Google Puts Online 10,000 Works of Street Art from Across the Globe

circling

Circling Birdies by Cheko, Granada Spain

Since last we wrote, Google Street Art has doubled its online archive by adding some 5,000 images, bringing the tally to 10,000, with coordinates pinpointing exact locations on all five continents (though as of this writing, things are a bit thin on the ground in Africa). Given the temporal realities of outdoor, guerrilla art, pilgrims may arrive to find a blank canvas where graffiti once flourished. (RIP New York City’s 5 Pointz, the “Institute of Higher Burning.”)

A major aim of the project is virtual preservation. As with performance art, documentation is key. Not all of the work can be attributed, but click on an image to see what is known. Guided tours to neighborhoods rich with street art allow armchair travelers to experience the work, and interviews with the artists dispel any number of stereotypes.




Cultural institutions like Turkey’s Pera Museum and Hong Kong’s Art Research Institute, and street art projects based in such hubs as Rome, Paris, Sydney, and Bangkok, have pulled together official collections of photos and videos, but you can play curator too.

It’s easy to add images to a collection of your own making that can be shared with the public at large or saved for private inspiration. Careful, you could lose hours…it’s like Pinterest for people who gravitate toward spray paint and rubbish strewn vacant lots over gingham wrapped Mason jars.

It’s been a long and brutal winter here on the east coast, so for my first foray, I prowled for Signs of Spring. One of my first hits was “Circling Birdies” by Cheko, above. Located in Granada, Spain, it's one of the existing works Google has turned into a GIF with some light, logical animation.

Behold a bit of what typing “flower,” “baby animals,” “plants,” and “trees” into a search box can yield! You can enter Google Street Art here.

Child With Windmill

Artist: Walter Kershaw
London UK

Thrashbird

Artists: Thrashbird and Renee Gagnon
Los Angeles, California.

Baby Chick

Artist: unknown
Rochester, NY

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 11.07.58 PM

Icy and Sot
Rochester NY

Freedom Fighter

Artist: Kristy Sandoval
Los Angeles, CA

Natureza Viva

Artists: Regg and Violant
Alfragide Portugal

Beetle

Artist: Klit
Alfragide, Portugal
A giant colorful beetle tries to fly between the ceiling and the floor of this parking lot. His wings seem filled with flower petals. So, the "Living Nature" project brought a set of huge insects that carry a note of living spirit to the space.

Deep Blue

Artist: Rai Cruz
Manila, Philippines

Nagel
Artist: Christiaan Nagel
London, England

Untitled Rome
Artist: Lady Aiko
Rome, Italy

Parsa

Artist: Andrew Kentish
Nepal

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Google Makes Available 750 Icons for Designers & Developers: All Open Source 

google icons

If you're a designer or developer, Kottke.org thought you'd might like to know: "As part of their Material Design visual language, Google has open-sourced a package of 750 icons. More info here."

Over at Github, you can view a live preview of the icons or download the icon pack now.

Our friends at BoingBoing add, "They're licensed CC-BY-SA and designed for use in mobile apps and other interactive stuff." Use them well.

 

Tour the World’s Street Art with Google Street Art

By far the most enjoyable part of our recent family trip to London was the afternoon my young son and I spent in Shoreditch, groping our way to No Brow, a comics shop I had noticed on an early morning stroll with our hostess. Our route was evidence that I had forgotten the coordinates, the street name, the name of the shop… Eventually, I realized we were lost, and that is where the real fun began, as we retraced our steps using street art as bread crumbs.

Ah right, there's  that rooftop mushroom installation!

And there's that Stik figure

After a while, a FedEx man took pity on us, ruining our fun by steering us toward the proper address..

I'm not sure I could ever duplicate our trail, but I enjoy trying with Google Street Art. Armchair travelers can use it to project themselves to the heart of ephemeral, possibly illegal exhibitions all over the globe,.

Bogotá... Paris... New York's legendary 5 Pointz, before the landlord clutched and whitewashed the entire thing in the dead of night. Each up close photo bears a highly informational caption, much more than you'd find in the street itself. Think of it as an after-the-fact digital museum. It's appropriate, given the ephemeral nature of the work. An online presence is its best shot at preservation.

