Wait, ‘Highly Developed Dutch Cartographic Traditions’?

From Ken Johnson’s thrilled NYT review of “Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age,” which was at the National Gallery last winter:

The painters of the golden age in Holland brought the city onto center stage and made the cityscape a genre unto itself.
This urban motif evolved out of highly developed Dutch cartographic traditions. Large, intensively detailed maps included in the show suggest an almost obsessive preoccupation with geographical facts.
One of the strangest pieces is a painting of Amsterdam, seen as if from a hot-air balloon. Seemingly every building, street, canal and boat in town is carefully rendered, and shadows of clouds pass over the city and surrounding fields, creating an almost surrealistic mix of the real and the schematic. (Aerial views from Google Maps come to mind.) Made in 1652 or later by Jan Micker, it is a copy of a similar work from 1538 by Cornelis Anthonisz.

I confess, I liked the exhibit, but at the time I was not sufficiently attuned to the highly developed cartographic traditions of the Dutch. And anyway, the oblique angle on that bird’s eye-view map look more like Bing to me.
At the Height of Power for the Netherlands, the City in Glorious Detail [nyt]

Molly Dilworth’s Painting For Satellites

Last fall as the Dutch Landscape paintings idea was kicking into gear, artist Molly Dilworth emailed me a link to her rather awesome project, Paintings for Satellites.

For the last couple of years, since the dawn of the Google Earth Era, Dilworth has been exploring different techniques for creating giant paintings for the once-invisible, now-primary facade known as the roof.

As you can see above, she used a piece of Google/Aerodata’s distinctive polygonal Dutch camo in the study for her most recent piece, which was executed in November on the roof of 547 West 27th street in Chelsea.

The finished painting is more free-form and organic, and is executed, as are all her rooftop works, out of found, discarded paint, so the color’s always a surprise. Very nice work, I hope it’s still visible when the snow thaws.

Paintings for Satelites photo set [flickr via c-monster]

Mauritshuis Gets Google Street View Camo?

Because I now appear to be constitutionally incapable of doing otherwise, after mentioning the Mauritshuis, the Vermeer-loaded Royal Picture Gallery in The Hague, I checked to see if was camo-obscured on Google Maps.
[I kind of knew it wasn’t, because it’s situated smack in between two prime Dutch Camo Landscapes: the Noordeindepaleis and the Ministry of Defense HQ, but I looked anyway.]
And while we knew that Google Street View has come to Den Haag, I didn’t realize it was just a couple of months ago. And with the Google Trike, no less.
Here’s where the museum–a 17th century mansion, is supposed to be, but whoa.
It’s apparently camouflaged as a generic glass & steel office building. Took me three passes to find it. By which point, I became kind of fascinated with the way Street View knits together its panoptic images, particularly when they include people. I love Google’s Cubist-meets-Robert Lazzarini-meets-Julia Scher-meets Hans Holbein the Younger portrait style.

What I Looked At In 1995: Vermeer’s View Of Delft

The inconvenient intrusion of war and political upheaval [i.e., the collapse of the Dutch government and the looming withdrawal of Dutch troops from their frontline deployment in Afghanistan] into my Dutch Landscapes project has sent me trying to re-find some discussion of Vermeer that’s stuck with me for years.
Like so many hundreds of thousands of others, I made a trip to the National Gallery in Washington in the winter of 1995 to see the first Vermeer exhibition in almost 300 years. It was a DC that may be hard for folks today to even conceive of: the show was abruptly opening and closing, thanks to massive snowfall and two government shutdowns orchestrated by an obstructionist Republican agenda led by Newt Gingrich. [I know, right? He seems so nice.]
Anyway, 21 of the world’s 35 Vermeers were there, including View of Delft, loaned by the exhibitions only other venue, the Royal Gallery at the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
The Essential Vermeer puts the date depicted in the painting as early May, 1660 [the evidence: leaves on the trees, the boat activity, and the empty tower on the Nieuwe Kerk, because the bells were in the shop]. It seems so banal, so placid, so idyllic.
But I remember reading a discussion of how deceptive, or at least complicated, this peace was, in light of Delft’s own history. The argument centered on the high-contrast beam of sunlight Vermeer punched through his rainclouds to illuminate the Nieuwe Kerk, in the center background of the painting.
William of Orange had used Delft as a base for launching in 1568 what became the Eighty Years War, against Spain, the Hapsburgs, and the Holy Roman Empire, which turned on issues of religious intolerance, taxation without representation, and centralized power. William was assassinated in 1584, and because his family’s traditional seat, Breda, was still in Spanish hands, he was interred in the Nieuwe Kerk. So are his successors in the House of Orange-Nassau, who continued the fight, and who have ruled the Dutch Republic since it won its independence with the Treaty of Westphalia, which was signed on May 15, 1648.
But wait, there’s more! In 1660 the city was also still recovering and rebuilding after the Delft Thunderclap of 1654, a massive gunpowder explosion at a waterfront munitions warehouse that killed over 100 people–including one of Delft’s most well-known painters, Fabritius Carels–injured thousands more, and leveled a huge section of the city.
If Vermeer were alive in 2013, then, the equivalent painting might be the rainy skyline of lower New Amsterdam from the Hudson, where a ray of sunlight picks out the details of an unobstructed St Paul’s church–if George Washington and all the subsequent presidents were buried there. If there’s a Dutch equivalent of a bald eagle with a tear in its eye, Vermeer showed remarkable restraint by not including it.
UPDATE I’ll get out my DVD set in the morning to confirm, but I think Tyler Green’s right, it’s the first essay in Lawrence Weschler’s 2004 book, Vermeer in Bosnia, which was originally published as “Inventing Peace,” in The New Yorker, Nov. 20, 1995.
Yep, here we go, Weschler’s setup for the remarkable story of how the head of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague kept himself sane by looking at the Vermeers at the Mauritshuis:

