As an extra project for my Space and Materiality class (in order to boost my grade in the class after the failure of my Plaster Project), my professor assigned me to try doing a project involving “GPS Drawing”– the act of using self-tracking apps like iMapIt Pro to trace figures, drawings, letters, words, or even entire sentences (practically anything as long as it’s a form) over a satellite based map of any given area (the lines are superimposed, in this sense, over the map) using my walking distance and path for the initial lines that will form shapes based on where I go next. Through follow-up emails, my professor provided me links to apps like or equal to iMapIt Pro to download on my phone, and a link to a website about GPS Drawing that hosts an entire gallery of artwork using the GPS system over a map– most, if not all the drawings being done by an artist known as Jeremy Wood– who has managed merge science, art, geography, and IT all into one discipline, allowing viewers like me to have a better understanding of space, and to see the concept of large spaces and directions as a sort of language or canvas where a symbol, message, or composition can be superimposed.
The link to the GPS Drawing website will be attached below for reference, alongside the link for the iMapIt Pro information website (also for reference).
Before I even thinking about going out into a wide open space, like a park, field, or set of city streets, I knew I had to do some research on the GPS Drawing website and find some inspiration for the type of message or art piece I wanted to convey using the landscape as my canvas. I noticed some of the works I viewed resembled faces, or abstract shapes, or even words superimposed on a map or blank surface template. I remembered as I was doing my research how my professor told me I could incorporate some samples of my writing (since I tend to write poetry and fiction– and according to the opinions of others– “good fiction/poetry”) into my GPS project, and create a sentence using the tracing, self-tracking mechanics of the app I’d have to download on my phone. The words and symbols I would do would have to relate to the spatial area I was in (a superficial example would be a quote or symbol of nature superimposed on a park or a wildlife preservation area, hypothetically). Space, in this sense, could have and has a meaning of its own— and the words or symbols “inscribed” on the map of that space could be and are the materiality, the essence, or the representation of that very environment around it.
Because of my love for science-fiction and fantasy, I skimmed over some of my past work in poetry and fiction, and isolated a few quotes that I thought would be interesting to include superimposed over a map of a park or busy city region. Through this, I was led to tangential thoughts of crop circles as supposed symbols or markings left by aliens or gods who would have a bird’s eye view of a large space above them amidst the residence in some other world/heaven. Creating a traced crop circle using the app I mentioned before, and superimposing lines and shapes over a map or space, I thought, could add (and adds) a certain degree of mysticism and mystery to the particular space I’d choose further down the line– whether a park or somewhere less open.
The initial thought of crop circles led me to think of these intrusive interstellar markings on people’s crops (and now their parks and cities) as a form of interstellar or intergalactic vandalism or graffiti– but conducted on unsuspecting planets rather than instances of private property/transportation, and the like, as gangsters and hooligans here on Earth do with trucks and abandoned buildings. Finding the idea of intrusive crop circles interesting (and possibly novel), I developed it further and started thinking tangentially of “turf wars” fought by rival gangs who lay claim to a property or area and often defend that area from intruders (or raid other gangs’ “territories” for whatever reason). Using this logic, alien gangsters laying claim to a section of our planet for themselves could defend our planet (or take other alien gangs’ planets) from intruders in much the same fashion. The “____ wuz/was here” popular expression used on grafitti was something that came up in my mind as something silly or humorous aliens could place next to their gang signs, as well as something that could refer to aliens having been here long before us (a slight nod to the Ancient Astronaut Theory).
Ending off my research, I began thinking of actual locations or spaces I could use to trace my GPS drawings, and settled on Washington Square Park (near the New School) and a strip of land in New Jersey running alongside the street that I live in and going both north and south of where I live over a largely rectangular area. In order to plot and practice/test out the initial GPS drawing prior to actually going outside, I realized I could screenshot or select a portion of the maps of my home city and New York using my Mac’s “Grab” application in my Finder’s “Utilities” Folder, then save the selections as tiff files, open both pictures on Illustrator, and trace polygons and lines over the maps as if to simulate the results from my GPS Drawing application.
UPDATE: I am also considering (and considered) a large park on 80th street in NJ (James J. Braddock North Hudson County Park) to do my actual drawing.
As part of my GPS project, I was also tasked by my professor to take pictures of interesting things at certain points in the lines that I’d be tracing to form my drawing. I will be most likely adding captions below the pictures I take to imbue them with some philosophical meaning, as usual.
Below I attached the pictures of my simulated GPS Drawings as files, as well as my initial sketches and quotes that I’ve been thinking of using.
Link to GPS Drawing website: http://www.gpsdrawing.com/gallery.html
Link to iMapIt Pro website: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/imapit-pro/id484710716?mt=8.
UPDATE (as of May 22, 2017): I ran into some difficulties actually finding apps for my Android Phone that I could download to use for my GPS Drawing Project, since iMapIt Pro among other apps like GPS-A-Sketch (ideally a great app that could have been put into great use for this particular project) were only available for iOS devices (i.e. devices and products from Apple– my phone being an Android from Samsung). Many of the apps could only be downloaded through iTunes– a software also pertaining to iOS devices. When I tried downloading iTunes into my Android, I was instead led to the Apple Music app on the Google Play Store, which, upon some searching had none of the GPS apps I was looking for. I searched throughout the week on the Google Play Store for something–anything, but nothing regarding self-tracking came up (or, at least, no app that was useful for this project specifically). My professor sent me a link to an app called OwnTracks that seemingly works, but from my research does not actually possess the capability to trace a path based on where you are headed– it only marks points in certain areas (so it gets half the job done). Below are the links to all the alternative apps I found and received information from, from my professor.
My professor also told me that the last day for grading is, as of May 22, the night of May 22, if not May 23 (after this date, things get complicated). As my project stands, I think I did a great job of organizing my ideas and visualizing my GPS Drawing, even if time is not on my side and I will probably not be able to go anywhere and actually recreate my planned drawing by walking around in the select parks I was interested in going. Hopefully I will get an A in the project, and find the resources and time to follow up on this endeavor.