Google Street View cars, mounted with nine cameras, roam the earth recording whatever happens to appear before them, from tumbleweeds floating across deserted highways to Justin Bieber’s grandparents in the front yard of the pop star’s Ontario home (earning Street View the apt nickname “Googlerazzi”). The Google cameras act as detached observers, providing glimpses of landscapes and life captured in passing. Art45 exhibition Within Which All Things Exist and Move—the highlight of Art Pop—brought together and juxtaposed artist Jon Rafman’s Google Street View images with documentary photographer Gabor Szilasi’s urban shots from the 1950 to the 1980s.
Fascinated by Google’s global archiving, Rafman selected Street View images which he thinks pose questions about the nature of the relationship between the individual and his or her environment. Rafman’s most poignant image presents the backside of a nude woman in Puglia, Italy, standing on rocks at the edge of the ocean and watching the tide come in. While the Street View cameras indifferently record the woman, Rafman reasserts her individuality by selecting and framing the image. A particularly striking contrast was created between a black and white photograph of a group of Italian nuns in the 1950s and a Street View image of three women wearing niqabs, their eyes deliberately blurred, on the streets of London. Szilasi’s stunning historical photographs emphasize the intimate, voyeur-esque quality of Rafman’s images, which act as a window on the world by capturing daily life within the process of global surveillance.