Esther Polak (1962) studied graphic art and mixed media and is interested in how technology determines (visual) perception. In this context she explores the visual and documentary possibilities of GPS.
Her AmsterdamREALTIME project (2002) was one of the first large-scale art explorations in GPS (Global Positioning System) mapping. Ten inhabitants of Amsterdam carried per week a GPS tracer with them. Their routes through town were made visible on a projection screen in the exhibition space. The traces on screen form an alternative, highly personal map of the city. This was a joint project of artists Esther Polak, Waag and Society Jeroen Kee (realtime.waag.org).
Lately she developed the collaborative MILKproject. In this project a European dairy transportation was followed from the udder of the (Latvian) cow, to the mouth of the (Dutch) consumer. All people who played a role in this chain received, for a day, a GPS-device that registered their movements. The team developed a lucid visualization-software for these traces, and let the participants react upon them in their own kitchens or living rooms. MILKproject tells the personal life-stories of these very different Europeans, from the Latvian farmer to the Dutch open-air market salesman with his clients, who are all connected by one thing: the milk from a truck of one Latvian milk collector. (milkproject.net).
At this moment Polak works on a new GPS-project in Nigeria.
For this project the tracks of both nomadic herdsman and regular dairy transports will be recorded and visualized. The project will make use of a newly developed GEP-visualization tool: a small robot will draw the tracks directly on the ground in lines of sand. This way the tracks can easily been shown to the Nigerian participants and discussed with them along the road. (www.nomadicmilk.net)
In her projects Polak manages to strip GPS of its nerdy riffraff, and instead uses the technology for making comprehensible visualizations and telling human stories.