THE GOOGLE TRILOGY – 1.Report a Problem, 2012. 100 photographs. Sublimation print on aluminum. Variable dimensions. Overall installation: X: 216cm Y: 1224cm
The series of 100 images entitled Report a Problem is the first part of a project about the relationship between humans, power, and technological errors. “Report a Problem” is the message that appears at the bottom of the Google Street View screen, which allows viewers to report a problem during the viewing of the place they are virtually visiting: missing censorship, wrong colors, random appearances. I traveled on Google Street View photographing all the “wrong landscapes” I encountered before others could report the problems and prompt the company to adjust the images. Common landscapes are transformed by Google’s unexpected technical errors into something new.
INSTALLATION VIEW AT MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna
- Ricalcolo. Di territori computanti e dei loro attuatori analogici (2020). Curated by Davide Bevilacqua, Gorizia, Italy
- MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, THAT’S IT!(2018), curated by Lorenzo Balbi, Bologna, Italy
- FLEFF 2016, Interface/Landscape, curated by Dale Hudson and Claudia Pederson, Ithaca College, NY, US
- #watch22(2015), curated by Günter Minas, Bonifazius-Türme, Mainz, Germany
- Imagine the City, Street Views (2015), curated by Gioula Papadopoulou, Cultural Center of Kalamata, Greece
- Eyedrum Gallery, Behind the Static (2015), curated by Terry Coffey, Atlanta GA, US
- Expressive 2015, Idea Chain (2015), curated by Angus Forbes and Anil Camci, Istanbul, Turkey
- Luoghi Comuni Festival – Net Art Section (2015),Altamura (BA), Italy
- EMAF 27th European Media Arts Festival, WE. THE ENEMY (2014), Kunsthalle Osnabrueck, Germany
- SLINGSHOT, Festival of Music, Eletronic Art & Technology (2014), Athens GA, US
- TRACE(s) Festival Des Arts Numeriques (2014), Médiathéque Léon Alègre Bagnols-sur-Cèze, France
- CURRENTS 2014, The Santa Fe International Festival of New Media Art (2014), curated by Parallel Studios, Santa Fe, US
- Wander Web TV, Experimental Category (2013), curated by Tamara Lai, online video gallery
- Video Art Festival Miden, Street Views (2013), curated by Gioula Papadopoulou, in collaboration with CAMP (Contemporary Art Meeting Point), Kalamata and Athens, Greece
- Jarach Gallery, Echo Back. Figure di Interferenza (2013), curated by Stefano Coletto, Venice, Italy
- Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina, Autonomies (2013), curated by NAPON (Institute for flexible cultures and technologies), Novi Sad, Serbia
SOME PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON GOOGLE MAPPING:
A layer of subtle threads connects digital cartographic techniques, map users, and mapping technologies. To each kind of map, corresponds a certain set of ideals, which informs the work of the map makers, and in turn produces specific subjectivities that operate in relation to specific mapping technologies. In other words, by looking at today’s digital mapping, we can discern a set of particular ideologies that guide how maps are imagined, coded, designed and used, and how they operate across physical and virtual realities. More importantly, by looking at digital mapping, we can retrace how particular ideological constructions are mediated and conveyed by specific digital artifacts, and how the interweaving of these conceptual and technical threads informs the fabric of our very subjectivity.
Google’s mapping project is the perfect exemplification: it consists of a layered entity revolving around two main poles: Google Maps, with its emphasis on routing and navigation, and Google Earth, with its emphasis on geo-visual exploration. When considered in its entirety, the assemblage of Google services, platforms, infrastructures, applications and technologies presents the world as a seamlessly searchable, movable and navigable representation. Technical descriptions of how Google mapping is configured (in terms of hardware, software, services and applications) can easily become outdated because of the company’s constant updates. Nevertheless, what began as a series of mapping experiments in 2007 has grown to offer navigable photo-panoramas in 3D and cartographic maps in 2D through Google Maps and Google Street View, 3D navigable aerial and satellite views through Google Earth, along with the celestial representations of Google Sky – ultimately configuring Google mapping as the most used and widespread mapping technology in the world. Google mapping is predicated on ‘curating’ and ‘mobilitating’ content. Its mission is built upon a constant movement, the foundation for any form of mapping and exploration, here defined in the form of the digital movement of its users and their data, and in that of the geopolitical movements of the company itself at a global level.
