Close Up at a Distance, Mapping Technology Politics
Published on: April 23, 2013
The past two decades have seen revolutionary shifts in our ability to navigate, inhabit, and define the spatial realm. The data flows that condition much of our lives now regularly include Global Positioning System (GPS) readings and satellite images of a quality once reserved for a few militaries and intelligence agencies, and powerful geographic information system (GIS) software is now commonplace. These new technologies have raised fundamental questions about the intersection between physical space and its representation, virtual space and its realization. In Close Up at a Distance, Laura Kurgan offers a theoretical account of these new digital technologies of location and a series of practical experiments in making maps and images with spatial data. Neither simply useful tools nor objects of wonder or anxiety, the technologies of GPS, GIS, and satellite imagery become, in this book, the subject and the medium of a critical exploration. Close Up at a Distance records situations of intense conflict and struggle, on the one hand, and fundamental transformations in our ways of seeing and of experiencing space, on the other. Kurgan maps and theorizes mass graves, incarceration patterns, disappearing forests, and currency flows in a series of cases that range from Kuwait (1991) to Kosovo (1999), New York (2001) to Indonesia (2010). Using digital spatial hardware and software designed for military and governmental use in reconnaissance, secrecy, monitoring, ballistics, the census, and national security, Kurgan engages and confronts the politics and complexities of these technologies and their uses. At the intersection of art, architecture, activism, and geography, she uncovers, in her essays and projects, the opacities inherent in the recording of information and data and reimagines the spaces they have opened up.