it says, "animation exercise in personal mapping: florence, brussels, chicago, new york." I think it's quite lovely.
an apparent rockclimber usernamed cmayda has some fun with a video editing program, some country music, and a trip through the intermontane region (between the Rockies and the Sierras. A terrific use of software and stuff for geographic purposes.
There's also this less entirely successful (but vastly more ambitious) video, called "Geography as Art: The Course of Empire," about landscape art as tracing the philosophical course to empire in the US. The research that must have gone into this is phenomenal. But the "Star Wars" theme and quotes were very cheesy, and the music, overall, not so great. The images really spoke for themselves and didn't need the overly simplistic context they were given. Nevertheless, a very cool project and multiple hand claps for effort.
don't the Germans know that size doesn't matter?
I've found another world's largest model train landscape (presumably using different criteria), this time at the EFA auto museum in Chiemgau, Bavaria.
This one is a classic model train landscape, though, only interesting to me in how depressingly industrial it is. I wonder if there are little capitalists with top hats, and anarchists with bombs, running around the landscape. Maybe that would be too literal.
A model railway landscape featuring scenes from a variety of films (including "Bad Lieutenant", "And God Created Woman", and "Sid and Nancy"), bears two trains, each carrying a gameboy which is remotely operable by cellphone. The viewer selects a character from the scene depicted in the landscape when the train goes by it, thereby "picking up" that character. The gameboy then displays a CG animation of a new scene between characters from different movies, cobbled together from dialogue from their disparate films. The viewer can listen in to the conversation via cellphone, while phoneless viewers hear it on speaker.
I detest one-liner art and prefer density, so the description fascinated me. Equally fascinating were the decidedly negative reviews of "Train" that led me to the work in the first place. The one from Art Forum actually blames Klima for not fulfilling the expectations of his press release. Given that I haven't seen the work in the flesh, and may never do so, I'll have to withhold judgment, perhaps forever. But, always giving artists who layer the benefit of the doubt, I went to Klima's website.
Such a reward for the map geek! If we're speaking of body as landscape, here's a 2003 piece called "Terrain", which uses the projected image of a woman's naked body to create a light-responsive terrain.
"A large matrix of 225 electro-mechanical actuators conform a projection surface to match a 3d image/dataset in real-time. Using only light, the "terrain machine" surface reacts instantly to the light and shadow projected upon it. Viewers can "insert" themselves into the datastream, casting shadows on the input matrix, directly manipulating the surface, in real-time."
The website has a video, which demonstrates better than words or stills how the piece works. It's simple when you approach it, but lets you spin out multiple implications (not least, how the terrain retracts at the touch of a stranger, the female figure becoming by turns brazen and shy, curious and modest.) Lovely.
Perhaps more essential to his practice so far is his 2001 piece, "EARTH" (image at top), which digitally projects a variety of data about terrain and topography onto screen or rounded object, and permits a viewer with a tracking ball to rotate the terrain and remotely drill down data for desired locations. Sound familiar? Yes, this is the pre-Google-Maps-Hacks version: more difficult and much prettier.
Building on the "EARTH" project, Klima has produced "EARTH: Discrete Terrains":
"Based on the EARTH dataset, individual terrain sections are printed with the 3d Systems solid object printer. These rapid prototyping prints then become the molds for archival plaster casts. The casts then become a projection surface for digital data from the specific locations. Using only a single 35mm slide projector, "Discrete Terrains" are the absolute simplest technological reduction of the "EARTH" and "Terrain Machine" projects."
He has also used the data to create specific local terrains that relate to politics and emotions, such as in his project "EARTH: Political Landscape, Emotional Terrain". But his applications of "EARTH" data in artwork seem to peter out around 2004.
I looked for artist statements and project descriptions on his very usable website, but couldn't find anything satisfactory, so I got the following brief email interview yesterday.
How does google maps (and its world) differ from EARTH and the various applications you've been creating around it? (In terms of aesthetics, purpose, proposed viewer experience, tech, etc.) I guess i'm partly asking how one being "art" and the other being "utilitarian" makes them different. Do you think the ubiquity of GIS apps has pushed the EARTH pieces more into the realm of art (and away from novelty or utility)?
I'd insist they are art from the beginning, and needed no additional pushing ;)
First off, EARTH and its offshoots have no utility. You can't "look up" a location, you have to know where it is ahead of time. There are no place names until you zoom all the way down to the terrain level, and these place names are only locations of weather stations, mostly at airports. There are no national borders, or any other features normally found on maps.
