In an era of Google Maps, our first engagements with places are often anticipated by technology. That is, our experience with a place often comes with pre-emptive associations from aerial pictures -- our possible routes predetermined and mapped; personal narratives and exploration are displaced for utility. So, what happens to our individualized explorations in time and space when GPS technology intervenes? This is the inquiry of GPS artist Jeremy Wood’s body of work and his current show “Mowing the Lawn” at Tenderpixel in London.
Treating his body like a “geodesic” pencil, his daily routines are documented as lines in space via GPS technology. In turn, Wood’s performative rituals are data visualized as densely packed line drawings and animations. Having spent ten years developing a system for tracking and translating his everyday movements, the resulting pieces are one part drawing, one part diary and one part critique of the technological system’s accuracy/inaccuracy and how that intervention enables/limits our perception of the spatio-temporal.
While his work ranges from tracking large-scale transatlantic flights (Star Flights, 2008) to tracing and superimposing quotes from Melville onto two meridians in London (Meridians, 2005), in his latest show, Wood focuses on documenting the simple act of mowing the lawn in different intervals of time. Here, Wood emphasizes how banal repetition offers “individual narratives that express a freedom of movement generated from an act of garden maintenance”.
What may be more compelling, though, is how a digital trace can bring to the fore the problems of technology. Looking at Lawn 2005 Scale 1:300, we see multiple lines drawn where a house already exists. In Nine Years of Mowing, we see inaccuracies of GPS technology heightened over the course of nine years. While it is true that these processes will constantly be refined and updated, the question to ask here is at what point should we allow their utility to shape our spatio-temporal relationships with the land. Yet, perhaps in true sousveillance fashion, Wood flips the potential for technology to prefigure our perceptions and uses it to document his personal journeys.
On June 19th artist Jeremy Wood will hold a talk at Tenderpixel. "Mowing the Lawn" closes on June 22nd.