Jeremy Wood, The World's biggest 'IF'
Last week-end saw one the busiest day at the Kinetica Artfair in London, featuring over 150 exhibiting artists working at the cross-roads of sound / light art, computer art and interactive sculpture, and an extensive programme of related talks. One of them was given by Jeremy Wood, whose work I saw for the first time last year in the V&A Mapping the imagination exhibition. Wood had been working with GPS technology for over 8 years, and started from a disconcertingly simple idea: he noticed the aesthetic qualities of the paths formed on a map by geo-tagged photographs taken during a flight from Berlin to London. From there he has pushed the practice of flying, driving, cycling, walking (and even dog-walking) with a GPS attached, expecting some meaningful shape or pattern to emerge.
It’s interesting to note that while some of this ‘always-on’ recording process may be totally random (and pretty similar to Dan Belasco Rogers‘ work), Wood has also taken a keen interest in plotting routes to achieve a specific – and often funny – purpose (e.g. writing the world’s biggest ‘IF’, or drawing a ship sailing on the shoreline by cycling around the streets of Brighton – amusingly dropping its anchor where it had the most space to draw it in all details: in a park).
Jeremy Wood, Brighton Boat
I would describe Wood’s practice as negotiating around the possibilities offered by space to enable a drawing to take place, diverting and using wearable GPS technology as a mark-making tool. Initially a method for the military to record spatial activity, the technology has also become in the hands of Wood an ‘alibi’ to find out what’s going on where – a reminder of Situationist strategies for the Dérive (He has applied psychogeographic principles to a few drawings). In a different strand of works, he also explored the assumed precision level of GPS and has interrogated how accurate and reliable the technology actually is.
His work has obvious parallels with art movements of the last century: GPS drawings by animals echo the surrealists’ use of snails to paint. The special relationship to the territory established through walking as a creative act is also found in the work of many land artists, including Richard Long and the Stalker collective.
I was curious to figure out how much importance real-time feedback takes in this kind of work – I guess a lot of the fun is about experiencing it for yourself. Good, because Wood actually happens to run regular GPS drawing workshops with schools, local authorities and art galleries.