The Western Avenue Project documents and demonstrates opportunites for linkages between landscapes and digital technologies as found along Western Avenue, the longest street in Chicago. It consists of a structure built of steel, wire, fabric, wood and fiberglass; the structure will support a series of digitally altered videos, photographs, sound compositions, drawings and writings. At the close of the installation, the construction will continue as part of the Digital Geography web site.
The digital geography for Western Avenue will include four components: invisible structures, mutable networks, bits and blocks, and captured landscapes. Invisible structures are unseen but saturating technologies that either fall away or over-determine results, and include landscaping materials and computer software. Mutable networks are informal and spectacular linkages that locate event, such as car-lot decorations and the World Wide Web. Bits and blocks are multiples, surfaces, containers and Patterns, that taken collectively, make organic and formal information, and are manifested in the flow of traffic and computational capacity. Captured landscapes are organic documents that have the potential to become critical counterpoints to planning strategies which seek to keep the natural and the artificial distinct, and include the orphaned gardens created by traffic planners and satellite biodiversity analysis. Each of these components erases distinctions between the natural and the artificial and contributes to the creation of something we call ‘manywheres’: localities influenced or even produced by forces, systems or events acting from great and small distances. Our intention for the installation at ISEA is to represent Western Avenue in terms of an emerging geography of manywheres unencumbered by nostalgia for some genus loci and unwilling to submit to the kind of deterritorialization and displacement that makes the urban interstice into a bland anywhere.
The Digital Geographies Project is meant to defy the construction of cyberspace as a so-called “total environment”, that is supposedly “more real” than our everyday experience. At the same time, we are not proposing the development of technologies for a utopian recovery or improvement of the natural (a recapitualtion of the’perfected’ nature of traditional landscape design). We are concerned with elaborating architectural and design practices by using the computer as a tool to construct information surfaces which are connected to, and depend upon, the surface of the earth. The result is what Deluze would call the actualization of the virtual, that is, not a repetition of what is already given as possible, but a materialization of the new. We think of the work as an architectural investigation where our discoveries are documented in building and where information and accident yield invention.
The gallery is a frame for an experimental landscape. The gallery’s surfaces become a field condition where landscapes come under the influence of the digital. This field of screens and surfaces, read as barriers, furniture and displays, functions in a manner that suggests the fluid, pliant expanse of the landscape garden, so that the gallery is something other than a container for the display of objects. These surfaces and terrains will act as information contours that make space by concealing, intercepting, protecting and displaying information. The constructions have the potential to move outside the gallery garden, digitally, in the loop they make back to the net through the web page, and conventionally, in their life as prosaic objects that can be put to many uses. The installation functions at numerous levels—to diseminate information, to act and react to input, to house an event.
Digital Geographies is supported by generous funding from the Graham Foundation.
- Doug Garofalo, Ellen Grimes, & Helen Tsatsos (U.S.A.) The University of Illinois at Chicago.