New York City Is In Afghanistan - Bill Dolson - Description

Timeline/Budget     CV     Work Samples

Manhattan Relocated to the Plains East of Kabul, Afghanistan
maquette made in Google Earth
Two images from ultra-high resolution webcams are composited into a single image portraying a convincing geographical impossibility, a view of the skyline of Manhattan, relocated to a remote valley in rural Afghanistan.

One webcam is located in New Jersey and the other is in Afghanistan. They both continuously transmit high resolution digital images to a computer in New York. This computer realistically composites the two images into a single, convincing, real-time image of this impossible scene.

The artwork is designed to be presented both online in lo-res form and as a gallery installation in high res large format video projection using a digital cinema projector.

A provocative and politically charged work, it creates a visceral and direct linkage between the target of the events of 911 and the geographic origin of those events. It has a polemical context, challenging the focus of our recent foreign policy on Iraq, and directs our attention to a far more important locale for the incubation and development of anti-western ideology, Afghanistan. It also establishes that these two disparate locales are forever irrevocably linked by literally placing one within the other.

The work challenges the incontrovertibility of the photographic image by creating a convincing impossiblity. It continues the tradition of calling into question the authority of the photographic image, in particular that of the live webcam image, and its pretense of conveying a believable telepresence. It asserts that even a live webcam is still a photograph, and as such, must be questioned as a record of absolute reality for it can be altered just like any photograph.

This work continues the artist's unique practice fusing Land Art and New Media. It is very much a work of Land Art, and shares with it the process of altering or refactoring the landscape. Instead of physically altering the earth like the seminal practitioners of the 70s, this work conceptually and virtually executes a massively unthinkable geographic transformation, transporting a major American city to a central Asian wilderness.

Manhattan At Night From the New Jersy Webcam Location
Eagle Rock Reservation, Upper Montclair

This work is closely related to other work by the artist involving New Media visualizations of proposed Land Art works on a vast and daring scale. During his residency at Eyebeam last year he produced visualizations of artifical meteor showers over New York City. Other proposed works include creating cloud formations in geometric patterns and making drawings by means of artifical dust storms or with prescribed wild land fires.

The artist will install digital cameras configured as web cams in New Jersey and Afghanistan, probably near the capital of Kabul to secure internet access. The artist will write software to composite the images and serve them in different resolutions for the online version and gallery projection. The artist is uniquely qualified to execute the work, possessing all the technical expertise required. In his mid-fifites, he is also a consulting computer engineer specializing digital image processing. Current consulting clients include NASA and aerospace firms. This project is completely feasible and very straightforward compared to his typical engineering work.

For more technical information see notes on Technique.