One of the most interesting and recent shifts in respect of perspective that has occurred during the Internet’s short history Is the movement away from the World Wide Web being an anonymous space to one where location has begun to matter. A range of services such as Google Maps, Google Earth and upmystreet.com are changing how we perceive and interact with the localities and spaces in which we all live. The growing availability of public mapping data and the combination of technologies that provide an easy method of producing cartography means that map creation is beginning to evolve from the bottom up. Communities can now utilise these technological maps, establishing communication between people in highlighting areas of interest or contextual issues (chicagocrime.org is an example) that conventional maps have always overlooked.
This fusion of physical and data space has inspired artists to explore different methods of engaging audiences with notions of space and time. GPS devices, in particular, have served a useful purpose for exploring how we might begin to think about maps based on human experience rather than physical features. Vice versa, the physical landscape can be experienced in a multi-dimensional form. Landscapes can be recorded and indexed according to their location data and then transferred into virtual space, offering new experiences and contexts and facilitating an exploration of human relationships between place, time and space.
The Danube Panorama Project by Michael Aschauer is one such project exploring these interlinked and complex concepts. This ambitious piece of work uses Europe’s second-largest river as its subject. The goal is to produce a full panorama of the Danube’s coastline using slit-scan photography, the result of which will be, according to Aschauer, a “unique cross-section of contemporary Europe”. In the digital realm, slit-scanning involves taking a series of images and concatenating them together to create one whole image. Aschauer’s technique uses GPS data to control the speed at which the video camera records material, resulting in a series of images indexed according to longitude and latitude. The geographical precision of the images provides a unique method to contrast the area of the Danube.
The success of Aschauer’s project lies in what these images bring to the surface. As the viewer floats downstream, west to east; from Vienna to Budapest, and onto Bratislava, the transformation of architecture and landscape highlights how different each culture is.
It is the Danube’s accumulated history over time, littered with disagreements and suspicion between the countries whose borders are formed by its waters, which becomes immediately visible and engaging. The political significance and the effects of war run deep the further East one travels along its current. The effects of the bloody conflict during Europe’s last war, on the site of Serbia and Croatia, began on one side of the Danube and ended on the other. Relics of the battles, including broken bridges and unexploded ordinance, line the Danube’s riverbed along this stretch of river. The Panoramas merely skim the surface of such ‘very real’ histories. However, it is the skimming of these images that adds a sense of curiosity for one to explore even deeper. In diving into the subject, the viewer will feel compelled to ask what it all means. When witnessing this process of time and space being folded into a visual context through the Internet’s glancing eye. Stories that are steeped in human-scale history are re-wakened, declaring past happenings of significance reflecting these people’s lives that now intersect.
Michael Aschauer: http://m.ash.to
The Danube Panorama Project: https://danubepanorama.art/
Google maps: http://maps.google.co.uk
Google Earth: http://earth.google.com