MapCarte 166/365: The Wilderness Downtown by Chris Milk, 2010



Click the image to launch the app. Use Google Chrome.

As technology develops new ways of working then inevitably art has a new avenue to pursue. It also goes that cartography experiments as people use maps as a canvas for various endeavours.

The Wilderness Downtown is an interactive music video/movie featuring We used to wait by Arcade Fire and built as a way of experimenting with Google Chrome’s interface.  Constructed in collaboration with Google, it’s without doubt one of the most innovative ways in which maps feature in a short film.  Many of the components of the movie are based on the Google Maps suite; the viewer types in an address before launching the movie which then launches multiple inter-related Chrome windows to create a map-based journey through your neighbourhood that accompanies the music.

The main hooded and mysterious character is seen running through the neighbourhood the viewer specified, across satellite images and amidst rotating Street Views.  Animated components (flying birds, exploding trees) add to each window to use the maps in innovative ways as you become the eyes of the runner.  The concept of allowing people to fly through their own neighbourhoods and stop and look at their own house as part of a music video is truly unique and this work spawned many derivatives.

Linking maps to music, animation and user-controls allows them to play a central character in a narrative. This example supports music. Innovation such as this is really only limited by the imagination.