Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Locative Art: Secrets Are The Roots of Cool

William Gibson who coined "cyperspace" has been very prescient, predicting where the internet will go. 

A few years back, he wrote a book called Spook Country (2007). A central theme was "locative art." Using a visor, you could see art exhibited on location. But it wasn't just any kind of art. You could see the past being exhibited  in the present.

The essence of locative art is sharing ghosts.

This was the inspiration behind enabling GPS while building the world's largest locative art atlas showing where art and innovation took place. 

In Gibson's Spook Country, at Viper Room (8852 Sunset, LA), at a locative art exhibit,  you could see where River Phoenix died outside, his body still there. His sister Rain Phoenix had tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  

Oct 31, 1993, Red Hot Chili Peppers Flea (Michael Blazary) was in an ambulance with River Phoenix from the Viper Room, where he collapsed outside, to Cedar Sinai Medical Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 23. 

Locative art can be expanded by 360 degree narratives with fast-forwarding (or rewinding). The pay phone where Joaquin Phoenix called 911 is still there today.  

You can add background tracks to augment a location. Viper Room owner Johnny Depp seen here with Johnny Cash and June Carter was inside when River Phoenix died on Halloween 1993 outside. Future Clueless (1995) star Alicia Silverstone was bartending that night.

You can add before-it happened background or after-it-happened evolution. Gangster Bugsy Siegel hung out here 1940s. Tom Waits helped re-develop the club. 

You can collage narratives in a fast-forward exhibit or rewind exhibit. This is John Travolta at Viper Room in Be Cool (2005)

Locative art is about creating an artview (movieview, musicview, photoview, storyview etc)  with many angles (and time stamps) instead of a stock streetview fixed in time.  In a wider view or different angle, locative artifacts may be used in the future by geo-sleuths to help identify and stitch other images nearby. This is a long shot of John Travolta in Be Cool (2005).

The Viper Room played the London Fog venue for Oliver Stone's The Doors (1991). The bar where Alicia Silverstone bartended the night River Phoenix died makes a cameo:

The stage last seen by River Phoenix where Red Hot Chili Peppers Flea was singing with Butthole Surfers Gibby Haynes is seen in The Doors (1991) with Val Kilmer:

Aerial angles from The Doors (1991):

Perhaps a table experience River Phoenix last had or saw can be seen in this Valley Girl (1983) scene with Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman at Viper Room:

In Be Cool (2005), Vince Vaughan sits with The Rock at Viper Room VIP booth.

 Re-creating a vibe is part of locative art. This is the album cover for The Sweet's Desolation Boulevard (1974), which featured Ballroom Blitz, outside Viper Room.

Sharing then and now images shows evolution in locative art. Meaningless images and B Movies become meaningful offering context in locative art. Movies chronicle locative artifacts. This is the stage at Viper Room in Valley Girl (1983):

Bruce Springsteen once played an impromptu show here.

Locative art can be disguised and dressed up in movie sets. There are diverse ways of collaging or stitching threads in locative art.  This is Viper Room in the opening credits of Entourage:

In locative art, you can map thoughts for others to see there:

In locative art, you can also stitch related "ancillary" locations.  The night River Phoenix  died Oct 31, 1993, he was staying at Hotel Nikko (465 S La Cienega Blvd), now SLS Hotel (seen below), with girlfriend Samantha Mathis. Locative art can connect to a biography thread by recent locations. You can follow the actual course of history.

In locative art, you can  also "jump" to a new spot by clicking a profile tag.  This is River Phoenix escaping death in Stand By Me (1986)  about to jump off Lake Britton Bridge (Eagle Mountain Lane, Burney, CA):

You can also jump to other stories at the same location. Tommy Lee Jones of Motley Crue was convicted of battery after he pushed Henry Tappler at Viper Room who tried to take a photo of his wife Pamela Anderson Sep 26, 1996.

You may wish to follow a story of your friend or your hero here.  Others who were here include: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Marie Presley, Jared Leto, Chistina Applegate, Angelina Jolie, Tobey Maguire, Leonard DiCaprio, Counting Crows Adam Duritz (who bartended here), Nicole Eggert, Mick Jagger, Uma Thurman, Courtney Love, Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, Rosanna Arquette, Oasis, Wallflowers, Pussycat Dolls, Gwen Stefani, Cameron Diaz, Christina Aguilera, Sean Penn, Tom Petty, Juliette Lewis, Dwight Yokum, Mick Fleetwood, Joan Osbourne, Michael Keaton, Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Heche, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Chris Rock, Go Gos, Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), John Mayer, Matchbox 20, Green Day, Billy Idol, Sheryl Crow, Everclear, and Run–D.M.C.

Profile tags profile a neighborhood and its tastes. People and titles for works of art define neighborhood traits  Greenwich Village had the highest density of writers, people on Time magazine covers, Nobel Prize winners and Pulitzer winners.

Locative networks follow the tastes of trailblazers and where  their history connects with places. They show where you cross paths with history.  What gets creatively produced at places defines the dna of a locative network.

It's a matter of time when locative offers along a user's dotted path will replace meaningless ads with stories and opportunities. A more human dialogue.

