Online Art Project
Traces of a Constructed City was my first online art project, and an early example of net art. A visual archive of physical construction sites in central Berlin, it consisted of a clickable image map of the city that linked to images that I had taken using an early digital camera. It was first exhibited at Computer Aided Curating (C@C), one of the first (and possibly THE first) online exhibition venue dedicated to net-based art. C@C was conceived and organized by Eva Grubinger and coded by Thomax Kaulman.
At that time, both the web and the city of Berlin were under construction. In my daily life, it was as common to encounter web sites with "under construction" signs like this:
as it was to encounter physical construction sites like these:
I kept thinking about how the term "site" is used in both contexts.
The construction process is part of a site's life that is often treated more as an annoyance to be ignored than as something aesthetically interesting. I saw the images in Traces of a Constructed City not as independant aesthetic artifacts but as simple visual documents of ephemeral aesthetic phenomena in the urban landscape. I thought of them as traces of attentiveness rather than objects of interest.
One day I walked South down Friedrichstrasse from Unter den Linden. After moving through canyons of scaffolding, past project after incomplete project, I came to the hole that now stands (or rather sinks) where "Check point Charlie" used to be. The future site of an American business center, it was a grey swamp filled with giant drills, caterpiller tractors, and pile drivers. Men in yellow rubberized suits scurried about, splattered head to toe with grey mud, negotiating the operation of large, brightly colored machines. They were laying the foundation, filling the holes, reclaiming history from the ground up.
In the press
Hyperallergic: "A video projection focused on a single woodland scene for 24 hours shows undulating patterns of light formed by shadows of the trees. A leaf meanders its way to the ground; an insect buzzes by. A small pool of water shimmers and trickles, but not much else happens. When we come upon a scene like this in nature, we might stop for a photo, perhaps force ourselves to meditate for a moment, searching for peace and a spiritual connection, before quickly moving on. Mark Tribe’s “Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest, Ulster County, New York,” from the series New Nature (2016–17), allows us to linger more than we might in the wild, where fellow hikers, inclement weather, or mosquitoes compel us to be on our way. It allows us to enjoy the scene. According to a wall text accompanying this piece, we are more likely to experience nature on a digital screen than in an immersive setting. “In an age of virtual reality and inescapable human impact, is nature as real as it used to be?” asks Tribe. “And how could we use technologies of simulation (including relatively straightforward ones, like video) to preserve the experience of a vanishing wilderness?” By providing a voyeuristic view, the artist awakens us to a primal urge to get outside, to smell the moss, to feel the ferns and rocks, to listen to the water." Ilene Dube, "Artists Urge Us to Get Outside and Smell the Moss"