“Where on Earth is Waldo?”
The following review was written by Nancy Strider :
Melanie Coles, a young web designer and artist, has set out to stimulate an intriguing viral game. She has hidden a huge painting on a rooftop somewhere in Vancouver, in hopes that it will appear on Google Earth.
Coles’ contribution to the Emily Carr 2008 Grad Exhibition is the process documentation of her long-term project “Where on Earth is Waldo?” “My addition of a Waldo figure to Google Earth, in a way subverts the whole earth into being part of my game; each rooftop or field then becomes a place where Waldo could be hiding”.
Why Waldo? The widespread delight, experienced by readers of all ages, in picking the illustration of the nerdy-looking young man out of a crowd, has resulted in the phrase “Where’s Waldo?” becoming embedded into the lexicon of popular culture. Melanie is publishing “how-to make a very big Waldo” instructions on her website http://www.whereonearthiswaldo.com/ “My hope is that, through making Waldo open source, and by having the template and concept open to everyone — Waldos could begin popping up throughout Google Earth … People will be looking to find their friend’s house online, and say ‘I just found Waldo!”
She is keeping some key information a mystery. The rooftop location will not be made public, to ensure that the viewers’ experience remain mediated and indirect, limited to photos on a computer monitor. It is also unknown exactly when Waldo’s photo will be showing up on Google Earth, as they do not disclose their photography schedule. The essential drama of this participative piece lies in the preparation, the anticipation, the patience, and the faith.
In subject matter, style, size and point of view, Melanie’s painting resonates with the huge ancient Celtic chalk drawings carved into hilltops. Both types of figures are laid out so as to be unreadable from the ground. They are meant to engage a celestial eye. The gestures, however, indicate different approaches to the deities. For example, the priapic 2nd Century “Cerne Abbas Giant”, near Dorchester in Dorset, brandishes his club at the gods, in a competitive assertion of human fertility and potency. The giant Waldo, on the other hand — as though responding to the coffee-break question “Is Google God?” — simply waves his cane cheerfully at the sky, and sends the confident message “Hello, up there”
Coles seems to enjoy playing with scale. In early 2007, at the Petri Dish Gallery, she showed a series of miniatures in her exhibition “All the Small Things”. “I went from making art works I could fit in my hand, to an art work that can fit me in its hand.”
To paint the fifty-four foot long figure, she applied the traditional “Renaissance grid” technique. At weekend painting parties, her friends and classmates transferred small sections of marks from her original drawing onto two-foot squares drawn on long vinyl strips. Even before she sewed them together, the jigsaw pieces of red and white shirt and thick glasses brought instant recognition.
She cites inspiration by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. On their website they explain their “temporary large-scale environmental works … have elements of painting, sculpture, architecture and urban planning.” For Coles, too, the process is at the heart of her final product. However she differs from Christo and Jean Claude in the spatial relationship of her work and its audience. Theirs are in plain view – seen from accessible locations on the ground. Coles has chosen instead to situate hers in “plane view”.
Melanie also sees herself as part of another current art movement. “Google Earth has been stirring up a lot of interest, and blogs such as http://googlesightseeing.com/ have been a launch for users to discuss bizarre findings within the application. With this interest a new wave of art is being imagined: one that eliminates the accidental and creates work specifically for the medium of Google Earth. These projects have created a lot of buzz on blogs such as Boing Boing (boingboing.net) and are becoming a new obsession for the tech savvy generation”.
While influenced by both ancient and modern environmental art, Coles connects her real painting “Where on Earth is Waldo” into the Internet. She adds her own humourous twist by using a popular icon. “It contextualizes my Waldo in not just a new emerging art form, but situates it in something that has been going on since the beginning of man. Proof that no ideas are truly new! I read a statement in MacLean’s last year that said that the Internet creates very little that is truly new, it just creates new ways of doing things. I would agree with that, and my whole project restates that point. You can take Waldo from print to the web but its still the same game and the same Waldo.”
Review by Nancy Strider
Contributing Artists Include: Ryan Dyck, Nancy Strider, Jay Martiniuk, Andrew Frose, Sandy Yee, Jordie Yow, Lisa Elgert, Keith Catton, Nicole Obidowski, Alison Benjamin, Amanda Thomson, Becky Ferguson, Emiliano Sepulveda, Ryan Ling, Victoria Cruz, Caroline Walker and Stephen Jersak. Thanks also to Cloverdale Paints, Zulu Records, Club Card, Peg Campbell, Mo Simpson and Rock Whitney.
Contact Melanie: firstname.lastname@example.org