Joe Hamilton, Indirect Flights (2015). Screenshot, detail.
Indirect Flights (2015), an online work by Joe Hamilton with sound by J.G. Biberkopf and support from The Moving Museum, blends satellite images, organic textures, brush strokes, and architectural fragments into a dense panorama accessible via a Google Maps-like interface at the website www.indirect.flights. Rhizome's summer fellow Heloïse Cullen talked Hamilton about the project via email.
Navigating through indirect.flights I had a feeling of walking on the streets, smartphone on hands. I also felt a distance from actually being surrounded by natural landscapes (which for me is rather sad). The layers that show nature seem distant from a human—immersed—point of view, satellite images, mostly layered in the far bottom layer, watched while I navigated listening to urban sounds.
I can see how you felt a distance to the elements of nature in the work. The piece is rather dystopian when looked at in a certain light. Many elements are forced in the frame, overlapping and fighting for their own presence. A lot of the visual material is weathered and messy although still very high resolution and crisp. I didn't set about creating a piece about dystopia but It seems appropriate that some viewers could read it as such.
I sent the indirect.flights link the other day via SMS to a friend who was asking "what's net art?" and I was surprised to notice it works really well on mobile. A lot of net art doesn't work that well on mobile—was this a specific decision on your part?
It was super important for me that the work function well on mobile. To start with I think it's meaningful for some viewers to experience the work in transit on a touch screen. The work is navigated in a way similar to online maps and mobile has become the default way of using a map now. Secondly, people are increasingly accessing the internet through mobile devices so it's just good practice for anything put online to be optimised for mobile.
You’ve said that interfaces are "pivotal in shaping communities online." How do map interfaces, which you reference with indirect.flights, shape communities, especially since they’re so often used as we travel through what used to be thought of as "offline" space?
I do think it is ego-centralized, not subject-centralized which at first made me conclude that people couldn't form organic groups just by common interests - like in specific politics subjects, for example. It is a fact that facebook doesn't at first try to create new connections in between persons who didn't have a connection prior to the online world. It just tries to reproduce the social connections already made by the user - almost, in my opinion, a documentation of the 'real' (read here: offline) social connections of people - kind of alarming in terms of surveillance. Before, facebook had a slogan which would say "connecting people around the world" - I don't have the exact phrase anymore, correct me if I'm wrong - which they later changed to "Connect with friends and the
world around you on Facebook." (much more honest for the purposes of this social media tool). I am not even touching the surface of facebook being used as a social net tool, because there are SERIOUS ones.
That's why it was a surprise for me when I first saw feminists groups and groups of empowerment of women in arts (giving an example from my own perspective). As did some other women, surprised by the amount of girls 'in activity' throughout the internet. In this story, Laura Lanne says "I noticed when I was a teenager that I only knew comic books made by men. In the Internet I found a lot, but not in the magazine stores and comic fairs - Wow, they’re a lot! Was it a secret? There’s a gap in between the number of women making comics and the attention they get."
And the fact is if you look for groups of women in comics on facebook you will encounter huge communities. You will find more publications made by women than you ever found in the main mediums of publication. Another good example is 'Retórica Clitórica Corpo em Festa', a zine produced by Drunken Butterfly. They made a public call for women in arts to create one page about feminine's sexuality. They made it mostly through facebook groups and out of it they created a beautiful publication that raises feminine voices to a broader public.
I do think the other alternatives for communities and discussions and social networking in general should continue to raise and be created, and I could never get tired of the attempts, if the tool we're using doesn't serve our users in the best, nothing more natural then the emerging of improved solutions. Still I agree that using the facebook groups for political engagement generally strengthens the causes.
So opting out of facebook, I agree, is probably not the best alternative but still, people should never stop engaging in the same topics outside of it. Maybe even use the existing groups - or create groups - to get people out of facebook into different communities - I've seen it happening in the case of women in arts.