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Friday Fun: Overlapping Digital and Physical City Centers

By creating physical manifestations of digital geolocation markers, artist Aram Bartholl comments on the perceptions of a city. All photos by Aram Bartholl.

German artist Aram Bartholl has installed physical versions of Google Map’s red place markers in the middle of cities around the world. The urban art installation, “Map,” is meant to question the boundaries between the physical environment, the digital world and censorship.

In the digital world, the place marker signifies the city center as it is recognized by geospatial service providers like Google Maps and Plazes, the Germany-based geosocial networking site. Bartholl’s piece places the physical version of the marker in the same spot, overlapping the digital marker with the physical one, and thereby questioning the perception of the city as it is increasingly influenced by geolocation services.

“I think we are living in a very crucial time period. Many decisions are taken currently regarding privacy, censorship and Internet freedom,” Bartholl explains in an interview with Rhizome. “Governments, politics and content industry (etc) try to get a grip on free communication and would love to be able to limit, filter and control the digital more than ever. Anonymous, Wikileaks and ongoing revolutions have shown lately the power of the net.”

  

The artist continues to explain the inspiration and influence behind his work:

Yes, I think it is important to raise awareness about these issues although I don’t want to be too moral about it. Let’s discuss this but no need to panic. The Google map marker piece should make people think about tech-society-privacy relations. ‘Map’ in a way symbolizes the massive position of Google’s gate to local filtered information and its influence on our perception of the city. Instead of building map markers it is much more likely though that Google sooner or later will enter the interactive billboard market. Greetings from ‘Minority Report’, it is all in the making…

The piece started in 2006 and has traveled to Arles, France; Taipei, Taiwan; Szczecin, Poland; and Berlin, Germany during its four years of installation. Images from these public exhibitions are available here and here.

Learn more about the artist’s various works here.

 

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