For, of course, when Vermeer was painting those images, which for us have become the very emblem of peacefulness and serenity, all Europe was Bosnia (or had only just been): awash in incredibly vicious wars of religious persecution and proto-nationalist formation.

Wow, maybe I should re-read the whole thing rather than post updates every page, but. Weschler quotes Harry Berger’s idea about Vermeer’s deployment of “‘conspicuous exclusion,’ of themes that are saturatingly present but only as a felt absence.”
What a fantastic phrase, which immediately reminds me of a comment left by Jerome Bertrand on Ogle Earth’s original 2006 coverage of the Dutch Google Map censorship issue:

All the same, someone at Royalty level (AIVD?) would choose to typically blur out certain private residences – so it ends up you can find them quicker than others by just scanning for blurred spots in the area. This is helpfull [sp] when you need to know what’s hot.

Dutch Camo Landscapes On Google Streetview? Nee

You may recall how Google Maps recently changed the polygonal camouflage on one of the Dutch landscapes I was using for my painting project.
I was back there, getting a clean shot of the nicely distorted grid plaza–the site belongs to the Koniklijke Marine, the Royal Navy, and is apparently the home address for the Royal Marine Band–when I saw that the Streetview icon was activated. Looks like Google’s camera cars reached the football field-filled outskirts of Rotterdam.
But not all of them. The available imagery shows that Google is excluding all street-level imagery from around the camo’d compound. The previous official explanation for camo-obscuring intelligence-sensitive sites was that the Dutch government claimed jurisdiction to censor aerial photography, but not satellite imagery. I guess there’s another law that forbids street-level photography from public roads, too? Yes and no.
A quick stop at the ur-Dutch Camo Landscape, the Noordeinde Paleis in The Hague, shows that Streetview is unavailable for its entire perimeter. But the other camo’d complex, a Royal Garage or something, to the northwest through the park, shows up just fine. The south perimeter of that giant, cut-n-past camo blob is just fine, which makes me think that the building being camo’d–I think it’s the HQ of the Defense Ministry itself–is on the next street up, which is, indeed, blocked. Unfortunately, Noordwijk ann Zee, the beachfront town that is the site of my favorite inexplicable, airdropped camo blob, has not yet been added to Streetview.
Update: In actual governmental/military news, the Dutch coalition government just collapsed in the face of growing opposition to extending the deployment of 2,000 Dutch troops in NATO’s operations in southern Afghanistan.