Second, EARTH is an exploration into the aesthetics of mapping, digitally, in three dimensions. It is also an exploration into the errors and limits of that mapping. I display the data in a natural state, I do not correct projection discrepancies, I don't make clean seams between the data patches, I don't do a fake "morph" or "blend" when traveling through layers, as Google Earth and the Hummer adverts on TV do. If you know what to look for, you can see just the exact moment they "fake" the transition. It is essentially an artifact of a viewpoint switching from a global overhead viewpoint into a "driver's seat" cruise over the surface view, as well as resolution differences in the available data.
Third, the imagery and how it is presented is entirely created by me, from the raw data. It is my parsing of the data, my choice of color, resolution, etc. I made lots of artistic decisions about how EARTH finally appears, and those decisions were based not on utility, or on mapping convention, or any other such thing. It is all simply "how I wanted it to look."
What things like GIS and Google Earth do, however, is make it clearer to people that my EARTH is indeed a different kind of thing all together. At the time I first showed EARTH, there was nuthin else like it, so people perhaps assumed it was less art, more map. But now that we do have utilitarian "earths" it becomes easier to view my EARTH from the perspective of art.
Have you abandoned EARTH or do you plan to push it forward?
I am proud to have made it long before Google, but I see no reason at this point to continue with it. I've said what I wanted to say with it. Though who knows, maybe it will come back in some way.
I'm loving the TRAIN piece since I have a bee in my bonnet about model railways right now. I'm wondering why you decided to pack it so densely (the model railway landscape issue, the gameboy, the film references, the cell phone). I have some ideas myself but I wanted to hear your thinking. Also, how did you choose the scenes and characters? Are they personal landmarks, or do they map to some sort of larger narrative or progression?
TRAIN comes from a lot of different urges. First, I just felt like there was a compelling and evocative connection between a railroad, a cellphone, and a gameboy. And of course historically these technologies share a common parentage.
Second, there is great pressure for new media artists to make work that is easy for the audience to comprehend, easy to display, doesn't require the audience to, Jah forbid, touch the work etc. The "problem" with my work is that it is NONE of those things. It is complex, some would say baroque, it is difficult for the viewer to see their agency in the work, something that often pisses them off. They dont get how it works, therefore it must be bad. I don't give a damn if large portions of the audience dont get how it works, its not my job to appease them. It is not a shopping website, I could care less about usability. So, this bad attitude I have creates a situation where sometimes I have to view the work as a "hobby" because it is damn hard to make a living making interactive work that pisses people off because it's hard to use. Oddly, TRAIN was actually sold for a handsome figure to a museum in Spain, so I feel somehow vindicated.
The characters are all marginal individuals. I see a bit of them all in myself. The general film themes were chosen largely by the model figures available. I went to a train store in Germany, and bought all the freakiest figures I could find. Drunks, punks, prostitutes, artists, cops, medical technicians, nudists, protestors. I then started thinking about films that have these characters in them, and selected the films that resonated most with me. The scenes were chosen based on both what is expressable within the landscape of a model railroad, and the significance of each scene in the film in question. I played with the scenes a lot, blending some together, adding elements to the scene and taking elements away from its original filmic rendition. There is a general progression on the layout as the train travels, from artist/nudist to protester/cop to punk/drunk to emt/prostitute. These are the basic character decisions the viewer makes, in more or less that order (the layout is branching and looping, so it is not always that exact progression).
And what are you working on now?
Well, funny you ask. I am basically performing sex change operations on gundam models and making my own universe of all female gundam super-heroes, essentially a combat force of dominatrix gundams, a.k.a. domdams. I will then use them to make scenes and build a narrative that will also have a strong digital component in the way of a fairly straightforward computer game aesthetic.
I have also spent a great deal of time inventing a procedural human animation system I will use for a variety of pieces, including the domdam work, as well as a piece I am working on with another artist, France Cadet. We are making a virtual/real robot circus with her as the ringmaster. We think its gonna be really fun and funny. It's also a great excuse to travel to Aix-en-Provence frequently ;)
i know I appear to be utterly Berlin-obsessed (and I am, but not utterly), but this item I'm posting because it's advertised as the biggest model train landscape in the world! It just happens to be of Berlin.
The company is called X Loxx: Miniatur Welten Berlin, and there's no further explanation on the site for the name of the company, or why in particular they decided to build miniature Berlin scenes (oh yes, even they haven't managed the whole city ... yet) in a model railroad. There's no theory here, just art (as in "artifice".) As far as I can tell, the thing opened in 2004, but again, there's no information on the site so there's no way of knowing.
