AbstractVieuw No.12    30×18 cm
The piece consists of 12 C-prints 30×18 cm:
All twelve images are processed in Google Earth platform and show (parts of) Street View spheres depicting Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum. Underlying satellite images by DigitalGlobe, TerraMetrics, Getmapping plc, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA GEBCO.

Short description

In the late summer of 2009, Polak and van Bekkum were working on a GPS piece in a remote area in the Highlands of Scotland.

They were collecting GPS data from helium balloons that they let flap in the wind. They planned to visualize the GPS data in Google Earth. At that very moment, seemingly out of nowhere, the Google Earth Street View car emerged and passed silently. Three weeks later, the artists found themselves and their balloons depicted on Google Streetview.

As a gesture to reclaim the image, the artist hacked the Google Streetview spheres: they fragmented the image, freed the spheres from their original location, and forced them to float over the landscape and loch as if they were again filled with digital helium.

Presentation at HICA, 2010
Leave trough all 12 prints
Very happy with our presentation at HICA

Artistic Motivation 

Our unexpected appearance in StreetView allowed us to get to know the privacy issues around digital cartography firsthand and from the inside out. We felt a strong urge to reclaim the image, to be able to own it again. This was the primary motivation to start the hacking experiments. Only after some days of working we opened our eyes to the aesthetics of the results, and we made joyful connections to other artists’ work (with spheres) that we admire, like Odilon Redon, René Magritte, Lucio Fontana, or Tomas Saraceno.

Presentation history 

2010 ; HICA/Arts Catalist/air show Inverness-shire, UK
2011 Tracing Mobility House der Culturen der Welt Berlijn, DE
2015 Rento Brattinga | gallerie Amsterdam, NL 


Streetview sphere download software: Peter Robinett


Space Inscribed, Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum at HICA  by: Murdo Macdonald – 2010

Financial support

Arts Catalist for supporting our recidentie at HICA