Hungry for Exposure

Hungry for Exposure

By Ryan Ringer

So last summer, in a desperate dash to score media exposure, I concocted a public art project in response to Google Street View. (You probably know about this: Google Street View cars equipped with 360-degree cameras drive all over the globe documenting everything in their sights, from cityscapes to highway vistas, and use the consequent images to form the virtual component of its online Google Maps service. Needless to say, it’s raised a lot of privacy concerns and consequently was a big news story for a while.)┬áSee, I’d received a tipoff: a Toronto Star reporter was urgently looking for artists to talk publicly about the politics surrounding this problematic mapping project. So I emailed him, we talked for a bit, and he asked me to make a performance spectacle for his article. I pitched a simple idea, he thought it a riot, and I set to work the very next day making giant cardboard camera heads for a photo shoot. (The gist of the project was this: I’d get a bunch of people together to wear camera heads and somehow intercept one of these Google Street View cars in order to be photographed and end up a fixture of the photographed urban landscape, joining many artists from across the globe who were also pulling stunts to be photographed by Street View cars.)

Anyway, I’m not really writing this to tell you about the camera head project. I just want to let you in on the behind-the-scenes stuff. ┬áThe project didn’t really happen because of my political views on Google Street View. It happened because the writer needed something interesting to write about and I happened to be an artist who saw an opportunity to bolster his status as a professional by getting mentioned in a major paper.

What I’m talking about is the game of making it. It goes to show that to get noticed, it’s often not enough just doing great stuff. More often than not, you have to be in the loop (where you get the tipoffs and such) and be willing to give ’em (the media) what they want (in this case a performance art piece that fit the writer’s angle). …The things you gotta do to get attention.

Top image: a Google Street View image of Project 165, where the camera heads were made. Bottom (by David Cooper): Andrzej Tarasiuk, Lisa Keophila and me as camera heads on the prowl.

March 17, 2010