I'm using Google Earth to take a look at the Ghost Box locations, observe their geographical relationships to each other and get a sense of the shape they create when considered together. After several weeks of looking at this data, zooming in on it, visiting and revisiting places I am starting to feel familiar with, I am beginning to experience reactions to the images that I did not expect.
I'm annoyed, for example, at the van parked outside a location which has consequently become one of the most intriguing to me - I can see the building from above, and for all of the zoom in; it is only when the street view kicks in that the building becomes obstructed. If I move along the street a little, I can look back at the building in all its oblique allure, asking me to step a little closer, free of its white van and beckoning me, as if telling me that by moving stealthily enough I can trick the vehicle into not being there. It never works.
I'm annoyed at the non-urban locations - as clear as the urban ones when seen from the height Google Earth chooses to stop at - but which flatten maddeningly beneath me as I descend, into their folded-flat foliage and cock-eyed constructions, making less and less sense the closer I get to them. There are far fewer incidental humans here. It's as if the population cannot exist here, outside the 3D cityscapes, here where the houses flop like a broken pop-up book, and disappear when you turn to face them. Which makes a kind of sense, I suppose.
But on the other hand, wonder is to be found in the glitches of transition. Buildings sink into roads, draped in a mesh which mimics their fascias. Buses are stuck in black, beneath which the matrix is exposed, holding the scene up out of the emptiness below. Houses unveil their skeletons, crawling up external walls and looming over outside spaces. Unwitting, unknowable humans are frozen, as if sketched onto an architect's plan. Images from above show streets loaded with tropical colours and soft, railway set bushes, drawing me down, down, closer, closer and then switching abruptly back into the invariable, hard, locked-door grey as I get close enough to really see. I am thirsty for those colours, but the oasis they promised was a mirage. It shimmered, and I fell for it. Again.
I can zoom back out though; catch the image at that moment when it is neither one thing nor the other, when the cold, photographic trees and fences are pulled from their reality and stretch, striping traces behind them before assuming their other, softer, more vibrant versions once more.
In a previous post in August I discussed the idea that the term life-story might now need to be replaced with life-archive, given the database-like records that now detail us. Here again, with Google Earth, this idea is suggested, as I can now see into the gardens I used to play in and even go right up to front doors for which I used to have a key (and in some cases still do - sshh). I wonder what Sophie Calle makes of all this. I realised recently that I am living at my 41st address, with two months to go until my 41st birthday, which has re-ignited an idea I had years ago to try to visit all my previous homes, in order. There's very little nostalgia for me in this revisiting, and in fact I'd be very anxious about going to some of the houses again. But I can start this exploration right here at my desk, thanks to Google Earth, vicariously re-experiencing my own life database-style.
Google street view and artists