A Heart from Space

participative performance, 2020
website, phone, GPS
A Heart from Space is a website that enables a group of people to draw shapes together using their GPS positions.

Performing the work requires the participants to negotiate the dynamics of group collaboration through the website, adjusting their position in response to the movements of the group to collectively create a heart.

The project originated from a conversation with Yo-Yo Ma around a performance of a previous work, www.grindruberairbnb.exposed (GUA). GUA explores the topic of networked action by providing each participant specific gestural instructions, which create synchronized movement in the group. Upon learning about the functions of GUA, Mr. Ma asked if the system might be used to arrange hundreds of thousands of people across the midwestern United States, to form a heart that would be visible from space.

This project grew from that optimistic vision, but places a focus on emergent collaboration, rather than coordinating movements at scale. In doing so, the project raises a question of how the affordances of a platform shape what is possible; how design decisions necessarily exclude certain possibilities while making others readily accessible.

The ‘space’ of the title speaks both of the physical ground participants cover in engaging with the work, as well as the top-down shared perspective that allows them to see the product of their efforts. These dual meanings point toward the key message of the work; that the ways we see ourselves online can shape what is possible in the physical world.

Visit the website here: www.a-heart-from-space.com

Inspiration: Yo-Yo Ma
Video: Isaac Vallentin