Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: The Nine Eyes of Google Street View by Jon Rafman, or Veritable Objective Collective Soul Earth Family Photo Album

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Before time, before you were born, and before your mother and mother’s mother were born, (in 2007) Google, IRL, emailed a fleet of cars o’er the land with the goal of documenting the street views of the world, street level. Each car a carriage with a pole fixed with nine cameras; each camera indifferent to art, art history, and the human experience; each camera a nebula ball that rests in a google fantasy claw.

Jon Rafman's Google Street View installation in gallery setting.
The Nine Eyes of Google Street View is a project by Jon Rafman, a Montreal-based artist and Paint FX club member; the project is an indelible collection of images gleaned from Google Street Views. Google street view is a subset of Google Maps, comprised of images captured by a nebula ball camera mounted atop a moving vehicle. It looks like, well, you know, one of those nebula balls that rests in the fantasy claw, except it moves around the world snapping copious photographs. The resulting images are typically mundane, because the nebula ball exists to capture and upload informational and topographical imagery for Google. The nebula ball does not pursue art; however, there are instances where the nebula ball (unintentionally) renders fine-art: images remarkably within spitting distance of the pure human experience, and quite well nigh to artistic objectivity. Rafman’s project is Rafman’s subjective aggregation and presentation of these special moments, via internet and post-internet.
By dint of Rafman’s curated collection, the participant opens a leather-bound book that might as well be titled, “Mother Earth’s Family Photo Album,” inasmuch as we are all living together, here on earth, as one big family — an unfathomably large family — with 6,835,508,543 mouths to feed (as of 12:11am on 5.19.2o11, vide this graphic, rendered by this source): we are family, we are happy and mad, we are capricious, tempestuous, and sad; a disfunction with a function ; a family, here on Earth, together at this present moment. So, with altruism, let us all hold hands and form a hand-holding chain around the earth, because this likely will alleviate all the ills of this difficult human experience . . . the sense of accomplishment, too . . . I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to say, “Hey, we did it! Finally, everyone on Earth held hands to wrap around and give the Earth a warm hug.” Obviously this was the impetus for Michael Jackson’s “Black Or White,” “Man In The Mirror” and “Heal The World,” or Agularia’s masterwork “Genie In A Bottle,” or Kool Aid ’89, and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the ’90s, go Bulls.
Back to the Nine Eyes project, the participant journeys and cruises the streets of the world — images, visual artifacts — from country to country, from coast to coast, from truck stop prostitute to prostitute, from vagabond crawling babies to friendly guinea pig walkers — all moments that define our collective conscious and unconscious human experience.
Take the time to stop and smell the pixeled flowers of the webpage: you might find that the curated images evoke a visceral feeling; moreover, a profound sense of spirituality tinges: the profound sense of spirituality that we all experience every day, every night, this human (and much more than human) experience that we call death and that we call life. Sex, drugs, guns, murder, death, disease, hockey, knee surgery, wet jeans, earning Gs, jet-skiing off the coast of a coast of the coast of the Andes — moments like these are found by the google vehicle and viewed by many, but Jon Rafman sedulously devoted his time wandering, cruising, screen-capturing, surfing.
Rafman inevitably went Post-Internet with this project: the selected images are screen-captured, blown up to a very large scale, and mounted on a wall for gallery presentation. The project makes a graceful crossover. John Rafman’s Nine Eyes of Google Street View is brilliant project; thoughtful work that congeals the four corners of the internets’ imagery, a pleasing contrast to the meretricious, impetuous and vapid work of his Paint FX crew. Nine Eyes is an outstanding accomplishment of new media art: it’s net art with a concept that appeals to the multitude, inasmuch as it is google, and most people have heard the word google and most people understand the services google provides.
With sophisticated execution and vision, the Nine Eyes project initiates Rafman as an august figure and trailblazer of the incipient net-art and post-internet art movements vis-a-vis the overall ethos of new & experimental media today, 2011.
Below are 14 selected images from