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Google Maps as Persian Carpets

Chris Dickman Fri, 04/05/2013 - 10:35

The Google Maps service has evolved to the point where it provides remarkably detailed views of man's impact on the planet. These satellite images are also not without a unique aesthetic impact, something that photographer David Thomas Smith recently tapped for the prints in his Anthropocene series, now on display in the Dublin Copper House Gallery and available for purchase in several sizes ranging from 900 to 3800 euros in price.

Here's how the images are described:

"Composited from thousands of digital files drawn from aerial views taken from internet satellite images, this work reflects upon the complex structures that make up the centres of global capitalism, transforming the aerial landscapes of sites associated with industries such as oil, precious metals, consumer culture information and excess. Thousands of seemingly insignificant coded pieces of information are sown together like knots in a rug to reveal a grander spectacle.

Questions of photographic and economic realities are further complicated through the formal use of patterns that have their origins in the ancient civilizations of Persia. This work draws upon the patterns and motifs used by Persian rug makers, especially the way Afghani weavers use the rug to record their experiences more literally with vivid images of the war torn land that surrounds them."

While the photos draw on man's impact on the nature landscape, the connection with traditional Persian carpets seems rather tenuous. The makers of these were primarily nomadic and embedded tribal imagery in their work that was light years away from the ravages of neoliberal capitalism. The photos, employing as they do a very simple symmetry, are instead more reminiscent of that most Western invention, the Kaleidoscope. A device which provided a simple optical diversion, without the need of strained formal justifications. Smith's photos are optically interesting and if pushed, can bear the weight of an extremely mild critique of man's impact on the environment. Perhaps the show organizers should have left it at that? In any case, below is a sample of the photos, interspersed with antique Persian carpets.

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