Being There: A Geocoded Landscape

Exhibition at Greylock Arts in Adams

By: - 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 
camera photos.

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:  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 – 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:
Disappearing Places:
Platial Make A Map:
Yahoo Map API:
Google Map API: