The Mailman’s Bag

Patrick Lichty in his Furtherfield review: “My favourite piece in the festival was Polak and Van Bekkum’s piece, The Mailman’s Bag. This impressive piece is constructed from several directions; a GPS-enabled sound recorder is placed in a mailman’s bag, giving the bag the capacity of hearing. (…) The neighborhoods morph and undulate as the eye moves through the space, creating an effect somewhere between a cheery Inception, Dark City, or Scanner Darkly. The Baudrillardian hyperreal becomes evident here, and becomes disturbing in its distortion of the mediated real overlaid upon surveilling data politics.”

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Part of the 250 Miles Crossing Philadelphia project, The Mailman’s Bag 2015 is a very dear work to us. The sounds are recorded directly from the bag containing the mail being distributed by the mailman. The work uses an innovative way of binaural sound recording: the bag becomes equipped with „human” ears, and becomes the protagonist. As the bag never parts from the mailman’s body, the recording stays very close to the moment to moment interaction of mail delivery. An interaction that both takes place between humans: the postman and the citizen and between objects: mail and mailbox.
Every movement of the bag is recorded with a GPS-device. Those movements are recreated with a custom software in the virtual world of Google Steetview. Because of the limitations of the Streetview 3D algorithm a constant machine-world like glitch is produced. Two worlds, the realistic sound and the weird automated 3D glitch, never totally meet. It is in the gap between those, that the poetry of the project emerges in the mind of the beholder.

ISEA2015MailmansBagMore highlights and information

The Mailman’s Bag …

Will be show at Visions in the Nunnery; Bowarts; London; UK; October 5, Wednesday, to Sunday, December 18, 2016

Has been presented at the conference and exhibition “Speeding and Braking: Navigating Acceleration” on May 12-14 2016 at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Has been awarded  the price for Network Culture at the Festival (and exhibition) for Expanded Media, STUTTGARTER FILMWINTER. Jury Statement: “[…] In the artwork the intimacy of the sound and the artificiality of the visuals clash, alienating the spectator from this reconstruction of a reality. The work deconstructs the google rendering and offers an alternative way to move in the designed illusion of a seamless space. […]”. (Jury: Martine Neddam, Künstlerkollektiv KairUs (Linda Kronman, Andreas Zingerle))

Was presented at JustTech 2016 (New Media’s section of JustMAD7) in Madrid on the following jury’s decision: “[…] The Mailman’s Bag […], which we consider to be a humorous intersection of sound art, smartphone-induced GPS frenzy, and a great glitch atmosphere that surrounds us, from this reality infuriated by the presence of an error which we can’t avoid because all around us there is only noise.”

Was presented as part of Disruption, ISEA 2015 Vancouver, CA


Practical information:
Running interactive in Google Earth via a KMZ file, the work can be presented native from Google Earth, but is also available as .mov file. Best experienced with headphones. Duration 60 min.