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Walking a Straight Line
2020, GPS tracking data, laser-engraved into a black stone slab, 45 × 30 × 2 cm

“Walking a Straight Line” shows the GPS tracking data of Ruben Aubrecht’s mobile phone while he was walking a straight line.

On 24th of September 2020 at 10:09 am, his phone calculated every 7 seconds its exact position by using GPS signals. The so-called metadata - text elements in the log file - show the longitude, the latitude, the timestamp and the altitude above sea level.

[…] When Richard Long first presented "A Line Made by Walking" in 1967, the young artist exemplified those systems of recording that remain a methodological standard in conceptual artistic practices to this day. His photograph of an unspecified meadow near London, through which Long had trampled a straight line, did not simply document the result of an action today considered to be an icon of Land Art. The performance itself was already recording the time it took Long to mark the ground with his steps. In addition, he was processing his own body, the weight and movement of which were responsible for flattening the grass, as data. The arbitrariness of the location – a meadow somewhere in 1960s England – also intensified the reflection on a coordinate system informed by the interaction of the trinity “I,” “here,” and “now.”

Almost 60 years later and in light of issues such as digital surveillance, network capitalism, and the recent resurgence of conspiracy theories, we face not only a changed geopolitical situation, but must also take a different view of recording media. Yet Ruben Aubrecht’s artistic practice nonetheless connects with that of Richard Long. Walking a Straight Line is the title of the first work in a multipart series that uses GPS tracking data recorded by an app to both extract a straight line from the global data network and to re-inscribe a line into this selfsame global network. The artist has had the so-called metadata – text elements that trace the movement Ruben Aubrecht’s mobile phone by logging time and location at certain intervals – laser-engraved into a black stone slab with a polished surface.
[…]

Text by Franz Thalmair