Visible Evidence

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Montreal after attending the Visible Evidence conference.  It’s been years since I’ve attended this conference, and I’m glad to be back in the fold.  It’s really a quite sophisticated gathering in many respects.  While the discourse on new media leaves something to be desired, the participants are dealing with many of the issues that confront people working in new media: indexicality, reality, ethics, arhives, etc.  I found the sincerety of the discourse at the conference to be refreshing.  More than many conferences, it seems as though there is a common project between academics, filmmakers and artists.  The role of documentation in a culture obsessed with documentation is a theme that demands many voices, and I commend the openness of the disciplines involved for accepting that multiplicity.

Over the past several days, I discovered new connections in my own work as well.  First, I realized that the paper I gave was too concerned with criticizing art work for not acknowledging connections.  I don’t want to be one of those people who criticize because they have no other way of participating in a discourse.   The work is interesting as experiment.  All I intend to do is place the work in a different context – a larger context of urbanism and spatial consumption.  The idea that artists are beginning from the same assumptions as commercial developers shouldn’t come as a shock: we’re all building on an existing culture.  The goals are certainly different, but that doesn’t detract from the important lines that connect the different aspects of cultural production and consumption. 

In the paper, I argue for something called cartographic navigation, a practice of consumption used to communicate the “authenticity” of space.  I argue that it is in the movement (or play) of space accompanied by the personal documentation of that space, where place is communicated.  This is not the only way place is communicated, but trends in design suggest that it is a common method of communicating experience and ownership of public space.  By looking at these artworks, we can better understand what is happening in new consumer spaces that are quickly appropriating these methods of communicating place.

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