It's interesting to see the choices they made of Berlin scenes, since the represented 'scapes are, naturally, the most tourist-frequented. It's like a guided tour of Berlin, without all that boring driving.
Being Germans, their concept of necessary website information is different from ours, so they provided this map of the layout of their railway (which you won't need unless you go to see it, at which point they could just hand you a hardcopy ... well, maybe it would be of use to model train builders wanting to duplicate the effort? ... naw, it's just pointless.) But this map is fun to compare to the real transit map of Berlin, right below it.
I'm feeling at the mo' that it might be a stretch to call this landscape "art"---just as it might be a stretch to call Madame Tussaud's figure of Michael Jackson "sculpture"---but, on the other hand, model train landscapes, like painting and sculpture, are both representational and fantastical---and they are so at the desire of their designers.
Have a look at this how-to page for designing a model train landscape.
Just how the landscape on your layout should go is up to you. It doesn't really matter what shape it takes or what colours you decide to use. The realism of the scene will depend entirely on how close to the real thing that you plan your landscape. You can plan to have all flat scenery with bright unrealistic grass colours and have a trainset-like appearance which is produced quickly with little effort on your part or you can study the landscape in the area corresponding to your favourite prototype (whatever it may be) so as to see the type of contours and colours which occur in your chosen area. If you copy these, not necessarily exactly but in a general way, and if you make appropriate use of building trees, shrubs, fences, etc of the correct types to suit the area, then your layout will appear much more realistic.
Does adherence to realism kill the art? Never mind, 'cause there's a whole world here I didn't know about. I might come back to the model trains later.
Much of the American self-identity [sic] has been informed by its perceived relationship with the landscape. From the beginning, representations of the West have always been a type of sales pitch: a dream to believe in, a commodity to be sold on – an advertisement for an idea. The attraction to these untouched lands lay in the fact that most humans were never meant to see them, much less inhabit them. The idea was the promise of conquest, of asserting our will over places so inhospitable nothing there dared exist.
Scattered throughout the West are numerous sites where the chance still remains to experience those grand vistas the way they existed before our arrival. However, when an individual considers the banal infrastructure created to appreciate those vistas, they’re confronted with a markedly different experience: the illusion is exposed– the only unspoiled view is the one created for our entertainment. An opportunity to behold the bleached bones of Manifest Destiny fulfilled.
It's amazing to me that this photographer makes a point in his work that he himself seems to miss, if you take his statement to be all he understands consciously. You can see the infrastructure as "spoiling the view", as "bleached bones" of Ozymandias, or whatever ... evidence of hubris, etc.
But through these photos you can also see that "the view" doesn't exist without the infrastructure. The "bleached bones" are also simply picture frames, dropped there, originally, in the early twentieth century (remember the teddy bear's namesake?) through roads and campsites, and refined throughout the following decades by the develoment of "tourist infrastructure".
These pictures are worth a thousand words of art criticism about why even today most landscape photography and painting is so clichéd, so stuck on forms and views that have been rehashed a million times over; why tourists' photographs are so easily identified as such, why people choose the pictures they do when they're on vacation.
The tourist infrastructure is a didactic tool in a way unforeseen (except perhaps, by its literal architects): it has taught us how to see our landscape and also trapped us in the lesson. We can't escape this mediated view; we're not allowed to leave the road, and it's dangerous to stop anywhere but in designated viewing pull-offs. At the same moment in history that we are waking up to our impact on the environment---at the moment that our understanding is reaching the twentieth century (for us to reach the twenty-first century, we'd have to move to Scandinavia)---our vision of our land is still firmly mired in the nineteenth.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but how can we avoid delusions of grandeur of our role in the world, when our view of our nation's corpus is only a stand-back view of its grandeur? There are lizards and scorpions in those deserts, mud and mosquitos in those forests, but we never get anywhere near them. The view is clean and distant, and we are too obese and out of shape to hike. So those of us who do go abroad see landscapes of other nations differently, without the frames and swelling music and air conditioning, and assume that no one is as grand and beautiful as we.
well, I can't do a landscape art theme without talking about my lovely cousin, Michael Light, whose work has been an amazing tutor to me in how to view---and write---landscape.
Michael's work is intended to be viewed bound in books, primarily, not as prints, although he exhibits prints as well. (Forgive the poor quality of the photos here. The one above is 36" x 45" in the book and 40" x 50" as a print. Naturally, all the detail is lost in these thumbnails. There aren't a great many images of his online. Go to his website for a moderate collection of images from his second and fourth books.)
