Google Earth was first made available to the public back in 2005. If you were like me, you probably downloaded the application before realizing it wasn’t useful enough to justify all the space it took up on your 2005 laptop’s hard drive. Nonetheless, governments around the world noticed this development and panicked by blurring, cloning, pixelating, and whiting out areas that they considered to be sensitive to national security. Among these states, the Netherlands distinguished itself by covering hundreds of palaces, barracks, and fuel depots with large polygons. The Netherlands’ decision was unusual considering that the country is relatively small and has a reputation for being peaceful, and it caught the eye of British photographer Mishka Henner. Browsing through satellite images in 2011, Henner saw that the Dutch censors, rather than subtly hiding the protected zones, boldly outlined spaces that the government did not want outside eyes to see. The immediate effect of this censorship, rather than stifling intellectual and creative thought, was actually rather artistic. Henner captured the contrast between Dutch censors and landscapes using a “camera” on his computer. In his representations, the Dutch landscapes appear textured and, despite centuries of agricultural and urban development, natural. Conversely, the censors resemble confetti or pop art, commonly featuring cool blues, greens, and browns interspersed with sparks of red and purple. Henner’s prints question the traditional relationship between art and censorship, a relationship which, in our Internet age fraught with new anxieties over privacy and surveillance, seems to grow more complicated every time a new app, video game, or pair of glasses makes the news. Henner’s prints of the Dutch landscapes are collected in a in a 106-page, softcover book available here.
Tags: art, google, landscapes, maps, satellite