Jon Rafman

artist book
Jon Rafman, 2014
fine art photographic paper, 10 pages
Publisher: Punctum Press
Dimensions: 10 x 8 inches
edition of 40

The Nine Eyes of Google Street View project was launched in 2008 when I began to gather Google street view images captured by the roaming Google street view cars. Not unlike the amateur archivist, or ethnographer or Baudelaire's flaneur, this emerging virtual landscape gave me the opportunity to explore, interpret, and curate a new world in a new way.

 

The collection of street views in Nine Eyes both celebrate and criticize the contemporary world. Remarkable geographical and social exploration is facilitated by Google satellite images, while at same time the technology makes starkly visible the paradoxes of modernity.  In the contemporary virtual landscape, the detached gaze of a automatic Street View camera is not unlike an indifferent god who witnesses but does not act in history.

 

The stories these photographs recount signify in ways that are multiple, diverse and puzzling. A street view image can give us a sense of what it feels like to have everything recorded, but with no particular significance accorded to anything. Street view photographs nonetheless remain cultural texts demanding interpretation, subject to the viewer's own gaze. This very way of recording our world, this tension between an automated camera and a human who seeks meaning, is a reflection of modern experience.

 

Jon Rafman