His second book, Full Moon, from which the below images are drawn, Michael put together by combing through 30,000 NASA photos of Apollo Moon missions, and selecting 129 to make a single coherent narrative of a trip to the moon. Although he took none of the photographs himself, when compared to his first book, Ranch, a deliberately romanticized and eroticized portrait of contemporary ranch life (of which there are no images online), you realize that the lunar photos he chose are exactly the ones he would have taken himself.
It clarifies for me why photography may be more about editing than generating, and why, indeed, writing may often be more about editing than generating (although in both cases, usually, you have to generate enough material yourself to be able to edit.)
More than this, however, is the eye-view (as in "whose eye-view"? Bird's-eye-view; worm's-eye-view), the level and breadth of view that Michael chooses most often, that teaches me about landscape. The Apollo photos offer every conceivable vantage point on the Moon, from the familiar image of the moon seen from Earth and the less familiar Moon seen from above the Earth's atmosphere, to the approaching ball of it as the eye travels closer, to an orbital view (a view now familiar to us from satellite photos of Earth and Google Earth) to all manner of aerial views from the lander (the plane, the helicopter, the sky-diver), to man's-eye-views from earth-level (from valleys and promontories both.)
It is the least human, the least "natural" views that fascinate Michael: the orbital and aerial views, the views that no human or animal can have without advanced technology and a strong desire for mastery. He articulates this in his various statements, calling his view "imperialist" and "nineteenth century", querying the desire to stand back from engagement, to have overview.
One of my models (or inspirations, or "influences") in writing is George Eliot. She can move so gracefully, quickly, and seamlessly between the intimate, particular moment of a character, the meaning of a group interaction or a communal mood, and a breathtaking overview of humankind, or at least the zeitgeist of one culture at that moment of history. Eliot's view, although not concerned with landscape, is similar to the experience of Full Moon: approaching from afar, landing and becoming intimate, removing again and seeing again from a distance, repeat.
The "greatness" of a work of art or literature lies in, I think, its ability to focus in and out, to operate on several grounds at once. To give the fullness of an experience.
In his latest work, a series of large handmade books (the image at top is from the first of them Some Dry Space), Michael focuses exclusively on what is now the intermediate view: the artificial, imperial view of aerial photography. The size and quality of the prints enables a level of detail that gives you a (largely false) impression of intimacy, an intimacy which the artist interferes with in a variety of ways. At his exhibitions you see people moving in and out and in and out, over and over again, trying to find the perfect vantage point from which to understand and encompass the work.
You have to see this work in the flesh, though, to get any impact. Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco (and also in New York) should have a book available for viewing. His second and third books (Full Moon and 100 Suns, a selection of archival photographs of atomic bomb tests) can be found in just about any bookstore with a sizable photography section.
you must download this video of Greg Niemeyer's "Organum" game immediately!
The game consists of a computer generated "landscape", which turns out to be the interior of a human or an animal, and four (or five) microphones which are used to nagivate the player through the landscape. Each microphone is hooked into a different direction---up, down, left, right, forward, back, etc.---and by making noise into the mic, you make the first person player move through the landscape in that direction. It's possible to play by yourself, but not comfortable. The game is best played with several cooperating players, one at each mic.
The video, which you can download here, shows documentation of a performance/demonstration/test of the game at New Langton Arts in San Francisco last year. It's an example of how immensely cool the game is when you get trained vocalists to play it.
I didn't get to see this demo, but I got to play the game myself afterwards, and it was hella fun! The game accompanies a video of creatures made of bones and muscles---body parts---flying through a landscape of body interiors.
Niemeyer (Swiss-born but living in the States since forever) is an art prof at Berkeley. He's been doing a lot of cg landscape games and videos which are intensely cool. The image directly above is from a piece he did for a show in Cairo called "Good Morning Flowers", which he tested at a youth center there. In the game, a boat sails down the Nile river. The players---and there must be two---call in to the game on their cell phones and navigate the boat by blowing into their cell phones (wind, see?) The game is won when the players collect 12 of the flowers floating on the river, or lost when the boat and flowers are swallowed by a crocrodile.
You can download a video showing two kids playing the game here.
If you can map anything, then you can also turn anything into a landscape (although body as landscape is nothing new.) I guess it's of a piece with the whole imaginary landscape fascination, that not only can we decide what a landscape contains, and then decide what it means, but we can also decide what the rewards and penalties for moving successfully or not successfully through a landscape will be. It's a way of alienating yourself (profoundly) from the reality of landscape or travel---or the body and movement through the body, for that matter.
Okay, I've got a theme going here, so let's stick with landscape art for a little bit.