Week 5: Communicating through the GPS

The GPS is a practical tool that most of us rely on in our daily lives for directions, for locating lost objects, etc. The GPS as a primary tool of communication though? That’s certainly an unconventional use of the GPS that hasn’t crossed my mind until I stumbled upon this ongoing art project called Remotewords, started in Germany in 2007. The project utilizes the GPS as an art medium to spread messages written by various authors/artists. The messages are written in big letters on the roofs of buildings, and is only visible from an aerial perspective. The project uses Google Earth, a GPS application, as its platform to share and communicate its messages to its audience. This project currently has 25 locations at which various messages and/or phrases are transcribed.

Message on an art house that is solely dedicated to digital art


The above image is an example of a piece of their project; the word “on” is written atop the Edith Russ Site for Media Art, an art house that exclusively dedicates itself to media art. The fact that the medium of choice is a GPS reiterates the importance of the exact location of these messages, as the message is intimately tied to its location. According to the project descriptions, the “on” refers to the fact that in our digital age, we are constantly pressured to be in an online state. Through media and technology, our society has become fast-paced, always operating and constantly “on.” This can be exhausting to the individual and to our society at large. The fact that the word “on” is on top of a site for media art seems to suggest that this exhaustion of a constantly productive and online global society extends to the world of media art as well. It seems to raise questions about how the digital age has exhausted art. Is a lot of the art produced today merely a byproduct of an overly productive society? Is this exhaustive output of productivity detrimental to the creativity celebrated in art?

Overall, the project raises questions about how the digital age has exhausted society at large. The GPS is a tool that we’ve used to help us become more productive in our fast-paced digital society. But how has the use of helpful technologies such as the GPS, in turn, exhausted us? It seems like these technologies that we so depend on for productivity control us more than we control them. We have become complacently dependent on them for daily function, rarely questioning or thinking twice about the implications of our heavy dependence and trust in these devices.

The digital age that we live in constantly changes the dynamics of our society and the dynamics working within art. What will art look like 20-30 years from now and will it follow a style that is in any way influenced by the technologies that we’ll see in the future? Are our technologies controlling us?

-Connie Paik




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