Collaborative drawings

I have been experimenting with the GPS data collected during PGN14. Drawings shown in previous posts have involved collaborations of GPS tracks by combining individual journeys as layers into a GIS and displaying the data by day or person. Collaborations emerge through the inhabitation of space (e.g. at Papay Listskjul) over given durations (a day or when the receiver was switched on / off / ran out of batteries). These tracks are maintained as separate lines in the GIS and the collaboration is through space rather than both space and time. Collaborations are ‘made’ by me arranging the data and displaying it in certain ways, rather than by a deliberate interaction between participants. Inevitably though, participants and their tracks would have interacted, during pauses for conversation, communal lunches, taking part in workshops and exhibitions, and constructing things together such as the fire shelter and sauna. Consequently, there is less emphasis on time in these drawings.

What if we take this ‘made collaboration’ further by physically combining the data from each participant? Tracks consist of a series of points, each consisting of x, y and time information joined into a string or line. By combining the data, reorganising the points – in this case by time – and then generating a single track, the drawn line flits between participants as they inhabit different places at the same time. The line ‘draws in’ the location and follows how these change relative to each participant over a given time period; a conversation-like space-time map. I have started with an hour of data, and reduced this down to ten minutes and even one minute.

The result is quite remarkable. A fractal-like line is created as space is re-inhabited and re-configured by the drawing. This is especially apparent when the line is displayed as a single polygon. The complexity and depth of the collaborative drawing becomes more apparent as the polygon struggles to draw itself. Lines overlay and re-overlay, leaving more open windows into an even more fractal-like world. With a white outline, the most intense conversations between participants become bleached out, and the more ephemeral and peripheral lines dominate as solid areas of colour.

Talk by Ragnhild Ljosland: Runes, Fate, Magic and the Ragnarok (18/02/14: 1400-1459). Five GPS track collaboration.

Manipulation of the data in this way creates a new trajectory through space. As time progresses the line moves between places occupied by different people. However, this apparent reorganisation of linear time (and space) is not actual, it merely visualises the participants’ movements in space and time linked by the set times the GPS receivers are programmed to take points (e.g. every 5, 10 or 15 seconds etc.). The line represents the oscillation of these time pulses between the receivers rather than a linear trajectory into the future. In the same way that a row of flashing lights alongside a set of roadworks ripples and changes the pattern of illumination, so the GPS units will fluctuate the order they record points. Moreover, the line jumps between individuals that are on completely different trajectories, networks with different intentions, linking these oscillating moments in time and space via a weak satellite signal from Medium Earth Orbit some 20,000km above (perhaps we should map these satellite signal-lines too?). Non-linear becomes linear, becomes fractal-like, polygonised and rhizomatic as the line, and especially the polygon, takes on a new form. This form comes to embody the assemblage of artists and archaeologists for a duration at PGN14.

Ryo Ikeshiro: Construction in Kneading. Live audiovisual performance (18/02/14 21.00-21.59). Five GPS track collaboration.

This sort of drawing is far removed from more traditional modes of archaeological depiction and recording. Site drawings deal with stratigraphy and construction sequences, although in reality many drawings narrate the process of excavation rather than the complex assemblages of past and present that are excavation sites. The GPS drawings were created through ‘screenwork’ (Edgeworth Forthcoming) rather than being drawn in the field by hand, and follow an increasing trend for the use of GPS, GNSS, AutoCAD and GIS in archaeological practice. The drawing was present, at the time, in virtual and digital potential, however the ‘mark-making’ was completed on a laptop using a GIS. In this way, perhaps it expands the archaeological repertoire of drawing practice (see Wickstead 2013) from the mapping of material, actual or virtual (digital), to one of collaborative embodiment of space focussed on the contemporary event. In this case, there is an archaeologist using creative archaeological practice in an arts context, rather than the more common reversal of these roles (but see Lee and Thomas 2013). This is not, however, an archaeology of the distant or even the recent past; it is an archaeology in-and-of the present (Harrison 2011), an archaeology of now, of events and process (Lee and Thomas 2013). In response to Doug Bailey’s call for archaeologists to inhabit new interdisciplinary spaces (2013) I believe that the results are unexpected, non-representational and mysterious and offer a distinctive contribution to contemporary archaeological practice. They are also intriguing drawings, without explanation, in their own right.

Bailey, D 2013. Art//Archaeology//Art: Letting-Go Beyond. In I. Alden Russell and A Cochrane (eds) Art and Archaeology. Collaborations, Conversations Criticisms, 231-250. New York: Springer.

Edgeworth, M forthcoming. From Spadework to Screenwork: New forms of archaeological discovery in digital space. In A Carusi, AS Hoel, T Webmoor and S Woolgar (eds) Visualization in the Age of Computerization. Routledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society (pre-publication version).

Harrison, R 2011. Surface Assemblages: Towards an Archaeology in and of the Present. Archaeological Dialogues 18(2), 141-161.

Lee, D and Thomas, A 2013.Archaeologists-in-Residence at Papay Gyro Nights: Experience, expectations and folklore-in-the-making. Paper presented at Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) Conference 2013, UCL London 09/11/13. Reproduced here:

Wickstead, H 2013. Between the lines: Drawing archaeology. In P Graves-Brown, R Harrison and A Piccini (eds) The Oxford Handbook of The Archaeology of the Contemporary World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This entry was posted in Art and Archaeology, Contemporary Archaeology, GPS Drawings, Mapping and Walking, Papa Westray, Papay Gyro Nights, Performance, Ryo Ikeshiro and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Collaborative drawings

  1. Pingback: Circular walks: some recent experimental GPS tracks | Archaeologists in Residence

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