Vast Empires and Discrete Objects (and good installations)

Top left: Jon Rafman; top right: Michael Wolf; bottom left: Michael Wolf; bottom right: Jon Rafman.

I had noticed that several of Jon Rafman and Michael Wolf’s images used the same Google Street View source and was happy to find this essay in Wired by Peter Brook, “Navigating the Puzzle of Google Street View ‘Authorship’” (thanks, Greg!) Brook sums up his assessment of their differences: “Rafman’s Nine Eyes holds a mirror to the surprises of Google’s world, whereas Wolf wants to interpret Google’s data and establish a statement of his own.”

By pressing on the question of authorship, Brook gets at some interesting points about both the two series and Google Street View more broadly. Rafman quoted is as articulate and interesting as he is in his own writing… “The unspoken reality or challenge in the question of authorship is the fact that Google has claimed ownership of all it has purveyed and filmed with an unmanned camera,” says Rafman. “Moreover, the sheer vastness of what Google has photographed, and placed a copyright sign on, is an imperial claim so vast that it mirrors England’s claim to an empire upon which the sun never set.”

GSV + vast imperial archives, what could be better?

Moving from vast empires of images to discrete object (but sticking with Google Street View), in July I visited Pier 24 in San Francisco for the first time… one of the best things they have going in their current show is several galleries displaying dozens of photographs (or more) from the same series. Heaps of early Richard Misrach hung salon style, Lewis Baltz’s Candlestick Park series, a whole gallery of Larry Sultan’s Homeland series, and it went on. They also had a room full of Doug Rickard’s “A New American Picture” — his take on GSV — and I found myself astonished to be looking at the images as objects. 5B4 has a thoughtful post on the publication and comments a bit on Rickard’s (or Google’s?) color, the aspect of the series that really just hit me over the head in the gallery in a way I hadn’t quite caught on to looking at the images online (their original source, after all). Here’s one example:

Doug Rickard, from “A New American Picture” at Pier 24

And, just for fun — the Pier 24 installations of Misrach and Baltz below:

I wish I knew if Baltz had anything to do with this arrangement, or if it was a curatorial decision. For better or worse, Pier 24 doesn’t give much info about anything on the walls.

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