VIRTUALLY THERE

Virtually There is an exploration of the parallels between real and simulated landscapes, which began in 2009 during residencies in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Before setting out on these residencies, I downloaded existing GPS tracks from the Internet, looked at photographs made by others, and consulted topographic maps in order to plan routes. I then captured images in Google Earth, and reenacted the virtual journeys in real life, making my own images with a large format camera.

Since 2009, I have had the opportunity to continue my research, which has lead me to reflect upon changes in the technology, and continue to investigate developments in remote sensing satellites and elevation data that make Google Earth a software that is constantly in flux.

Virtually There brings to light a discrepancy between the virtual and the actual; a discrepancy that is constantly becoming less pronounced. Both strategies of gathering pictures (in the field, versus poached from the web) are subject to the same method of presentation including scale, medium, and treatment. The view made in a virtual environment as well as the view recorded by the camera offer something unique to the spectator.


I also created a series of drawings made by recording my path with a GPS. I isolated my track from the map, placed it on a white ground and plotted it according to pace (the darker the line, the quicker my speed). They resemble graphite drawing in quality, but are ink jet prints on Tyvek - the same material that waterproof maps are printed on. The titles of the works express the duration of time that is represented in each print, for example, 2 hours, 10 minutes, 35 seconds.


View from Mount Temple, a hardcover artist book that is a record of my 9-hour trip climbing Mount Temple, deconstructs the modern convention of translating data into graphic form by presenting plain text GPS data, which is practically unintelligible as raw information, in the form of a journal. This bland, homogeneous text functions as analogous to early accounts of exploration, often filled with tedious factual data such as weather conditions, distances travelled, reckoning of positions, and the passage of time. There is a custom-made topographic map in the back which folds out revealing my trip and the surrounding landscape.


Three video works made by capturing custom-made tours in Google Earth form the final component.

In Caché, I position a virtual ʻcameraʼ and without changing its position, I empty the softwareʼs cache. The landscape begins to materialize as the software downloads data and rebuilds the terrain.

Best General View is a time-lapse sunset to sunrise from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. There is a longstanding photographic tradition in Yosemite, from 19th century landscapes by Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge, through to a renewed interest by contemporary artists. My Best General View was made without ever looking through a viewfinder, or having visited Yosemite; it is the product of a virtual exploration.

The effect of transitioning from one time of day, or season, to another can be simulated in Google Earth by using the historical imagery slider. This tool permits the user to dig through the archive of satellite imagery that corresponds to a given location. Depending on how frequently these images have been updated, and the degree to which requests for satellite images of a particular site have been made public, the operator can pass through time often seeing the landscape undergo changes in season. Dissolving Views was created by taking two identical views from different seasons by using the historical imagery slider. These static shots are then animated by dissolving one season into another.

Caché (excerpt), HD video, 7min. 55 sec.

Best General View (4x accelerated version), HD video, 11 min. 59 sec.

Dissolving Views, HD video, 14 min. 30 sec.