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Leonardo Electronic Almanac ISSN NO : 1071 - 4391 The MIT Press
Pace, Place, Interface: Issues and Projects in Locative Art
by Leslie Sharpe

Pace, Place, Interface: Issues and Projects in Locative Art
by Leslie Sharpe
Hope School of Fine Arts
Indiana University, Bloomington
208 S. Rogers St., Apt. 2, Bloomington, IN 47404

A description of the mobile art reading and production seminar taught by Leslie Sharpe at Indiana University Bloomington (previously taught at UCSD). Course focus on current practice and related previous artworks is discussed, as well as teaching approach using a combination of readings and practical experimentation with media to create art projects. An example of a teaching activity related to artist’s walks is given.

Locative, Mobility, Site-specificity, Artists walks, Space and place

Course description
This course aims to have students learn to create new works in locative media through reading, discussion and practice. Students learn that this work has many precedents in existing artforms such as performance, walkworks, sculpture and interactive art, but that the media of mobile devices and wireless technology are bringing about a new form that allows for further understanding of space and place, body and community. The course has gone through several iterations and has been affected by the kinds of students in the class, the technologies we have at hand, the place I am teaching, and the growing number of examples we have to view and discuss.

My approach is to start with discussing relevant artwork and ideas before creating projects in order for the students to develop contexts of related practice and thought. This is important in a region where students rarely have personal experience with artworks created for devices or networks, which is particularly the case in central Indiana. I am now introducing the actual use of devices earlier in the course so that students will learn various tools, i.e., for preparing content, using GPS or wireless, and so they can learn through their successes and failures with the technology before the final project. Very often the device and the form are demystified in this process and the student learns a more personal approach to its use as an art medium.

Outline of an exercise or activity included in the course:
We spend at least two sessions going through artworks and readings related to the history of artist’s walks – discussing works by artists from the 1970s (i.e., Hamish Fulton), contemporary artists not using technology in their walks (i.e., Francis Alys) and more recent works using technology to supplement or design the walk (from Janet Cardiff’s audio walks to social fiction’s algorithmic walks). Key concepts discussed here have to do with the following: understanding and revelation of place and history of place as experienced through the walk; the performative body in the public space; narrative as a means of discovering space; who is doing the walking and how does that inform how/where/when one walks; approaches to social space through the walk; destination and locating; what are the spaces one walks in when assisted, guided, or watched by technology; how does technology determine an approach to space (i.e., the body in two spaces); the walk in urban space vs natural spaces vs mediated spaces; walking in trespassed space; and genre and the body in space. Some key terms discussed are: flaneur; nomad; drift; psychogeography; surveillance; border-crossing; narrative; networked space; ‘cell-space’; location and coordinates of space; sublime; urban, suburban, rural spaces.
Following these readings students then have 2 sessions to create a ‘walk’ work using a mobile device as one means of delivering the piece (it can also be used as a recording device) and we arrange a time to meet and walk the ‘walks.’ Devices range from ipods, PDAs, cellphones, mp3 players, GPS units and the ‘form’ of the work is determined by the student but can include audio, video, text, instruction-works, etc. designed for individual or group experience.

LESLIE SHARPE is Assistant Professor and Area Head of Digital Art in the Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University, Bloomington, and previously taught at UCSD as a Faculty Fellow and at Pratt Institute in New York. She works in Digital Media and Installation, with a focus on Mobile and Wireless Technologies. Sharpe's recent work employs the genre of ghost narrative in projects using cellphone and PDAs to explore questions about subjectivity, embodiment, social networks, wireless histories and place.

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