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Esther Polak

GPS and Public Space

We all have our routes to work, the supermarket or school. The outside world sees only parts of these routes; they exist in their complete form only in our heads. GPS (Global Positioning System) technology makes this use of public space visible to others, according to Esther Polak.

The routes people choose are visible in a sense, since they make use of public space. Yet at the same time, until recently they were also invisible. After all, once someone turns the corner, they’re out of sight, and the trail goes cold.

So until recently, all our informal daily routes existed only in our heads, as what are sometimes known as mental maps.

The introduction of GPS technology has changed this: now routes can be mapped realistically and shared with others, often online. This has considerable social consequences, but it also gives us a new experience of space that can be viewed at a more abstract and poetic level.

In her projects, Esther Polak investigates how technology determines perception. In this context, she does research into the visual and narrative possibilities of GPS technology. Besides presenting her well-known projects, she will also briefly introduce a project in Haarlem in which fictitious GPS data are being used for the first time as a poetic tool.