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C.H.A.R.T.

See how GPS technology can create drawings of conversations to record stories of the Fraser River.

Artist-in-residence M. Simon Levin has transformed the TechLab into C.H.A.R.T (Confluence Hub of Art, Rivers and Technology)- a station for “mapping and monitoring” people’s relationship with rivers. During the first phase of C.H.A.R.T (June 30 to August 30), Levin mentored and collaborated with two young emerging artists, Theresa Hutton and Alex Konyves, to collectively produce a media work in response to the Gallery’s project on the theme of the River and the International Year of Fresh Water. Their video and audio work explored the impact of the Fraser River that borders the City of Surrey, as well as the numerous smaller waterways that crisscross this vast agricultural community. Through collecting and interpreting the stories and memories of Surrey residents, the team investigated the river as a metaphor for community. This phase utilized the lab as a video production studio, and visitors were invited to see the team editing tape, compiling audio, installing the station monitors and projectors, and working on all other associated creative and administrative tasks required to get C.H.A.R.T up and running. The completed multi-channel video and sound installation (via headphones) can be experienced at the entrance to C.H.A.R.T.

The second phase, through the end of October, will find Levin continuing this work in progress. He will be at the C.H.A.R.T station continuing to collect the anecdotes and perspectives of Gallery visitors and community members. Using GPS technology—a form of remote sensing surveillance, originally developed by the military to guide missiles, now commonly used by outdoor recreationists as a navigation tool—Levin proposes to work with visitors to C.H.A.R.T. “relational maps”. Levin has modified a GPS unit, and paired it with a customized software program, to create a tool that monitors a bearer’s movements. The recording of their activity is used to create a drawing, which Levin then partners with other records of their personal experiences (such as satellite photos). Through C.H.A.R.T, Levin will subvert the traditional uses of GPS, transforming it into an interactive aesthetic tool, which creates an ever-changing “drawing.” This drawing, with layers of different journeys or relationships with the river, is painted in copper on the wall between the monitors.

The final phase of C.H.A.R.T. will be displayed through the month of November, offering not only the works produced during the residency, but also documentation of the process.

About the Artist

M. Simon Levin creates site-based systems that explore the aesthetics of engagement using a variety of designed forms and tools that address our many publics. These spatial and pedagogical projects expand the social agency of artmaking, rethinking notions of space and place, authorship and audience. Working collaboratively and primarily within the public sphere, Levin’s work ranges from billboard projects, alternative tours of cities, land care centres, and alternative mapping and telecommunication systems.

Recently commissioned projects include a user-generated "sousveillance" system and a global contributive new media platform, both showcased for Vanvouver’s 2010 Cultural Olympiad. He has been artist-in-residence for the Vancouver Parks Board, the TechLab at Surrey Art Gallery, and at the International Art Space in Kelleberrin, Australia. He has exhibited, lectured, and published locally, nationally, and internationally. He also lectures at University of British Columbia, and has published a curriculum on Contemporary Public Art.

Image credit: M. Simon Levin sitting in Surrey Art Gallery's TechLab during C.H.A.R.T. exhibition.