Derek Hales

Distance Made Good: Flowlines

This short essay discusses the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in locative media practice, with reference to the works of Hamilton and Southern and the geo-philosophical writings of Deleuze and Guattari, particularly their notions of smooth and striated space1. In an earlier text by Annie Gerin on Hamilton and Southern, a textile technological model for their work (Distance Made Good) is introduced. In writing on the smooth and striated, Deleuze and Guattari had already described textile fabrics by way of illustration, first of a striated space, produced through the apparatus of weaving and then in contrast to this with the production of felt, as a smooth space without separation of threads only an entanglement of fibres, in principle open and unlimited in every direction.

The apparatus that Hamilton and Southern use for their investigations from urban spaces to coastlines is the GPS device: both state apparatus and war machine. The GPS as a state instrument, a part of the military apparatus is a surveillance device, a device used in military operations. The GPS as a state apparatus is one that produces a striation, a homogenisation of the space over which the state reigns. It does this by controlling and containing migrations, in its capture of flows, by imposing restrictions on speed and direction, and in its measurement and capture of movements. But, to complicate things, the GPS device is also used in the work of Hamilton and Southern as a war machine of a different kind, in that it offers a creative resistance to the control and striation of space – it is used for other purposes. The GPS in locative media practice is a machine best characterised by movements across space rather than the grid that allows this movement to be plotted, reintroducing smooth elements that resist containment or evade spatial routine through simple acts such as walking to work through the city, putting out the lobster pots in a boat, or flying a kite on the beach.

This apparatus, this device, has association with drawing machines (and this is one of the things Hamilton and Southern use it for), with surveying machines and with a general expansion of perception through the use of technical devices. More interestingly it also has association with a projective geometry - one that opens multiple perspectives and subjectivities through a mobilisation of geometries of points of view.

... what makes me = me is a point of view on the world... through a mobilization of points of view... it's not points of view that are explained by the subjects, it’s the opposite, subjects that are explained by points of view.2

The GPS comes with sets of conditions that are useful in the description of a 'striated' or otherwise metric space – it is a triangulation machine for measuring and registering the location of points of practice in a particular locale. This triangulation machine is part of a technological assemblage – an interconnected network of technologies which include actual linkages and other associations (mobile phones, PDAs, computers, the wireless internet, radio signals, traffic monitoring, road maps, the ordnance survey, the history of maritime navigational technology, dependency on electromagnetism, the accuracy of atomic clocks, and so on). Considering the GPS as an assemblage this also includes the 24 satellites in orbit around the earth, as well as the mathematics that resolve location through the temporal measurement of radio transmissions and through the processes of triangulation or trilateration. A further association that can be made lies within the problem for triangulation this poses - where all points to be measured are in motion, not as fixed or static points but vectors – we can speculate that this might require the generation and computation of some intermediary constructions based on, lets say, intersecting circles or the surfaces of volumes - very much in the same way that Bernard Cache has described Philibert de L'Orme's 'trompes' being resolved through a generalised system of two intersecting conical shapes composed of parallel rays with vertices at vanishing points, or in the invention of stereotomy and other developments of perspective technologies. This begins to move the GPS, positioning locative media practice, as an architectural practice, somewhere between 1550 and 1872 AD, precisely where Cache locates the future of Computer Aided Design that other descendent of the perspective hinge in architecture.3

The collaborative and participatory locative media work of Hamilton and Southern illustrates how the sets of conditions that come with the GPS can limit the descriptions of space and can render a journey into a two dimensional depiction - the drawn line. Though their work is not as straightforward or limited as that - it involves the drawing around a neighbourhood, a place, a site, a locale, and the rendering of this space into a contour, a line. It is this, the 'becoming-line' that it is to participate in this process, that is useful; such lines can be used to draw maps full of reciprocal interactions, influences and experiences, like drawing around the buildings, roads, and public spaces to trace the figure-ground but instead becoming an expression of pure movements, variations, differentiations - becoming points of view described as vectors, not points, or at least not only points. But, as well as points of view, to participate is to be rendered as points on the Cartesian grid of the GPS display. The work produces both representations and a multiple perspectivism; it is this that helps the artists delineate differences of spatial opinion differentials of speed, delays and accelerations, changes in orientation, continuous variations... 4

The GPS as assemblage manages space, movement through that space and conditions human behaviour in space - the GPS bends space around itself and develops an isomorphism with other elements across layers or strata. Through Hamilton and Southern's work we can see the stratification of social space as a layering of agency; the achieving of affects through exposed layerings or strata - language and technology, content and expression that cannot be reduced to a single plane, but instead become multiplicities of mutually determining layers. The GPS as wielded by Hamilton and Southern merges layers and re-introduces them as smoothing elements that cross and resist the containment of spatial routine.

What one sees as a visitor - and in developing this work Hamilton and Southern have been first-time visitors to their respective home towns – what is experienced by one as an alien, as one type of space, will alter slightly from how another sees and experiences and knows from memory to be the one type of space they frequently occupy, inhabit or traverse. Hamilton and Southern’s practice and their work with communities of participants, can be seen as processes of projective geometry, as a practice of resistance or war machine in an urban and striated space. The 'becoming-line' of participants via the apparatus of the GPS which describes, or better still projects their points of view as rays and shadows: onto the pavement; into the cracks between the paving stones; in the fissures of the stones; through the gaps and into the surfaces of the city or town. The GPS drawn line, as vectors in a field that is simultaneously smooth and striated, is a nomadic line that continuously smooths and makes malleable an always already striated space with multiple orientations that pass between points, figures and contours: it is positively motivated by the smooth space it draws.5 The machinic aspect of the GPS as assemblage is in the habits and traits of participants in Southern and Hamilton's work and how these reveal and express the singularities of social space, the site and its becoming, those aspects that give a site, give architecture, its intensity and that actualise its virtuality.


1. Deleuze. G, Guattari.F, 1987, A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press.

2. Deleuze lecture notes on Leibniz taken from Cours Vincennes – 15/04/1980

3. Cache, B, Towards an Associative Architecture, in Leach. N, Turnbull. D, Digital Tectonics, 2004, Wiley Academy.

4. Deleuze lecture notes on Leibniz taken from Cours Vincennes – 15/04/1980


Beside Ourselves, Sometimes by Kris Cohen

Walk by Annie Gerin

Satellites by Derek Hales

Distance Made Good by Annabel Longbourne

Memory Maps by Emma Posey

Distance Made Good: Installations using GPS to chart local topographies by Hamilton & Southern

Unfeasible Symmetry by Hamilton & Southern

Copyright Hamilton, Southern & St Amand 2008.
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