill the exhibition space all over. The space again becomes a landscape, in which the visitor can dwell and make his/her pick: for that reason we make a lot of prints and have them all for sale. This also has to do with the fact that this track is rather abstract, an visible in the real world as well as tractor-marks in the field, so there is not a real privacy issue for a change. (more…)

Souvenir – the landscape as a place of work

July 4, 2008

Last year I was invited by The Bewaerschole in Zeeland to do a GPS project together with Ivar van Bekkum. As we will be executing this project in July mostly, (the opening is July 27, you are ALL invited to come over!) I thought it would be interesting to post on this BLOG a regular journal of its proceedings.

The Zeeland province of the Netherlands is economically used mostly for agriculture and tourism (as it is a series of islands) and these activities determine the use of land and space and thus the landscape and its perception. The concept behind our project is to confront, or balance if you wish, these two totally different perspectives of the landscape: the tourist’s and farmer’s gaze. Each has a different relationship to the land: to give one obvious example; the farmers hope to make a living, whilst the tourists expect mostly to spend money.

So we will use this opportunity in Zeeland to do something I have wanted to do for a long time: to collect and visualize GPS data of farmers that work the fields for crops. I have been working with dairy farmers, but crop growing has a different relation to space: the plots of land being worked are really scanned rhythmically: for sowing, plowing, harvesting, different moments in the year bring different tasks and probably different machineries are being used… all resulting in use of space and land: landscape. To me working the land seems fascinating: working with the forces of nature, earth, moisture, temperature and the visual impact it has, all those straight lines, a sculptural statement almost! But also utterly boring at the same time… you really need to learn to appreciate this and I plan to do so..! Travelling a road from one destination to another, as opposed to working a plot of land, are fundamentally different concepts of mobility. This is one important aspect that fascinates me. The other thing that mattered to me was the fact that the farmers’ GPS data would provide essentially different visual imagery than the GPS data of city dwellers, or travelers. The relationship between the visual pattern and spatial concept of different kinds of mobilities is something fascinating to me.

And this brings me to a generalization: I figure the most interesting aspect of working with GPS and mapmaking is the balance between objective and subjective representation. Also empowerment. Who is empowered to give certain maps credibility, and who does the empowering. And what sets these, sometimes-unconscious, dynamics in motion. These aspects always play a role in ‘classical’ cartography as well as in locative media and/or art projects.

This was also the basis of my desire to collect the farmers’ GPS tracks. To record the mobility patterns of field work, and represent them as attractively as possible: as tourism scenery even. The exhibition space, located in one of the villages also plays a role to give the work its context: it is more likely to be visited by tourists than by farmers, and we plan to present the farmers patterns to the tourists as desirable souvenirs.

I started to talk to the farmers to invite them for collaboration, but instead of questioning me about my project, my mapmaking and the possible visual outcomes, they started rather to tell me about their own use of GPS: they explained that they use GPS themselves a lot: in order to help to make real nice straight lines in the field they use special systems, developed for farming to help to steer the machines! They even invest a lot in this, as it results in more efficient farming. Also in this farming area I heard an interesting rumor: there was a newly started farm that invested the price of a new car in a GPS system with which they can now work the fields with a precision of 2 cm! So the farmers we spoke with clearly have no problem at all working with us and sharing their GPS tracks.

In order to execute the project we did not need so much data and we have decided to work with two farmers: one farm of moderate size, a cooperation of three men, and one really small farm, run by one farmer on his own.

With the first farm we decided to record the preparing of one potato field: it was done in two days, as the work was disrupted by heavy rainfall. With the second farmer we decided to give him a GPS device for a couple of weeks as he has different plots of land, with a variety of crops, the moments he would work the fields were not so predictable, and it would be a couple of hours this day, a couple of hours that day. It was going to be easier to explain to him how to turn on the device and how to turn it off and leave it with him.

So yesterday I received the device from him – its memory was 95 % full! The visualized data was beyond my expectation. For now I will enjoy the beauty of the tracks and leave the interpretation to a later post!


July 1, 2008

When invited for the Synapse elist on Tracking Change: Contemporary Cartographies, I first thought I needed to be able to write an opening post in which I could explore the use of mapmaking as artistic tool, and its relevance for contemporary art in general and mine specifically. But I decided instead of generalizing to focus on one specific project and to be open about its development, success and maybe even failures. in order to also post illustrations in my blogs, I decided to post both in the list, and in this BLOG!

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