Locative threading gives a viewer a perspective the news, social media, maps and history cannot give.  The perspective offers new dimensions for understanding and a unique sensual experience.

This is 9 Jones (New York) today, on an album cover for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963) and in a fictional re-creation in Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky (2001):

Each locative artist usually has a unique style for identifying locations and displaying locative art. Bob Egan at PopspotsNYC  uses a lot of geometry, a collage of old photos, and geo-spatial patterns in architecture.  That helped him find this wall at Mercantile Building (Plum and MLK Rd, Macon, GA) in an empty lot  (now a parking lot) where a hotel burned down. The Allman Brothers gave a clue it was geometrically visible from Capricorn Studios (548 MLK Rd). Jim Marshall re-shot the cover for Allman Brothers At Fillmore East (1971) here.  Locative Art can blend or super-impose then and now...or then and later in the past. Timelines merge in locative art.

Locative media  is an illustrative platform that jumps from one relevant artifact to another for exploration - indexed at a spot. Stories are searchable by address.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Geo-Sleuthing Empire State of Mind

I have this theory that every block in New York City has  appeared in a movie, tv show or music video.  As The Naked City chimes, "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."

Having mapped stories on every street in Manhattan,  it seemed fitting to map where Jay-Z and Alicia Keys sang in Empire State of Mind (2009).

Jay-Z even pays homage to The Naked City, "Eight million stories out there and they're naked."

Geo-sleuthing is like a crossword puzzle. Once you figure out  the rest of the locations, the last and hardest ones become easier to identify. This was the hardest spot which I saved for last.

Riverside and 145th St 
 "I use to cop in Harlem...Now I live on Billboards." 

Always start off with the easier locations to build momentum. Lots of ads can only mean this is Times Square where billboards are easy to locate:

Stella  Artois (by Roxy Deli, 1565 Broadway at 47th St)
& Hershey's (Broadway and 48th St, NW corner)  
"These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you." 

TKTS (Broadway and 47th ST, Times Square)
"One hand in the air for the big city. Street lights, big dreams all looking pretty"  

If you don't recognize a close up, there are usually other photos showing background to figure out an address. Sometimes the address will even be spelled out: 

145th Street Station (Broadway & 145th St) 
"Welcome to the melting pot, corners where we selling rock"

Sometimes clues are in the song lyrics. "560" was  on the window (faded here but more visible in video).

560 State St (Brooklyn)  
"Took it to my stash spot, 560 State Street."

Landmarks are often beacons for geo-tagging.

"I'm from the Empire"

Every old building will usually have a name to get an address: 
B Fischer & Co (Greenwich and Franklin)
 aka Tribeca Grill (375 Greenwich) owned by Robert De Niro
"now I'm in TriBeCa, right next to De Niro"

You can search a piece of art in Google Images. Typing  "Cube in New York City," you will see 2 cubes with a red cube by Isamu Noguchi matching.

140 Broadway 
"There's nothing you can't do"

Now things start getting harder....but in this next spot, Jay-Z is wearing the same hat so chances are he is nearby. Using Google Streetview,  you will see this building below is across the street from the cube.

Broadway and Liberty (One Liberty Plaza)
"Catch me at the X"

Here is another spot where he is wearing the same hat and you can see a church. Trinity Church is nearby. That helps identify this spot: 

115 Broadway (US Realty Building) 
and 111 Broadway (Trinity Building)
"they act like they forgot how to act"

Matching clothes seemed to work for this hood above.  So I thought I'd try my luck with this photo below. He wasn't wearing a hat at 560 State Street. So using Google Streetview I found this building across the street. 

Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower (1 Hanson Pl)
"Yeah, Imma up at Brooklyn"

Using the same method, but a little more work with Google Streetview circling the block, i found this corner a block east from where he stood with this same hat at TriBeCa Grill (Greenwich and Franklin). 

Hudson and Franklin. 
Robert De Niro actually lived at 110 Hudson (l). 
Jay-Z has lived up the street at 195 Hudson. 
"now I'm down in TriBeCa Right next to De Niro, but I'll be hood forever"

The last photo required the most work on Google Streetview, but I figured he had to be in Harlem, given Jay-Z wore the same outfit at 145th St Station. I traveled many blocks all along 145th Street to find this building.  That's after going other directions as well. But hey, it was the last spot.  It was clear the building was on a corner (which helped). 

Riverside & 145th Street, NE Corner
"I used to cop in Harlem, all of my Dominicanos" 

 I actually missed a spot. In this photo, Jay-Z is in an office that faces the Empire State Building. You need to use a bit of geometry to deduce where it is. Some geo-sleuths will also identify sunlight direction. But we will save that for another day. 

Once you've narrowed down which buildings have the right angle, you can search real estate blogs to match the interior which clearly faces the sun (a clue):

I'd first do a quick check on where Jay-Z worked/lived. I recall he had a midtown apartment facing an apartment owned by BeyoncĂ©. Happy geo-sleuthing. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Locative Media 2.0

Jump2Spot finished a year-long project that took 12-18 hours daily  mapping biographies of notable people in history.

