Education Wing Exhibition–Happiness Mapped on Their Faces, Curiosity the Twinkling Eye’s Course
October 4, 2008 – February 15, 2009
Global Positioning System (GPS) has changed the way we see the world and our place in it. Originally developed by the United States Department of Defense to provide military forces around the world with accurate navigation information, it has become a tool available to the general public and widely used in a variety of commercial and recreational activities. Paired with popular mapping technology like Google Maps, GPS has granted us unprecedented remote access to representations of locality through the objectifying gaze of satellite photography. It’s not surprising then that artists quickly seized the potential of GPS and began using locative-based media to investigate, among other things, alternative perspectives to conventional cartography.
This past summer seven artists were invited to conceive a project for teens enrolled in the studio art class “Geocaching and Art in the Public Realm.” Taught by Susie J. Lee, the class was inspired by the exhibition Napoleon on the Nile: Soldiers, Artists, and the Rediscovery of Egypt. Modeled after the popular high-tech treasure hunt adventure game Geocaching, artist-conceived caches were left throughout Seattle for students to discover with GPS devices. Upon discovery, students were presented with concepts addressing such things as psychogeography, site-specificity, fiction and rehistoricization, and globalism. All participatory, and sometimes performative in nature, every project engaged the teens with their surroundings and required them to use their observational and critical skills to document what transpired at that place and time.
Like the artwork in Napoleon on the Nile, the students’ photography, video, and sound maps are a collection of source material and new work that attest to a new generation of map-making. Their collaborative authoring charts how a physical location is informed or defined by its social context. This cultural cartography reveals interlocking narratives throughout the city and underscores how our relationships to a location and the people or objects within it are heavily influenced by our ways of seeing.