Adele Prince (an Interactive Arts graduate) came to talk to my group this week. She has been very successful with exhibitions, commissions and winning an innovation prize from the Yahoo! website. Through her various projects she has also attracted a lot of media coverage. Her success alone was enough to keep me attentive, but as it turned out I really enjoyed the presentation and her work definately aroused my interest. Most of Adele’s projects seemed to utilise the web, with more recent work reflecting the changes in the how the internet is used and having a distinctly Web 2.0 feel about them. One of her latest works, involved being tracked via GPS, which updated her position on a map on a website, and being given instruction via mobile phone – very technology heavy! This web-centricity was particularly interesting to me; as many of my ideas and things I’d like to do involve the same kind of things.
One commission that Adele showed us, was for a train station in Linconshire. How she created her work (which was a video installation) was to travel the length of the trainline and alongside it. But she did this by foot, taking photographs at 5 minute intervals throughout (the whole journey took several days). With the journey complete the photographs were Adele’s source material, along with video footage recorded by her boyfriend who was following her on a bicycle. The end result is displayed on two video monitors housed within the station ticket office. I really liked this concept, its the kind of self-involving art that I really like. I guess there is something of a likeness to post modernism with exposed self-referencing, that really gets my juices flowing. With this piece I like it that there is no certainty about what the images would be, but together they can be directly relevant to the subject.
Another piece of work she talked about (my favourite I think) was her “Lost Something?” website. This was born from Adele collecting lost items from the street, and cataloging the item, where it was found, and when. Eventually all these items were compiled and uploaded onto a website. People can log on to the website, check the list and see if their lost item is there. Launched in the late 90s Adele still recieves many emails per week with regard to the lost items on the website.
Adele seems to have been prolific since leaving University, with further projects including Lost Something and another web-based affair; Trolley Spotting. Trolley Spotting is an online database (with maps & images) chronicling Adele’s journeys around various cities to find trolleys. It is true that trolleys turn up in many odd places!
I’m enticed by the all Adele’s work, and it is very reminicent of a number of my own concepts – I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing for most of the projects. Like a “missing link”. Of course this is just my preference, and I was exceedingly excited to see someone doing things so similar to some of my aspirations. Also her success speaks for itself.
The presentation did make me think back to discovering the Bookcrossing.com website. On the site, you register your details and you’re then given a serial number. You print the number in a book, which you then leave anywhere you like! The idea is that someone else finds the book, which as well as the serial number has details of how to get the website. They then register the fact that they’ve found the book, where, when, how etc then once they’re finished with the book they are supposed to leave it somewhere else. Thus you get a large network of people sharing books with people using the Internet as a medium for tracking it.
There is another website called WheresGeorge.com and another called PhotoTag.org – one tracks US currency and the other disposable cameras (and then shows the pictures taken with each camera). The ideaology seems very similar to that of a lot of mail artists, but in this case making the most out of the internet.
When I discovered these websites (about 3 years ago now) the concept of each struck a chord with me; and I started trying to wrack my brains to figure out something similar that I could set up myself. The lost something idea was one that came to mind (I was unaware Adele had done it!), but I decided it would only really work as a self-contained thing if the lost objects were posted on the website by its users, rather than just me, and that this would constitute a massive programming task!
The thing that really turned me on about BookCrossing (which, incidentally, is now a word in the Oxford English dictionary!) was the fact that the people interacting with the site were giving each other a gift. Even if it is to a complete stranger! I like this idea of not being able to control something, but engineering conditions so the “art” actually evolves by itself (plus its always nice to get something for free, from another person). The concept is quite similar to Dave Gorman’s book Googlewhack Adventure, which is an amazing book. I think it qualifies to be called a work of art.
Mars Bars! I think the reason I chose Mars bars was that it rhymes, and I liked the phrase “Mars bars go far..”
My plan is to create a replica of the BookCrossing system, but modified so that Mars bars are the subject, rather than books. I will start with, say, 100 Mars which I will release through a variety of methods – each of them tagged with their own serial number and instructions. Whoever finds or recieves one of the bars, is instructed to log on to the website and record the fact they’ve recieved (and eaten!) the chocolate they are then requested to purchase a replacement chocolate add a serial number (provided by the website) and release that bar.
I would love to create this chocolate giving network, see how far it can spread, track its progress, ultimately see where it takes me and see where it takes the Mars bars.
Later on, I had two thoughts; firstly I was worried about the legality of using the Mars company’s trademarks but then that led me to thinking how valuable it maybe for the company. I wonder if I could create such a thing and sell it to Mars as a viral marketing technique or simply tell Mars about the project and see if they would give me a nominal sponsor to get it off the ground.
So I’m extremely grateful to Adele for rekindling my interest in this kind of project and very pleased to have been made aware of her work, which I’m going to be watching with a keen eye. Maybe at some point we could join forces! Its funny how things work together, I started doing my first computer programming in ages with Max/MSP last week, and now I’m thinking about doing a whole load more.