‘A’ for Art
In the summer of 2006 I built the first Google map pin physical representation and set it up temporarily in the backyard of my studio in Berlin Mitte. It was six meter tall and made from a wooden frame mounted with red cloth showing the capital ‘A’. The year 2006 was an important year in my early artistic career. I made a lot of new works and had my first big group shows etc. As it turns out the piece ‘Map’ became one of my important and iconic works. Since 2006 this sculpture was shown worldwide in many different places, art shows and cities. It was made from different materials and in different sizes and it marked many different city centers around the world.
In 2005 Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen designed the map pin symbol for Google Maps which was launched later in the same year. The startup ‘Where 2’ co-founded by Rasmussen which in fact became Google Maps got acquired by Google the year earlier. To point out the locations of search results on the map the pin symbol showed letters of the alphabet. Starting with an ‘A’ through ‘J’ the red pins on the map corresponded with the first 10 search results listed on the page. A couple months ago in spring 2014 Google did a complete overhaul of the design of the Google Maps page. The red map marker does still exist in the new interface but it is displayed in more rare occasions and is only showing a black dot. The lettering A – J is gone. An era of almost 10 years of the Google Maps ‘A’ marker seemed to be over. But just recently in June 2014 the Architecture and Design department of the MoMA acquired the classic map pin symbol with capital ‘A’ from Google for its collection.
I am very pleased to see this symbol, made for a web page on the Internet by Rasmussen a decade ago is now in the collection of the MoMA. The red pin and its creator Rasmussen very much deserve this attention. This 35 pixel icon became a very important symbol for a whole new era. An era in which society slowly realized the actual impact of computers and Internet. The way we live, communicate and perceive the world has changed dramatically over the last 10-20 years. With my piece ‘Map’, the physical representation of Rasmussens interface symbol I try to point out this paradigm shift since 2006.
Aram Bartholl, June 19, 2014
Screen shot Google Maps, Summer 2006. The developer back then proposed to seach for pizza.
First physical representation, ‘Map’ Summer 2006. Bartholl studio backyard, Borsigstr. 33, Berlin
Screen shot: MoMA website, recent acquisitions, Arch & Design, June 19 2014
Screen shot: Google Maps, June 19, 2014, re-shaped map pin and no more ‘A’