The end-goal of Google mapping is nothing more than the oldest archetypical obsession of any mapping effort: that of mapping a territory until the map itself becomes a territory in its own right. In a way, it seems as if Google’s users can finally experience the map imagined in 1946 by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges in his On Exactitude in Science: a tale in which the Empire orders its cartographers to build a map so detailed that it ends up covering, and swallowing, the entire territory that it ought to represent.
And yet, digital mapping is inseparable from a subject always mediating his/her position and escaping fixity, in a process of spatial and visual mediation that I call media-flânerie. Historically, the word ‘flâneur’ gained cultural prominence in the 19th century, initially referring to people who loved to stroll and wander aimlessly. The flâneur was the first real connoisseur of the modern metropolis, and flânerie, from a cultural perspective, was the product of modern crowds, modern cities like Paris, and mass communication. But does it still make sense to talk of flânerie at a time in which people seem to be more and more confined by their technological devices? And what kind of flânerie is possible when public spaces of aggregation become increasingly rarer and leisure walks have almost disappeared under the freneticism of western lifestyles? As modern cities radically change and become increasingly more networked, the concept of media-flânerie can reflect the specificity of a media saturated environment. For example, whereas flânerie existed in relation to moving through the specific architecture of Paris’ arcades, media-flânerie is instead the product of new digital movements through software architectures, information highways, data aggregates, and hybrid interfaces. To each new set of movements and to each new kind of environment correspond new possibilities of media-flânerie. The media-flâneur, then, is the subject emerging from this particular intertwining of the politic with the poetic across new technologies of order and control, such as digital mapping, and through novel creative subversions of those very technologies. The suffix ‘media-’ stands for the important role played by multimedia technologies, but also, and more importantly, for issues of ‘mediation’ between predefined outputs and alternative goals that are at the core of creative exploitations of errors and glitches.
The flâneur, as it was first described by French poet Charles Baudelaire, and was later rethought by German philosopher Walter Benjamin, is also the subject who more than any other has represented and embodied scopic movement, eventually becoming the archetype of the modern observer. Today, what we consider the realm of visuality is constantly processed and dislocated via media technologies within an environment understood in itself as media-process. Can we still think of the Benjaminian flâneur as the subject at the center of such a media-environment? Today’s flâneur is concerned with urban spaces just as much as it is concerned with constant streams of images offered by all kinds of unified interfaces, digital tools and ubiquitous screens – with his or her movements constantly shifting between physical and virtual places. The media-flâneur operates in the interstices between data collection, social media presence, and 24/7 surveillance, where almost everything is always ready to be quantified and assembled into some kind of big-data pool. The media-flâneur spans mass participation, swarming, hyper-connectivity, collective intelligence, alienation, disjunction, paranoia and individualism – often in quick succession. Yet, the media-flâneur is also characterized by an appreciation of gaps, errors, ruptures and instabilities, as if he/she could find in them a way of escaping the capturing devices of media-capitalistic assemblages in which he/she is always already participating.
THE GOOGLE TRILOGY sits precisely within this fragmented landscape of images, maps, media processes, and cultural reconfigurations – presenting, representing and expanding the concept of a media-flânerie in constant becoming.
“Glitch: la verità nell’errore. Conversazione con Emilio Vavarella”
Interview by Mauro Zanchi and Sara Benaglia, 5 July 2020. (ita)
EAI Endorsed Transactions on Creative Technologies (European Union Digital Library)
Costa, F: “To be or not to be – a data set. Art, technology and identity in the new informational order”
vol. 7, Issue 22, pp. 1638-48. (eng)
Artslife – Fotoromanzo
“Emilio Vavarella: arte, errori e tecnologia. Una costante messa in discussione”
by Andrea Tinterri, May 2020 (ita)
“Digitale Off Limits: intervista a Emilio Vavarella”
Interview by Maria Chiara Wang, July 2020. (ita)
“Emilio Vavarella – Interdisciplinarità artistica”
Interview by Emanuela Zanon, Magazine n. 192, apr/mag 2019. (ita)
Leeds Art University – BA Photography
“What Can Machine Readable Photography Teach Us About Artificial Intelligence?”
by Thomas Griffiths, Advisor: Philip Welding, Leeds, UK, 2018/19. (eng)
Challenging Corporealities: Reconfigurations between Materiality and Discursivity
Costa, Flavia. “Nuestros Datos, ¿Nosotros Mismos?” [“Our data, ourselves? Art, technology and subjectivity in the era of genetic surveillance and algorithmic governmentality”]
Book edited by Daniel López del Rincón, University of Barcelona Press, 2018 (spa).
