Google Earth is a computer program that renders a simulacrum of the Earth by superimposing images obtained through satellite footage, aerial photographs, and geographic information system. Although the imagery is frequently updated, the program also offers a ‘real-time’ viewing, wherein the sunlight changes across the landscape relative to the current time of day.
The projected footage shows an area of international waters in the Mediterranean Sea between the coast of Libya and the Italian island of Lampedusa– the closest European landmass to North Africa. Despite the apparent ‘authenticity’ of the program to represent the Earth, it fails to map the seas and only charts the landmass. A computer generated animation is inserted in place of all seas and oceans away from shorelines. Here the sea is always calm, waves infinitely moving in a soft breeze, devoid of any landmarks or maritime traffic.
The bench is made of wood retrieved from the boats used by migrants and refugees who crossed the Mediterranean Sea and arrived in Lampedusa. Installed together in one space, the two components demonstrate two very different versions of the sea and question the hierarchies of digital and physical experience while confronting the correlation between spectatorship and participation. By transforming the sea into a serene image, Google Earth does not only aestheticize it, but it in fact depoliticizes it; in this way, the Mediterranean Sea is just a water mass, not an area with national jurisdiction, and in fact the European border.
Tamara Kametani is a Slovak born London based visual artist. She received her Master degree in Contemporary Art Practice from the Royal College of Art in 2017. Kametani’s practice is largely informed by local and global current affairs and spans photography, video, and installation. Kametani is particularly interested in the role technology plays in the construction of historical narratives, with the complex relationship between aesthetics and politics being at the core of the inquiry in her practice.