public access publication text

A new Public Access publication is currently being printed. Here is the text I wrote for the intro:

-

Between late December, 2010 and early January, 2011, I drove the entire California Coast. The trip started at the Mexican Border at Border Field State Park and ended at Pelican State Beach on the Oregon border. The drive covered the entirety of California’s Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. I made photographs of the view of the Pacific Ocean at over fifty different coastal access points along the trip. In each photograph I stood somewhere in the frame. My back was always facing the camera as I looked toward the horizon.

-

All of the photographs were placed onto the Wikipedia articles about the specific coastal points. Here, the title, “Public Access”, plays on both the public nature of the internet (more specifically the 2.0 nature of Wikipedia) and California’s Coast as public property. I added new photographs to articles that had pre-existing images. But for many coasts, whose locations were remote, these images became the first visual data for the articles. In one case, I had to create the Wikipedia entry for the location. Lacking an article, I created the Wikipedia entry for Oakland’s Radio Beach near the Bay Bridge.

-

Each photograph depicts a kind of looking that is impossible online. One in which you stare out at the horizon, out into the distance. There is no distance online. Vision is mediated by a flickering screen only inches away from your eyes. The internet also produces an imagined space in which the faraway no longer seems faraway. The instantaneous movement of information makes everywhere seem right here. What is longed for is not only the faraway, but also a right here that your presence can fully occupy.

-

The intent of the project was to create a body of photographs that would circulate as a kind of meta-data for these locations. The photographs would be hosted on Wikipedia, but could re-circulate off of Wikipedia, as they are sourced and re-hosted as free information. My image, standing anonymously and staring out into the distance, would be carried with this movement. I wanted to be the anonymous person who you happen to find in a snapshot whose existence is caught in the split second of time it takes to make a photograph.

-

The project essentially never really has an end. There is the moment of inception, the posting of the photographs, which puts them into motion. What happens on this movement can be re-packaged into the project. An exhibition or presentation of “Public Access” on future dates can vary from previous exhibitions and presentations.

-

After I posted the first batch of photographs (from Border Field State Park to San Francisco), discussions began to emerge in the background of Wikipedia. Wikipedia users had noticed the same IP address tinkering with articles about California Beaches. I tried to hide my IP address by creating multiple usernames when posting the next set of photographs (San Francisco to Pelican State Beach). But, I was noticed again and accused of sock puppetry (creating multiple usernames for purposes of deception). The reason I was using multiple usernames was an attempt to make my actions untraceable. If one user (or a single IP address) is discovered, then all of their actions, linked together, would be in plain sight. The Wikipedia users discussed what to do with my photographs, and debated what, if anything, was actually wrong. Did the photographs violate something? Did they deviate from some unspoken photographic standard? My favorite reaction was when a Wikipedia user decided that my photographs actually served a valuable purpose. However, following the discussions, this user decided that the best option was to remove the figure (myself) from the photographs, and re-upload them. I was taken out of my own project. Isn’t releasing something into a commons a gesture of removing oneself? These edited photographs were a residue of the project. A trace without a trace.

-

Soon after the original postings, all but one image was removed. The lone standing image was of Bodega Head. Sometime prior to the trip, I uploaded this image to Wikipedia before I even conceived of doing the project. This one photograph was the seed to “Public Access”. It was not traceable since it was done at a completely different time, and could not be associated with the cluster of activity. The key here to go unnoticed was time, not space. I originally thought I would be able to hide in the space of the image, in the image’s margins, where the central subject does not occupy. Like out in the distance, or  in the shadows, or off to the side. Or, I thought I could hide through my own anonymity, by the fact that you could not see my face. But doing all the editing close together, the pattern of the same man showing up on various California beaches became noticeable.

-

Recently I began to re-upload the photographs slowly. Instead of trying to hide in space, I am trying to hide in time

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 at 9:33 am.