Those of us with something to contribute can add to the record with a user gallery or by tagging our photos with #StreetArtist.

Enter Google Street Art here.

Related Content:

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Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler and the Chief Primatologist of The East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

New Google-Powered Site Tracks Global Deforestation in ‘Near-Real-Time’

In September we told you about trillions of satellite images of Earth, generated by the Landsat, that are now available to the public.

Now we can share an interactive tool that is using some of those Landsat images to stop illegal deforestation.

With help from Google Earth Engine, the World Resources Institute launched Global Forest Watch, an online forest monitoring and alert system that allows individual computer users to watch forests around the world change in an almost real-time stream of imagery.

Whistle blowers are making powerful use of the Global Forest Watch tool. Using spatial data streams available on the site to observe forest changes in southeastern Peru, a number of users submitted alerts about rapidly escalating deforestation near a gold mine and river valley. In another case, observers submitted an alert about illegal logging in the Republic of the Congo.

Five years ago, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey lifted protocols that kept Landsat images proprietary. Now, agencies like the World Resources Institute—and even tiny citizen watchdog groups around the world—have access to incredibly rich tools and data. Some of the imagery is hard to interpret. Global Forest Watch developed a number of different data layers for users to apply, making it possible to monitor forest areas for trends or illegal logging. The video at the top of this page gives a good overview of how the site works. This one gives more detail about how to use the maps on the Global Forest Watch site.

Select an area of the world and then select a data set that interests you. Choose to look at terrain, satellite, road, tree height, or composite images of a particular region. Data layers can be layered on top of one another to show trends in forest management. In Indonesia, for example, you can use the FORMA alerts button to see what has already been reported in that area of the humid tropics.

How can you tell if forest change is due to illegal logging? Turn on the Forest Use filters to see which areas are authorized for logging and mining and which are protected. In Indonesia, many areas are designated for oil palm production, but expansion of those crops are often associated with loss of natural forest.

Do your own sleuthing. The site is designed to harness data from government and academic scientists, along with observation from individuals (us). There is even information about companies that are growing oil palm trees, so it’s possible that a diligent user could catch an over-aggressive grower stepping over the forest boundary.

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Kate Rix writes about digital media and education. Follow her on Twitter.

Google’s Music Timeline: A Visualization of 60 Years of Changing Musical Tastes

google music timeline

The state of music has changed radically in recent years. Of course, the largest change that springs to mind is Napster, the program that made collective musical sharing possible and triggered the inexorable decline in record sales in the early 2000s. Business model aside, however, the music industry has also weathered tremendously volatile changes in taste over the past half-century.

To see just how dramatic the changes in musical fashion have been, check out Google’s new Music Timeline, pictured above. This simple, color-coded chart displays the popularity of various genres from 1950 onwards (pre-50s sales data is just too spotty and inconsistent). While jazz record sales held the lion’s share of the market throughout much of the 1950’s, the advent of rock and pop acts such as the Beatles in the 1960s relegated jazz to the minor leagues.

metallica timeline

The timeline also allows you to look at the popularity of various bands throughout the course of their careers. Metallica, the litigious critics of Napster’s file-sharing ways, are an interesting example of the waxing and waning of a particular band’s success. Initial spike of popularity aside, as is clear from the image right above, the band had been relatively successful with each of their studio albums. After the release of their cover album in 1998, entitled Garage Inc., things quickly headed south. Whether it’s because of the Napster debacle of 2000, when the band's lawsuit effectively shut down the company, or a regrettable change of direction, many former fans simply weren't interested anymore.

Before fans come to the defense of whichever bands were slighted by Google’s visualization, a few caveats: the data used to judge relative success is derived from Google Play user libraries. The more users have an album, the more successful it’s deemed by the algorithm. Additionally, if you’re a classical music fan, you’re out of luck. For various logistical reasons, Google decided against its inclusion in the timeline.