This tops up locations for movie scenes, photos of the day, music history, art, literature, history, and innovation. Some of the world's largest atlases have been built for these topics.

Some unexpected results emerged with biographies mapped.

The idea originally was to show where you are crossing paths with someone who made history.  

Among locations mapped were birthplaces, schools and roots of people when they were unknown.  A surprising number of  "Closet Canadians" have shaped American pop culture. Hollywood, for example, had Warner Bros Jack Warner (born in London, Ont.), Disney patriarch Elias (born Bluevale, Ont) and MGM founders Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B Mayer (who lived in the Martimes of Canada). Actors like Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc have roots in Canada. It is arguable that American pop culture is half-defined by ex-pat Canadian culture. 

Another pattern showed astrological connections. Alt-country singers Gram Parsons and Ryan Adams share the same birthday. So does Bryan Adams.  Woody Allen, Sarah Silverman and Richard Pryor share the same birthday. Astrological clusters of people in the same field were frequent. You could almost make a new horoscope app connecting biographical stories on birthdays. 

Locative media shows where a person is mentioned for making a difference - usually in art or innovation. Of 100 billion people who lived on the planet, less than 50,000 people had a media impact in history. The status quo is indeed a powerful force.

Mapping biographies also illustrated how a course of history was changed. 

The key editorial barometer for locative media has been: does this story make an interesting ghost to share?

Stories that are powerful in visual narrative had the greatest connection with viewers. The lens of seeing ghosts then in the context of what is now proved quite interesting. Evolution is mapped.

One of the bigger challenges for locative media has been the mapping platforms so far available for viewing. They do not account for easily viewing one location with 100s or even 1000s of stories. They are designed geo-spatially for one story per spot. Additionally, it is hard to see what makes a story interesting at a spot with just a pin or bubble on a map.  There are also invisible pins for neighborhoods with a high density of stories that you can't see until you zoom in.  A map with pins doesn't offer a great user experience. This shows a post you've already seen above, but you can't immediately tell. The other pins have invisible stories until you click. The other stories have invisible pins until you zoom in.

I forsee maps being invisible in geo-spatial navigation to accommodate many stories.  A streetview made for narratives is possible. Triggers defining recommended and featured content for a user's path or contextual activity will be key. Filters by topic can help categorize stories for a user's taste.  Points on a map will need to be easier to "jump" to. Scrolling a map and even downloading a map takes up too much time and real estate with non-functional activities.

In social media channels, there's been a strong interest from users who want to add facts, location IDs and related stories or photos in a thread for one post like this Robert Frank film for the Rolling Stones in 1972.

To date, mapping platforms don't allow for threads for one pin/post. You can only make a separate post (no thread) to add a fact. The problem is only 1 post is visible per  spot  on a map at top-level viewing, when you could have 100s of movie scenes at one  location (e.g. Central Park).  

One sees a different user experience after geo-tagging 1.36 million assets. Scalability and new dimensions are needed for geo-spatial design.  It is also key  to avoid offering only stagnant (already viewed) stories nearby and dynamically change stories contextual to a user's interest. GPS experiments early on in mobile applications showed the same old stories near one's home/work instead of refreshing new stories.

William Gibson's vision for locative media in Spook Country saw geo-spatial projections related to a user's desired path. It offered a focused experience. That's what geo-spatial design needs. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is This All?

Betty Friedan asked what may be the most timeless social question in history: "Is this all?"

In 1957, Betty coined  a phrase that changed America: "the problem that has no name."

She had surveyed Smith College classmates about satisfaction 15 years later at a reunion. Instantly, almost every woman in America identified with "the problem that has no name."

It had one key symptom: a feeling of being trapped. 

* * * 

Betty appeared in Time with my kid’s maternal grandma for changing the course of human history, becoming lifelong friends.  

I often looked for common traits Betty had, beyond writing, with my kid’s grandma. They were both in another zone, able to see past what’s in front, with great confidence, to create new freedoms. 

They spent time looking at what defines a social trap and how one frees oneself from the question of "Is this all?” 

It’s a powerful question you can transpose beyond the house. There are invisible traps everywhere blocking one’s full capabilities. 

It's a regular occurrence that we subscribe to traps to accommodate what is deemed needed for work, life, creative output or relationships. 

The future can always be seen by asking: Is this all? It's a question that asks for a bigger answer than what's in front.  What is taboo one decade is often no longer taboo next decade. What is unaccepted today becomes the future. 

There is always more to see, you just have to look for it. The basis of creativity is to see more. I think that's why Betty Friedan once used creativity (as opposed to politics) as the key metaphor for freeing oneself from trapped thinking. There are no inclinations in creativity.

Betty was born today in 1921. She passed away on her birthday February 4, 2006. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Time (346 Broadway, NY) - In youth, time is in the moment, shining glory, unveiling discovery, dismissive of what's cheated or taken for granted. In a coming of age, time is an entire history where every moment makes sense in a bigger picture, a greater good and a reconciliation of the past. Adversity is a known friend. New York born Amanda Peet in the Clock Tower turns 42 today. A scene from Griffin and Phoenix (2006) time stamped.