A New Middle of Nowhere uses emulated satellite signals to enable a new experience of being in 'the middle of nowhere' in the era of omnipresent GPS location tracking. I commissioned a mathematician – Alexandre Puttick Riemann – to calculate the precise geographical centre of one of the last remaining primeval forests in Europe: Białowieża National Park in Poland. Subsequently, I created an object that emits a GPS spoofing signal with these coordinates: the radio signals from actual satellites are overpowered by emulated signals that are broadcast at the same frequency. This results in GPS devices in its vicinity indicating a geographical location that doesn’t correspond with the device’s actual location. No matter where you are in the forest, your device will always indicate that you are in its exact geographical center: the new middle of nowhere.
The object is a brass plated replica of a bison dropping which I 3D scanned in Białowieża forest. Inside is a Software Defined Radio transmitter. On one hand, this object refers to the dynamic navigational practices that were prominent in pre-sendentary lifestyles: the tracking of animal droppings and footprints. On the other, its brass surface resembles the material of a survey marker, an object that has played a central role in static and absolute approaches to space, especially in the pre-GPS era.
On 25 September 2020, I undertook a clandestine foot journey into the Strict Reserve of Białowieża Forest to reach the geographical centre of the National Park. There, the object was installed and activated. While it was transmitting, any GPS devices in the area would have indicated the exact centre of the park, regardless of their true location: a middle of nowhere 2.0. After the action, the object was removed and taken out of the park again. No materials were left behind in the forest. The journey was documented with a head-mounted video camera, photographs and a location track record on Google Maps.
A New Middle of Nowhere has been developed as part of a research residency at Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw supported by the Mondriaan Fund (NL) and the City of Warsaw.
Residency curator: Julia Harasimowicz
Coordinators: Anka Kobierska, Katarzyna Sztarbała
Geographical computation: Alexandre Riemann Puttick
3D printing: Wojciech Lewenstam
Special thanks to Magdalena Siemaszko and Adam Wajrak for their help in locating the bison turd.