Being There: A Geocoded Landscape
Exhibition at Greylock Arts in Adams
By: Marianne Petit - May 26, 2008
Being There: A Geocoded Landscape
Curated by Matthew Belanger, Richard Harrington, and Marianne R. Petit
People seemed surprised earlier this year when we announced our plans for our first exhibit of the season. "A landscape show?" they asked incredulously, perhaps expecting something with LEDs and photovoltaic strips instead. But, Matthew and I are interested in the intersection of art and technology, and that can take many forms.
In our first year here in Adams we have found the surrounding
landscape to have a profound effect on us. Simultaneously, we've
been drawn to the work of local artists, many of whom are similarly inspired by the environment around them. And so, we looked to find a way to explore the surrounding landscape using technology to enhance our understanding of it.
The result? "Being There: A Geocoded Landscape", an exhibition of paintings, photographs, and other location based works by Berkshire artists all geocoded and mapped. Geocoding is a process in which geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) are identified for a particular item or location. In addition to using geographic identifiers to map data, one can also geocode media -- for example, where a photograph was taken -- or anything that has a geographic component.
In recent years, geocoding (sometimes referred to as geotagging) has gained enormous popularity. Both Google and Yahoo Maps have made their API's (application programming interface) freely available, allowing web developers everywhere to embed mapping functionality into their websites. The effect of this, in collaboration with advances in consumer GPS technology, has been profound and widespread. People uploading their photos to the popular photography site, Flickr, can now geotag their images, thus making them searchable by location in addition to content. Individuals with no web development skills can use map-making sites like Platial to
create a map that has image, video, or text information linked to a
location. And just last week, Apple added geotagging to its iPhone
For quite some time, my partner Matthew has had a keen interest in taking conventional maps and overlaying them with additional
information. As a professional web developer, he has worked with international environmental groups developing online mapping systems that allow individuals to browse location-based articles relating to climate change, endangered species and the work being done to protect them in particular areas. As an artist, Matthew has developed collective storytelling repositories, like Disappearing Places, which allow individuals to upload photos and stories relating to places that no longer exist. And so, it is with this interest that we took to curating our current exhibit.
In our storefront windows, we are very pleased to have two large
installations by Summer Street artists. Dan Rose's "Being
Where?" is a four-paneled piece, consisting of earth gathered from different locations in the area. The four panels are presented vertically; compositionally creating a beautiful geological puzzle that will gradually cause the earth to slide over time from the panels onto the floor. At the base of the piece is a key that gives the GPS
coordinates for where dirt was collected for various portions of the
The second installation is "Wal-Scape" by Greylock Arts co-director Matthew Belanger. Matthew is a native of Arkansas, the birthplace of Wal-Mart, and his past video and photography work has explored themes involving these massive retail spaces. In his first installation, Belanger creates an immense landscape from fake flowers and plants, toys, cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, a television, plastic bags and more, all purchased from our local Wal-Mart. Using the GPS coordinates of the North Adams Wal-Mart, Wal-Scape attempts to restore the landscape that has been removed with the materials now found at that location and call into question our value of manufactured goods over nature.
Inside the gallery, we are immediately presented with several
photographs by Jane Hudson in a series entitled MEMENTO. When Hudson moved to the Berkshires, she resumed an old love of photography. She writes, "The combination of majestic landscapes and derelict architecture spoke to her of both the strengths and lost pride of the area. In her treatment of images in 'sepia' she hopesto reconnect with something lost but still remembered in the 'bones'of the images. The vintage frames also lend a note of authenticity to the subjects." The images, "Friends Meeting House", "HoosicCotton Mill", and "Clarksburg Cathedral", are beautiful, regal and imposing.
Photographer Kay Canavino has been exploring themes of the natural world via her fine art photography for years. In this exhibition, we are pleased to present four of her Night Landscapes: "Winter Night at
Plainfield Pond", "Indian Cupid", "Millay Bench", and
"Stafford Hill Monument". In these works, Canavino uses a unique light-painting technique to create and illuminate these mysterious and stunning works.
Painter Henry Klein presents three works in a series created
specifically for this exhibit entitled "Unnamed Streams of East
Road." We spent a fascinating afternoon with Klein, climbing over
rocks, streams, empty whiskey bottles and roadside litter, to
register the GPS coordinates for each of the paintings. The thing
that most struck me was Henry's ability to notice a small scenic
vista five feet away from a heavily trafficked road and translate
that into a painting of extraordinary beauty.
Painter Martha Denmead Rose also created three paintings specifically for this exhibit. As a painter, Denmead Rose carefully captures space and northern light and this obsession has taken her from Scandinavia to her native Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey. Rose's passion for light and color is evident in the exquisite works presented here: "Pelham Lake", "Mohawk Trail Cabins", and "Stamford Valley".
The Greylock Glen is panoramically captured by Adams native Mary Ann Wojtaszek. Over a 10-year period Wojtaszek was drawn to the beauty of the Glen and found herself there nearly every afternoon and took hundreds of photographs of it. For this exhibition, we selected twelve images that capture the splendor of the Glen throughout the seasons.
Photographer John Lisee presents works from his series "Decline of anAmerican Mill Town: A Work in Progress." Over the years, Lisee has "created detailed images from crumbling vacant mills, decaying vehicles and darkened interiors of neglected schools with the intent to create a fine art print that will make the viewer observe things differently; to see objects that they encounter every day but tend to ignore and to appreciate their intricate detail and unusual beauty." The seven photographs exhibited here present to us the striking and stark beauty of these artifacts.
And finally, I collaborated with Anita Perr to create a work entitled
"Leave Us Some Art (A Geocache)". Anita introduced me to geocachingduring a recent visit to Adams. Geocaching is an international outdoor treasure hunt game in which participants hide and seek containers (or "geocaches") through GPS coordinates. Today, over 650,000 "caches" are registered on various sites devoted to the game. On that sunny October afternoon, we found ourselves exploring parts of Adams I didn't know existed and it was inspirational. As a result, for this exhibition we decided to invert the concept. We have created a collective art cache that we are hiding in Adams as a permanent installation. The cache invites individuals to leave a drawing, collage, haiku or writing as part of the log book.
All works in this exhibit have been geocoded and placed on a map that can be found at our website: www.greylockarts.net. If you have a GPS device, you can enter the coordinates of any work and visit the location where it was created.
Being There: A Geocoded Landscape runs May 22nd Â– June 28. Greylock Arts is located at 93 Summer Street, Adams MA. It is free and open to the public Tuesday-Saturday 12-5 pm.
Greylock Arts: http://greylockarts.net/being-there
Disappearing Places: http://www.disappearingplaces.net
Platial Make A Map: http://platial.com/mapmaker
Yahoo Map API: http://developer.yahoo.com/maps/
Google Map API: http://code.google.com/apis/maps/