Thoreau’s derivatives

Mary Flanagan
Still from “[borders]”, Chichen Itza, 2010
This video is an excerpt from my walk around the virtual construction of Chichen Itza, a Mayan archaeological site on the Yucatán Peninsula in contemporary Mexico.

[borders] uses online shared virtual places as settings for walks that examine virtual property ‘ownership’ and the construction of historical truth in 3D virtual worlds. In the project, I visit virtual recreations of heritage sites and walk their borderlands. In the course of these explorations, I have captured the unexpected glitches and disruptions in an otherwise seamless environment through video recording. This project has historical underpinnings: According to the 19th Century French writer Baudelaire, the flâneur is a figure who moves through the labyrinthine streets and hidden spaces of the city. The flâneur discovers both low culture, the underworld, and the high culture, fashionable world, but remains somehow disassociated. Wordsworth took to pastoral scenes in his commitment to drifting in space, using the walk as a research method. In the US, the same idea was sustained in Thoreau’s insistence to stroll without a specific goal in order to encounter the spiritual possibilities inherent in a landscape.

Mary Flanagan

Nesta série de caminhadas pelas paisagens de sítios virtuais multi-partilhados Mary Flanagan recria a experiência filosófica do grande crítico do chamado progresso humano e defensor da liberdade individual e da desobediência civil (nomeadamente fiscal) Henry David Thoreau (1817-62). Segundo Thoreau, caminhar é uma forma de conhecimento e descoberta: “Two or three hours’ walking will carry me to as strange a country as I expect…”. Flanagan adotou esta recomendação do filósofo abolicionista americano, a qual inspirou seguramente também Guy Débord e a sua teoria da ‘deriva’ psicogeográfica. No caso da obra [borders], Mary Flanagan passeia-se por mundos virtuais, onde aparentemente existem propriedades e delimitações territoriais geradas pelos que possuem estes mundos. Ao fazê-lo, porém, vai descobrindo as limitações algorítmicas (glitches) destas novas formas, virtuais, de propriedade privada, expondo os estranhos mundos que vai descobrindo nas frágeis fronteiras erguidas pela computação.

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