The day began with an uncanny text message from my Mum: ‘what’s the postcode for the museum? I need it for the satnav.’ Using a satnav to find your way to a GPS-enabled drawing workshop? It’s a far cry from using sextants and compasses and your wits to reach undiscovered lands. What you may wonder is the connection to Longitude? Just as Captain Cook tested the cutting-edge navigation technology of his day, so would we. By using GPS trackers to make our own ‘digital marks’ on the landscape we will be walking in his footsteps. Only with more ice cream stops.
The GPS Drawing and Mapping Workshop with artist and map-maker Jeremy Wood is one of the Longitude season events. Jeremy opens the session by introducing us to his own use of GPS technology to make art and unconventional maps. For the last 12 years he’s carried the GPS device with him on every journey whether to the cornershop or the other side of the world and has built up a digital diary of all his movements. He’s mapped all sorts of messages and shapes into the earth to create a digital kind of land art.
How it works
Jeremy gave each participant a hand-held GPS receiver. We simply needed to master the on and off button.
The tracking device logs your location every 2 seconds using Global Positioning System (GPS). As you move about the receiver creates a surprisingly accurate dot-to-dot line drawing of your route which you can view on the little screen. To change the direction of the line, you walk in a different direction.
We did a short test in the sun-soaked park (walked to the Queen’s House for a snoop of the intriguing Steam Punk Summer Fete) . And then returned to the museum where Jeremy loaded it up onto the large plasma screen so we could see our first ‘stumbling’ efforts in detail.
Jeremy created a huge work over many days in and around Greenwich Park a few years ago ‘writing’ a quote from Moby Dick. You can read about it here and see the aerial images superimposed onto a real map here
Then all the participants scattered across Greenwich Park to have a go, plotting our courses using trees, litter bins, paths and groups of picnickers as guiding lines. After initially watching the screen, I put the receiver in my pocket and ‘freestyled’ trusting to my orienteering skills.
Back in the museum we met up with the other participants to see the incredibly satisfying results on the big screen and knowing they represented your own ‘work’. Here’s one of the most intricate made in a big clearing in Blackheath:
Think you could do even better? Why not have a go yourself on Sunday 10 August http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/events/gps