For more information about Google’s Music Timeline, click here. For a Michael Hann’s first look review over at The Guardian’s music blog, which discusses the possible skews in the data, head this way.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.

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Google Puts Over 57,000 Works of Art on the Web

dali google art project

In its art preservationist wing, the Cultural Institute, Google houses an enormous digital collection of artwork spanning centuries and continents in what it calls the Art Project. Google’s collection, writes Drue Kataoka at Wired, is part of a “big deal […] it signals a broader, emerging ‘open content’ art movement.” “Besides the Getty,” Kataoka notes, this movement to digitize fine art collections includes efforts by “Los Angeles’ LACMA… as well as D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery. And Google. Yes, Google.” Google is working hard to defuse this “yes, Google” reaction, posting frequent updates to its collection, already a magnificent phenomenon: “Imagine seeing an image of the Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Breuegel the Elder," writes Kataoka, "or Vincent van Gogh’s Irises, in high resolution.” Now, you can, thanks to Google's astonishingly vast digital archive.

In the Art Project, you can stroll on over to Portugal's Museu do Caramulo, for example, which Google describes as "an unusual museum in a small town" off the beaten path. There, you can see this macabre 1947 Picasso still life or this 1954 Salvador Dali portrait of a Roman horseman in Iberia (above). Then head over to the other side of the world, where the Adachi Museum of Art in Japan contains 165,000 square meters of Japanese garden: "The Dry Landscape Garden, The White Gravel and Pine Garden, the Moss Garden, and The Pond Garden." It also features gorgeous paintings like Yokoyama Taikan's 1931 Autumn Leaves and Hishida Shunso's adorable 1906 Cat and Plum Blossoms. Dozens of smaller collections like these sit comfortably alongside such extensive and well-known collections as New York's MoMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art and Florence's Uffizi. See a tiny sampler of the Art Project in the video teaser above.

BrazilTrompe

Google's collection has greatly expanded since its comparatively modest 2011 roll-out. The company signed partnership agreements with 151 institutions in 2012 and the Art Project has grown since then to include over 57,000 digital representations of famous and not-so-famous works of art. Most recently, it has added work to the online collections of 34 different partner institutions. Google's announcement on its official blog takes a themed approach, presenting versions of several trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) works that have just joined the Art Project. Trompe l'oeil is a gimmick as old as antiquity, and Google gives us several examples, beginning with the stylish, understated Brazilian train station mural right above by Adriana Varejao. Below, see the ceiling of Italy’s National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara, a much more classical (or Baroque) approach to trompe l’oeil that displays some typical elements of the period, including elaborate geometric designs, lots of gold, and well-dressed figures staring down at viewers or floating off into the heavens. See more trompe l’oeil works on Google’s blog, and access their full digital collection here.

FerraraTrompe

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Google’s Moving Ad About 1947 Partition of India & Pakistan Tops 10 Million Views

Recently, Wired writer Steve Silberman (aka @stevesilberman) shot us a note on Twitter, saying, "@openculture, do not miss this brilliant ad. Most touching movie (in 3 mins!) I've seen in years." Released on November 13th, the video has already clocked over 10 million views. But chances are you haven't seen it. And that's because it's targeted to the web-enabled middle class of India and Pakistan. As The Dawn, Pakistan's oldest English newspaper, describes it, the Google-created ad entitled "Reunion" "portrays two childhood friends, now elderly men, who haven't seen each other since they were separated by the 1947 partition that created India and Pakistan from the old British empire in South Asia. Partition sparked a mass exodus as millions of Muslims and Hindus fled across the new borders amid religious violence." Now Google search products are helping to bring old friends and neighbors back together.

Cynics may be quick to judge this a saccharine, manipulative ad. But others are seeing in it something else -- a sign that "personal connections between Indians and Pakistanis run deep." Even if their governments gain something from keeping the conflict alive, everyday people in India and Pakistan are increasingly ready to put history aside.

Note: If you click CC at the bottom of the video, you can use captions to translate the film into nine languages, including French, Malayalam and Urdu. It is preset to English.

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