“O’megaVille: excursions in planetary urbanism” presented by Hornblow


Presentation Title:

  • O’megaVille: excursions in planetary urbanism



  • Four decades ago Henri Lefebvre anticipated the complete urbanisation of the planet, which no longer sounds so strange. Radical shifts seem to appear in our everyday experience of the city, where dislocations of self and body take us into feeling the limits of the World and the ends of the Earth.
    O’megaVille is an ongoing locative media project for exploring critical approaches to planetary urbanism, using Google Street View (GSV) as a platform for urban intervention. This has involved a series of works, workshops and talks in Montreal, Toronto, New York, and Mexico. Crossing performance, video, mobile media and locative interfaces, O’megaVille aims to unhinge the ways time, space, place and privacy are normally situated. GSV gives us an image of the Here-and-Now as an endless surface – a Flat Earth – the urban grid as territorial limit. Every street corner could be anywhere, and is everywhere through networked devices. And yet, the street always exceeds its coding, forever turbulent, informal, full of stories and hidden entities. For people caught by the 9-eyes of GSV, privacy is maintained through the blurring of faces, signs and license plates. And yet, the Google algorithm that performs the blur is fairly arbitrary, super-saturating a scene to misread identity traits – for example in a gesture, or a pile of trash. Just as privacy is protected, the public is privatised through ownership of the image, even as a different disjunct starts to leak through this machinic assemblage of human, nonhuman and inhuman elements. Between the invention of a people, and a feeling of ‘existing in open view’ – this new sense of ‘public’ edges across identity and perception, where disruptions of an orbital flatness may unsettle easy readings of technological dystopia / utopia.

    This Artist talk is linked to an ISEA short paper in which I explore the broader concepts and critical implications for O’megaVille. For an ongoing project that is iterative and processual across theory and practice, this talk offers an opportunity to show-and-tell some of the practical components in more depth. It also allows for developments occurring after the ISEA submission deadline to be included, such that the Short Paper and Artist Talk might enter into a process of cross-format disruption. In this talk, I will present examples both from previous iterations (2014), and those to come (April-August 2015). Previous iterations include performance workshops exploring movement and materials drawn from people and objects found on GSV; with mobile-media SmartMobs and 3D Photo Spheres, playing on the distributed stitching of the GSV image in a different way (see video). Forthcoming iterations will use the new Google Cardboard VR headset, and Geocaching performance events, to further disrupt the entwining of physical and digital domains.