WIRED (US Edition)
That’s IT! On the newest generation of artists in Italy and one meter eighty from the border
Vavarella, Emilio. “THE GOOGLE TRILOGY – COMPENDIUM: Or on the Rise of the Media-Flâneur”
Catalogue of exhibition at MAMbo – Museo di Arte Moderna di Bologna, 2018 (ita-eng).
Error, Ambiguity, Creativity: A Multidisciplinary Reader
Vavarella, Emilio. “On Counter-Mapping and Media-Flânerie: Artistic Strategies in the Age of Google Earth, Google Maps and Google Street View”
Book edited by Sita Popat and Sarah Whatley, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020 (eng).
“Creators: Emilio Vavarella”
Review of “Report a Problem” by Daniel Bejar, 2014, n.28, p.97. (eng)
“Fair Game. Martha Buskirk On Networked Photography and Copyright”
magazine, summer 2014, vol.52, no.10. (eng)
Am Strand: Bild und Text zur Zukunft
Vavarella, Emilio. “The Digital Skin Series and The Google Trilogy”
Winter 2017/18, n.2 (deu-eng).
“That’s IT! at MAMbo, Bologna”
“That’s IT! MAMbo
“Artist Finds Beauty in Google Street View Glitches”
Press coverage of “Report a Problem” by Laura Vitto, 2014. (eng)
NEW MEDIA ART EXPERIENCE: Media digitali, forme e contesti della produzione artistica contemporanea.
Doctoral Thesis in “Comunicazione e Nuove Tecnologie” by Paolo Mele, IULM University, Milan, Italy.
WIRED (Italian Edition)
WIRED (Japanese Edition)
WIRED Japanese edition
magazine, vol.13, September 2014. (jap)
The Huffington Post
“Google Street View Glitches Become Beautiful Art”
The New Aesthetic and Art: Constellations of the Postdigital
Book edited by Scott Contreras-Koterbay and Lukasz Mirocha
Institute of Network Cultures, 2016. (eng)
Behind the Smart World: Saving, Deleting and Resurfacing Data
Vavarella, Emilio. “THE GOOGLE TRILOGY: Or How To Play With Google Street View”
Book edited by Linda Kronman and Andreas Zingerle, AMRO Research Lab, Linz, Austria, 2016 (eng).
“Avez-vous déjà vu les mutants de Google Street View?”
“The Google Trilogy, une Esthétique de l’Erreur Dèvoilée par Emilio Vavarella”
“Evocative Artists Inspired by Google Street View”
“Report a problem: la mostra dei glitch di Google Street View”
Courrier International – Le Monde
“Aux frontières du réel”
Press coverage of “Report a Problem,” January 2014. (fra)
Folha De S.Paulo
“Italian artist turns Google Street View glitches into masterpieces”
“Report a Problem”
“The Shape of Information When No One is Looking & Report a Problem”
n.6, online + print publication, 2013. (eng)
“Künstler sammelte für Ausstellung Street View-Glitches”
“שמן על באג”
“Report a Problem. Kunstvolle Google-Street-View-Pannen”
“La photographie avalée par le numérique”
v.106, automne/hiver 2015. (fra)
“Art & Copyright”
n.50. 2014. (eng)
“The Wilderness in the Machine: Glitch and the Poetic of Error”
n.59 – Art, Politics, Technology, 2014. (eng)
“Navigating the Operative Image”
Routledge, Vol. 29, No.3, pp. 261-271.(eng)
Triplex Radio Canada
“Emilio Vavarella : quand les erreurs de Google deviennent de l’art”
“Thought is my Main Medium. Interview with Emilio Vavarella | Il pensiero è il mio medium principale. Intervista con Emilio Vavarella”
by Giada Totaro, July 2020. (ita-eng)