What I Looked At In 2000: Torben Giehler

As soon as I started thinking that Dutch Polygonal Camo on Google Maps would make great abstract landscape paintings, I thought of a some giant, abstract, polygonal landscape paintings I’d seen way back in 2000-2. But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the artist’s name. From Julie Mehretu to Edvard Haberkost, to Benjamin Edwards to Kevin Appel to Carla Klein to Jules de Balincourt to Thomas Scheibitz, large-scale, geometrical/architectural/spatial/digital/landscape abstraction has not been in short supply. And of course, it was none of the above.
I’d seen one at “Collector’s Choice,” the exhibition I co-curated at Exit Art in the winter of 2000-1. It was on Norman Dubrow’s crazy, salon-style wall. Then the one that really haunted me was in a 2001 show at Caren Golden Gallery, curated, I think, by David Hunt. And then there was another show somewhere later, a solo show.
Well, thanks to, of all people, Mark Kostabi, I just realized it was NY/Berlin painter Torben Giehler. And the gallery was Leo Koenig, in 2002.
In her 2002 review of Giehler’s Koenig show, Roberta Smith described the artist as one of several interested in “formalist abstraction, digital cartography and photography.” She also guessed that making the paintings “must require hours of applying masking tape.” And sure enough, the many studio photos on Giehler’s website show piles of balled up blue tape, and also small printouts taped next to the canvas. It looks like he begins his work on a computer, and then enlarges and transposes the compositions by hand. [This 2004 Art in America review is excellent for describing the painting’s production, while adding absolutely nothing to their context or understanding.]
Some of Giehler’s landscapes are gridded; the earliest painting on his site is an explicit Mondrian flyover, a psychdelic reworking called Boogie Woogie. But his polygonal landscapes seem to form structures of their own. Like the mountain series he showed at Koenig. K2 is a favorite. [And a favorite of Giehler’s, too, apparently; he made a series of prints of it with Fawbush.] And Matterhorn has a very Dutch color scheme.
Glad to clear all that up.
Tomorrow World, 2001, by Torben Giehler, exhibited in “Superimposition,” Caren Golden Gallery [torbengiehler.com]
Torben Giehler’s website [torbengiehler.com]

Dutch Camo Mashup Goodness

I guess that’s the whole point of camo, you just never really know what you’re gonna see.
In February 1942, the Dutch minesweeper the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen survived the Battle of the Java Sea, in which the Japanese Navy crushed Allied forces [AU, UK, NL, US] and invaded the Dutch East Indies [aka Indonesia].
To evade detection from the air and retreat to Australia, the Crijnssen‘s captain ordered the 186’ ship disguised as an island by covering it with branches.
Unlike the official, formal Razzle Dazzle camouflage technique used in WWI to confuse submarines, the Crijnssen‘s improvised approach worked. The ship survived and eventually ended up in the Dutch Navy Museum at Den Helder, the city at the tip of the North Holland peninsula which has long been a strategic nexus of Dutch naval and shipping operations.
In fact, when you look up the Crijnssen on Google Maps, there turns out to be a huge complex of Dutch Polygonal Camo just to the east, the main base for the Royal Dutch Navy.
And the camo extends out into the water in order to cover a ship caught by Google’s Aerodata photographers just as it passed by the world’s most undeniably phallic breakwater. Wonder what the sailors’ nickname for that is.
Here a Google Map with both generations of Dutch naval camo, side by side:

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HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen at the Historical Naval Ships Assn [hnsa.org via boingboing]

The Everchanging Dutch Camo Landscape

Gather ye screengrabs while ye may, I guess.
The camo-obscuring of sensitive sites on Google Maps by the Dutch Intelligence Service (MVID) is a dynamic process. One of my favorite sites I found last November is a complex along the Maas in Rotterdam. The polygonal camo zone is surrounded by an equally artificial-looking geometric landscape:
But when I pulled up that old post, the embedded Google Map showed a new, unobscured image:
Thereby revealing the existence of a previously classified football field.
But wait, the image isn’t unobscured after all; it’s just obscured at a higher resolution. Oh no! It’s Dutch Camo 2.0!
My project just got overlaid with a thick, historicizing blanket of obsolescence. Which, for a bunch of Dutch landscape paintings, is probably just as well.
And I must say, I DO like what they’ve done to that helipad-equipped grid.

Zaha Hadid’s Torqued Sheds

This is really a beauty of a Zaha Hadid takedown of her firm’s riverfront museum in Glasgow–and so much more.
I came for the roof-as-nth-facade condemnation:

And this futility just deepens… the building is an example of ‘Google Earth Urbanism’. That is to say; all this complexity can only really be seen from directly above. Without a spare helicopter, all you are really left with is the façade, which is marginally more interesting than your typical shed, and the blank slug-like form of the ‘swooshing’ S-shape, which meets the ground with all the elegance of a squished gastropod.

and stayed for the thorough routing of turn-of-the-century Stylist Modernism:

He says the competition-winning concept they had to work with was a system of ridges and valleys, which had to be translated into a structure.
Read that again.
So this is what has happened to the Modernists’ quest for a synthesis of the Engineer and the Architect in the last 80 years. Absolute disassociation. The architect wins the competition with a shape, which the brains then have to spend time figuring out how to solve. This isn’t exactly a full circle (the negation of the negation blah blah), but this is a very strange cultural position to be in, a truly postmodernist one. Now of course the Modernists’ quest for synthesis was vulgar and naïve, and of course this quasi-dialectical teleological view of the world and its cultural expressions had to be surpassed (ha!), but is this really where we’ve ended up, nearly forty years after Pruitt-Igoe and Complexity and Contradiction? The best architects in the world as decorators, as stylists? And what’s more – all that structure, all that difficulty, all of the real work of the building will be completely clad, both inside and out, expressed only as shape.

Zaha Hadid Architects – Purveyors of Architectural Melancholy [youyouidiot via things magazine]

Everyone’s An Earth Artist: Lamanites

I guess if God can appear to a backwoods New York farmboy, send an angel to groom him for four years, and then command him to translate a sheaf of golden plates into the Book of Mormon, He can also guide Robert Smithson to build the Spiral Jetty in Utah; lure me out to visit it within a couple of months of its reappearance in 1994; and start me a-bloggin’ years ago about Earth Art and Google Maps; so that, when it’s on Discovery Channel, there’ll be someone to point out that the Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in western Amazonia are–duh–Lamanite-era copies of Nephite-style forts.
But since that would require paying even a little attention or credence to the archaeology-based school of Book of Mormon apologists I’ll pass.
It’s enough for me to think of the headaches these earthworks will give to Michael Heizer.
‘Astonishing’ Ancient Amazon Civilization Discovery Detailed [discovery.com]
Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in the upper Purús: a complex society in western Amazonia [antiquity.ac.uk]

Domes In Dutch Landscapes: Awesome Worlds Collide

I love it when several plans come together. Apparently, not all the Dutch Google Maps landscapes camo’d out by the Military Intelligence Department are actually sensitive sites. And some sites will toggle in and out of camouflage without warning or explanation.
One such site is the southern town of Schoonhoven, which has been poly’d off the map for most of the last four years, for no security reason at all.
It’s no secret that NATO operated a SATCOM weather station on the north edge of town. The giant, geodesic dome that hid the doppler equipment is a prominent roadside landmark. But the base was decommissioned in 2005, just before Google’s contractor, AeroData, began its hi-res geoimaging flights over the Benelux region.
It was too late to get off the Defense Department’s polygon list, though, and so the entire town is obscured, even the Pegasus Steakhouse [above].
By 2008, with plans for the residential redevelopment of the abandoned base well under way, it was reported that townsfolk were finally being promised year-round, un-camouflaged Google Earth access to their homes. Maybe today was just a bad day.
06-2008: No More Blind Spot [ad.nl, image via ad.nl]
Urbex – NATO Schoonhoven photoset by Marc Duiker [flickr]

Shift: No Alt, No Delete

Add Shift, a seminal, early site-specific sculpture from 1970-72, to the list of Richard Serra works you can see on Google Maps.
The series of wedge-shaped, concrete walls is tucked away on remote farmland in King City, Ontario. The Township Council decided this week to place Shift [or “the Shift,” as the local paper calls it] under the protection of the Ontario Heritage Act.
Hickory Hills, an investment company which owns the land, had resisted the designation for nearly two years, proposing instead an agreement not to destroy the work, but also not to maintain it, to protect it, or to be responsible for any damage, vandalism, or destruction caused by third parties. Third parties whose curiosity had already been piqued by the debate over Heritage protection. “There are some crazy people out there,” said Hickory Hills’ attorney Chris Barnett. The proposal also called for preserving just a 1.2-meter buffer zone around the walls.
The obvious outcome of Hickory Hills’ proposal would have been destruction-by-neglect, then when the sculpture was too damaged to argue over, they could just level it, then carve up the 5-hectare [12-acre] field into a residential subdivision like the one abutting it.
But designation of Shift as a Heritage Site will now require Hickory Hills to preserve the sculpture and not alter or destroy it. It also precludes “urban use” or development of the surrounding land.
Still, it is high earthwork comedy to imagine Shift‘s now-averted, alternate future: it manages to evade King City’s roving gangs of art vandals until Toronto’s demand for exurb bedroom communities increases, and then, surrounded by scrawny trees and a zig-zagging bike path 1.3 meters away, it ends up on the cover of the sales brochure for Hickory Hills Estates, [homes starting in the $190’s.]
Township ready to designate the Shift under Heritage Act [kingsentinel.com via man]
Tyler’s extensive background post on Shift from Sept. 09 [modernartnotes]
Previously: Richard Serra sculptures on Google Maps, Feb 09
Related: The Shops at Rozel Point

