Jackson, Melanie »A Global Positioning System«, 2006. Video, 10:01 min.
3473 kg of raw material from 42 countries, more than 70 rare and, at times, toxic raw materials from hydrochloric acid, oil through to coltan; a vast expenditure of energy and transportation across endless kilometers of land and ocean. In her animation A Global Positioning System (2006) British artist Melanie Jackson has dissected the GPS system into its component parts, tracing a path through its international origins ranging the rubber plantations of Sri Lanka, Congolese tin mines, South African gold and the manufacturing plants in China before finding destinations for individuals across Europe. It is a work not so much about decomposing an object into its technical components but a reverse process of unfolding the worlds and lives it has touched and that we in some way carry around with us in everyday technologies.
No straightforward field of research, we thought, and so asked the artist: "What happens when you leave your end of globalization, Melanie Jackson?"
Melanie Jackson: I wanted to unpack an object that seemed to embody a paradox of our time – that it takes an infrastructure of thousands to create a device to help locate an individual. I wanted to comprehend the transformation of matter through these techniques and processes. The complexity of the internal architectures is beyond the scope of any individual to create, time would not allow it. I wanted to unfold the relations between people unknown to each other but linked by a material and economic chain. Drawing seemed the most appropriate means to behold and speculate this accruing information that took a year to assimilate and animation the most appropriate means to articulate this process of links, discontinuities, invisible flows, stops and starts.