“Geolocation: Tributes to the Data Stream”

Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman map moments in the Twittersphere


through Sept. 1 | Orlando Museum
of Art, 2416 N. Mills Ave. | 407-896-4231 | omart.org | free

Our tweets reveal more about us than we realize. As we carefully hone a joke, hold up one side of a conversation, blast out a moment of outrage or a link to a #longread, we might not stop to consider that a tweet is also a pin in a map, fixing and broadcasting the place and time we blurted out those 140 characters.

Artists Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman use the existing metadata on geotagged tweets (along with apps including Tweetspot and Streamd.in) to unlock the extra dimension of the Twittersphere, isolating individual islands in the stream of data and documenting their physical origin – accurate to within a 15-foot radius. Larson and Shindelman photograph the usually mundane places from which these cryptic or wise or snotty or sad messages to the world originate, lending both image and text an emotional resonance each might otherwise lack. The artists’ Twitter-centric projects have been reviewed by National Public Radio, the New York Times, Wired and VICE; now they’re here, as the latest entry in Orlando Museum of Art’s bimonthly free contemporary art series, New Work.

The 14 photos on display are technically accomplished – big, handsome digital C-prints worthy of exhibition even without their theoretical underpinning. Some amusingly demonstrate the technical limits of geolocation, like “Broken Into (2011).” The caption reads, “OMG! My house just got broken into and they took all of our electronics,” but the photograph of the tweet’s supposed origin shows a desolate dirt lot, empty of anything at all but weeds, old tires, a couple of detergent bottles and a seatless wooden chair. The stolid scenery of “Still Carry Hope (2011),” while overtly disconnected from the miserable tweet “He dnt kno y im hurt but its all over his twitter!!!! Y do I still carry hope?,” is in fact a deft illustration of emotional unavailability: a blunt wall shielded by weeds, with just the tantalizing hint of a home beyond the impenetrable barrier.

The title of this exhibition may come across as dauntingly conceptual or cold. Potential viewers should overlook that. Geolocation: Tributes to the Data Stream interacts with and consumes the robotic, impersonal data we all churn out simply by existing in a funny, beautiful, very human way.