Correction: A Serra NOT Named Bellamy

So last winter, after finding Jake Dobkin‘s, and Nathan Kensinger’s photos during my search for Richard Serra sculptures visible on Google Maps, I got a little fascinated with the massive Cor-Ten sculptures Richard Serra stores in a riverfront machine yard in Port Morris, the Bronx. Google Maps showed a Torqued Spiral as well as several long, arced steel pieces [above]. A presumably more recent image from Microsoft Live/Bing [below] only shows the spiral.
After talking to some friends at Gagosian and because there is a giant I-beam with “Bellamy” on it, I’d originally deduced that the Torqued Spiral was Bellamy one of Serra’s first spiral sculptures, which he’d shown in the fall of 2001.
But that turns out to be wrong. Writing about her visit to the stored Serra for the journal Afterall, Mary Walling Blackburn reports that it is not Bellamy after all. Bellamy is currently in England.
The “Bellamy” I-beam on-site [visible in Nathan’s photos], is apparently not a nametag or some such. Instead, they are used for stabilizing the curved pieces during transport and installation. They can be seen in use in Art21’s series of photos of Joe being installed at the Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis.
So that begs the question: what Torqued Spiral is it, then? Inquiring minds might want to ask the artist next time they see him. I know I will.

Digital To Analog Paint Matching?

Maybe I’ve just been living in the digital world too long, but I’d like to somehow extract a color list from these polygon-laden Google Map images, and then order paint that matches. Only I’m not finding a vast, well-developed, digital-to-analog paint matching infrastructure in place. Does anyone have any ideas?
Obviously, I can see why no one would want to match colors to a JPEG or PNG; the range, accuracy, and quality of color in the physical world significantly outstrips the digital approximations. And it’s not like there’s a common, systematized language of color that crosses the digital/analog border. Binhex or RGB for paint? Pantone for Photoshop?
I’ve been talking to several painters about this the last few weeks, and they’re all for mixing my own colors, or at least having an artist mix them for me, by hand/eye. And I can respect and understand that. With mediums and grounds and consistencies and undercoats and transparency and absorption, paint turns out to be a vast, complex, multifactored thing, and I’m fascinated by how quickly these conversations of a topic I nominally thought I knew something about leave me in the dust.
But the digital essence of the original seems germane here. Although I suspect the blob in the Noordwijk image above was just cut and pasted there by the obscurer [like the Dept. of Defense HQ clearly was], the camo polygons are usually generated by software, an algorithm that carves up the underlying [sic] digital image and then reduces each component to a dominant or average [sic] color. The data aspect will have to yield to the object at some point, if only when the paint actually hits the printed photograph’s surface. Since the loss of information–or its censorship, or its transformative destruction–is one of the most interesting elements of these images, I’d like to make sure I’m accounting for the changes at each step along the way as best I can.

Collecting Dutch Landscapes

I just got the first prints of Dutch Landscapes to paint. And I’ve captured a few more to prep for printing. Here are a few more of the camo-obscured Dutch sites I also like but haven’t gotten around to capturing and printing yet. Most are military or intelligence installations of some kind, culled from the Onherkbaar/Unrecognized list here:

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The landscape and architecture around this one on the Maas in Rotterdam has a really nice, explicit geometry of its own. The light in some of these is just wonderful, too. So strong and clear. Which is what you’d want, obviously, for aerial photomapping. As Stefan reported on Ogle Earth back in 2006 when this dataset debuted, the fact that these were not satellite images is intrinsic to their camo censorship. Satellite imaging is considered to be beyond Dutch jurisdiction, but permits are required for aerial surveying, and the images are reviewed to censor “vital” military or intelligence buildings and sites.

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More landscape geometry. This one reminds me of Isamu Noguchi’s admiration of hatake, the rice paddy landscape of Japan, a terrain which, like the Netherlands, was the product of centuries of intensive human sculpting and engineering. [That said, I can’t find any mention of the Noguchi quote I’m thinking of.]

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This one’s the Palace Huis ten Bosch, the Queen’s residence. I love that the tennis court and the sculpture garden at the top are not considered “vital” sites. While trying to identify any of the installed works, I learned that H.M. Queen Beatrix is quite a fan and practitioner of sculpture and maintains at studio there at the palace.