I started thinking using co-posilission, the title of the email Pierre sent me.

The catalog has now taken a form that seemed to be structured around four themes. The following lines are an attempt to see how the few questions raised when I am thinking of collision/position, can fit under the new header “Extended Dimensions”.

My case study is a Google map from the region of La Loma near Medellin. The sector of La Loma Hermosa has an ambiguous status. Drug lords and paramilitaries have found a territorial agreement that makes the life of the inhabitants difficult and makes the very necessary improvements in infrastructure hard to get. Considered as too problematic the zone has gradually disappeared from the sight of the Administration and literally from the maps.

For Google maps (fig 1.), La Loma is reduced to a yellow line and a few indications. As Google’s map provider is the Columbian cartographic institute, no wonder the map reveals the (inexistent) view of the local administration.

Interestingly enough, the aerial photography (fig 2.) of the American search engine shows a very different picture that resemble more the reality of the place where 5000 people are actually living.

The situation becomes even more interesting when we look at the Openstreetmap version (fig 3.) of the same region. Here the roads, the house are present in detail. Being in Medellin, Rafaella Houlstan and I had the pleasure to meet Gabriel Jaime Vanegas Montoya from the Hiperbarrio collective and coordinator of the public library of La Loma. Through conversations with him, we realized the detailed information contained in the OSM were coming from a long term series of workshops held in the library where the inhabitants were drawing (fig 4.) and naming their surroundings.

Now on for the collision, elision, co-position.

My natural impulse was first to chose one map against another. The empty Google map is so shocking, denying so brutally the existence of so many people left to very difficult conditions of life. But beside this obvious and necessary statement, it is important to put the collision, elision, co-position concepts to work a little further.

When we have seen all the other maps, we begin to perceive the empty zones in the Google map differently. They are not an absence but operate a form of active erasure that follows a particular process. By buying its information from the official sources, the search giant does not only relay the views (or lack thereof) of the power in place but actively erase what its satellite eyes actually see. The fight for pixel space has been won by a vision of a unique road in an empty space, but is haunted by the aerial image that a click can reveal or hide. And other ghosts haunt this map, the surgically detailed OSM, the endless enumeration of houses and roads in the pencil and paper sketches of the inhabitants.

So elision for one part: the empty zone.

And collision on another plane between the different versions. And that is what interests me the most: where does the collision takes place? Having seen the different maps, what has been created in my mind is a collision space where the elements, the visions are co-positioned. I can have in my mind all the visions at the same time as a very abstract thought, I can mentally picture for myself the empty space and the drawing and the Openstreetmap and the aerial image. But as soon as I want to visualize them on screen, they will fight for pixel space. We can imagine transparencies, layers, but these representations have each their system of coordinates. And even more problematically if we superimpose the different layers, the empty space will be a surface on which things can be added and will lose its very quality of active void, its political dimension. Although in our mental collision space, we can hold the empty surface and the missing details. Our mental image is sensuous but not visual. We can sense an image made of the multiples and contradictory visions, we have a sense of La Loma through these different representations, but it is not an image we can see with our eyes.

How could software participate of (literal translation of participer de, not sure of the English) such an image rather than try to represent it? How can software dialog/enrich with the extended dimension of the mental image?

At this point I would like to introduce another case study. This second case doesn’t come from cartography but from two artworks, one produced in the fifties in America and another in the nineties in France.

In 1953, Robert Rauschenberg, then a young artist , asked de Kooning to participate in one of his project, the erasure of a de Kooning’s drawing. The Dutch painter accepted and gave him an important drawing in which the gestures and material had deeply penetrated the fibers of the paper. Rauschenberg spent one month erasing the recalcitrant drawing. Once his task achieved, he framed the drawing and added a legend: Erased de Kooning’s drawing, 1953” (fig 5.).

In the nineties, Antoine Moreau, initiator of the free art license, started a project named Peinture de Peintres. He describes it this way: “I ask to the painters I meet to paint on a canvas already painted by another. A painting covers another. This painting has no end. No fixed image. The canvas has a dimension of 88,5 cm/101,5 cm. This is not a compilation of my tastes, neither a collection of paintings.”

He takes a picture every time a painter has “covered” another one’s painting and uploads the image in his web gallery. “The quality of these images is approximative and irregular. On the web, it is just a glimpse (sur le web, c’est juste un coup d’oeil)”.

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For long, the Rauschenberg’s story has symbolized what I hated in the world of art. A certain idea of history of art in which a generation had to erase another to take its place, to have the final word on what art was, a tradition of ruptures. I was seeing a puerile Rauschenberg erasing de Kooning with an oedipal energy.

The free art license, the free software movement were the promise of another relationship between people creating art and code. There was for me a huge difference between being asked to paint over rather than erase. To consider what was on the canvas as part of the next stage and not something that had to be destroyed.

Having in mind the triad elision/collision/co-position, I would like to revisit these two stories. Obviously in the Rauschenberg’s story, the elision takes place on the sheet of paper. But mentally we can picture and the erased sheet of paper and a representation of a de Kooning drawing. And this last point is quite interesting. We have not seen the drawing in its original form, but if we have seen some de Kooning’s before, something comes to our mind. By erasing the drawing and adding the legend, Rauschenberg triggers a mechanism that makes us create a de Kooning. Of course, this creation has a lot to do with a cliché, an assimilation of style and signature that art history has trained us to form into our minds. But it cannot be reduced to that either, it is style and signature, but it is also a sensuous image, very much like something we see in a glimpse of an eye, too fast for contours and fixity. Therefore, Rauschenberg is not only erasing, by adding the legend, framing the drawing he creates a device that triggers a mental space for co-position between the materiality that we can observe and the “virtual” image, the glimpse of the erased drawing coming back to haunt the surface it has been taken away from.

In the case of Antoine Moreau’s project elision happens on the canvas too, but this time gradually, with different intentions (some painters overtly ignore others, while some of them play with what is there) and contrarily to what happened with de Kooning’s drawing there are images of the different stages of the project. Antoine is very careful not to give the authority to the photographs. They are just a ‘glimpse’. But looking at it more attentively, I feel they have nevertheless a certain authority: they represent the space of collision and co-position. Probably in order to give credit to the different participants, Antoine takes a picture when a painting is covered by another. Doing so, he defines fragments of time. Each fragment of time corresponds to the time an individual has worked on the canvas and can be clearly read as one of the participants statement. We have then a clear division: the “materiality” is the canvas and the “co-position” space is the virtual space of the web gallery where the different stages of the painting are exhibited. I can’t help but think that another process of elision/erasure happens at this stage: confronted with the staged co-position of the gallery, my own mental co-position space gets weaker, obliterated. The linear chronology of the different selected moments takes over the mental co-position.

Therefore my working question is: how can software intervene, find its place in the complex interaction of elision/collision/co-position? How can it enrich both the pixel based and mental spaces without representing the processes?

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