Using contemporary and historical paintings and images from Google Street View, I created immersive artistic experiences that encourage viewers to appreciate what is beautiful or poignant about the modern world, and to see it with new eyes.
Why did I do this for my thesis? It is true that I was enamored by the technical challenges of this project. Of which there were many. But for much of the semester, I was not able to articulate a deeper purpose. I also got very uncomfortable anytime somebody asked because deep down, I was afraid that was my only reason.
But after thinking about it, I realized that’s not at all why I’ve spent so much time pursuing this specific goal. And with some reflection, I was able to get in touch with my deeper motivation. And that is my interest in the physical and conceptual dimensions of seeing and perception. Starting with my Processing libraries ColorBlindness and Camera3D, this is an interest I have been pursuing long before ITP.
The Google Street View service provides an expansive photographic record covering just about every street in the world, as well as the interior of some buildings. The service is literally a new way of seeing and exploring the world.
In John Berger’s 1972 television series Ways of Seeing, Berger specifically addresses how photography changed how we see. Consider that before photography you were always required to be in the same place as something in order to see it. Now, an image of a thing can be transmitted broadly for all to see. Realize that Google Street View has taken seeing two steps farther. First, instead of one image, it is now millions of images. And second, they provide an interaction that allows the user to change their view and to move from one photo to the next.
Google Street View can only show you the world through the mechanical eye of its camera. But there are other ways of seeing: although a painting does not reproduce an image the way a camera can, it can be more truthful to human perception and experience. A painting can capture the artist’s personal and subjective experiences of seeing a thing.
Compared to the mechanical eye of Google’s Camera, my style transfers provide immersive experiences of the real world in a way that is more truthful to human perception and experience. In the same way that a painting’s style can connect us to its subject matter, I can create art that establishes similar connections to the real world.