Art Imitates Digital Life: Real-World Google Map Pins

When you look up a city on Google Maps, a little red icon shows you exactly where the center of that city is – and it even casts a shadow, making it seem as if it’s a part of the cities itself. Noticing that little detail, artist Aram Bartholl decided to bring these digital elements into the real, three-dimensional world. His ‘Map’ installation series takes 20-foot-tall Google Maps icons into Taipei, Berlin and Szczecin, Poland.

“In the city center series ‘Map’ is set up at the exact spot where Google Maps assumes to be the city center of the city,” says Bartholl. “Transferred to physical space the map marker questions the relation of the digital information space to every day life public city space. The perception of the city is increasingly influenced by geolocation services.”

Bartholl installed the towering sculptures, made of wood and paint, between 2006 and 2010. Some stand in grand public squares, just where you would expect. Others are in more unassuming places – in college campuses, or tucked between decaying overpasses.

The project questions just how much digital life has bled into reality, to the point where the lines can sometimes be blurred. On top of the ‘real world’ is a new layer of virtual reality, and depending on how much time we spend immersing ourselves in the latter, it may already be part of our perception. Driving through a city and glimpsing one of these sculptures, would it take you a moment to realize that these digital markers should not be physically present?