Jon Rafman's Google Street Views: LIVE!
On Friday, I had the opportunity to view Jon Rafman’s much discussed Google Street Views project [(along with excellent work by Michelle Ceja (stunning prints!), Duncan Malashock, Nicolas Sassoon, Artie Vierkant and Jonathan Vingianoat (check out Avatar in 3D)] in a group show called AREA/ZONE at The Bruce High Quality Foundation Universtiy.
The medium sized glossy c-prints of footage gleaned from Google Street View, at first appear not unlike traditional gritty reportage work. One asks the usual questions: what are these photographs documenting? To what event/place/time am I to connect these seemingly related images? But, as the viewer draws closer it is clear that each print includes at the bottom left corner the ubiquitous Google Street View stamp (some in english, some in other languages) . It is at this moment when the enormity of Google’s surveilance project sets in and one is quickly confronted that this is a documentation of The World and it is taking place Now.
Calling into questions of authorship, ownership, traditional documentary practice and photography’s increasingly immaterial existence, Rafman’s project hits all of the critical hot spots in the discussion of contemporary photographic practice. Rarely does a project succeed so succinctly in hitting it’s mark. Moreover, in an age when immaterial or web based work so often falls short in the transition to the material world, Rafman’s prints add to the experience of the work by removing the Google content from its expected milieu and forcing the viewer’s reconsideration of contemporary public space in the digital age.
Check out the show: AREA/ZONE at The Bruce High Quality Foundation Universtiy, it is well worth the trip to see all of this work in real life! If you refuse to leave the comfort of your home, you can see more of the Google Street View project here.
* all images copyright Jon Rafman