Vancouver City Centre: Unknown Road
By Jon Rafman
Google Street View started in 2007 as an experiment in five cities, but Jon Rafman’s series The Nine Eyes of Google Street View—which captures intriguing scenes documented by the Internet giant—reminds us that the mapping project has expanded to far-flung corners of the world. As attested by Unknown Road, Knock Killua, Westmead, Ireland, 2011 (2011), the interstitial and liminal spaces that diverge from direct routes and busy metropolises are no longer excluded from Google’s all-seeing gaze.
Positioned atop a vehicle, the Street View camera is a self-directed robotic apparatus programmed to capture its surroundings without concern for composition or decisive moment. Mirroring this disregard for photography’s traditional values and utilizing a similarly hegemonic device is Rafman, who, rather than using a camera at all, photographs by taking screengrabs on his computer. His hands’ keystrokes become the subjective anomaly in a highly regulated and utilitarian series of actions. The resulting images are poetic meditations on a system of great control, allowing the viewer to devise their own narratives for the captured subjects, such as this lonesome man on an unknown road.