‘The Genius Of The Place’


The Genius Of The Place is the name of the project that I have long been thinking about but I know I will never get the time or money to develop. The idea would be collecting and tagging every piece of artwork that directly portrays that particular place, preferably cataloging time and date as well, and creating an interactive website, linked to a map so that you can look at a place and see how other people have described it, whether in painting, songs or poetry.

For example, Liverpool Lime Street is directly referenced in The Beatles song Maggie Mae and is often painted by local artists so all of that would be linked to that location on the map.

liverpoolOf course the most obvious interaction of this would be connection with the growing field of ‘wearable tech’ such as Google Glasses that would allow you to directly look at a piece and see it through the eyes of others overlaid to your current view.

However, the particularly interesting side to this artwork, and the thing that to me would make it fundamentally more a piece of art than anything else, is no the end product but how the thing would grow and come to fruition. How would you collect this data? Would you analyse all the world’s artwork? How would prioritise or categorise places crammed with connections and artworks like London etc? And how would you connect it all with a digital map system?


The data from these things could be drawn from academic databases and opened up to public contribution. It could be initially filtered by software looking for explicit place names e.g. Birkenhead or Edinburgh, and then filtered and curated through a crowd sourced and collaborative projects such as those done through the Zooniverse projects or Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

But then how would a software or non-local people know where the description of that particular place begins and ends in a piece of text for example? Would it matter or could it just link you to the piece with the place name highlighted like in the control+f function on your computer? But then how would it know which particular place the name was referring to? There are 5 Manchesters in the USA alone and yet none of The Smiths’ songs are referring to any of them in their lyrics.



Systems like Google Maps and open source maps could be used to tag the information to places and then made compatible with wearable tech. How could this be done? Would it be done within Google or in a separate system using the maps?



Website carrying so much data would require lots of servers running in very cold rooms and staff to supervise the running of all this but how would I be covering the costs? Would there be advertisements on the webpage? Local businesses connecting? Sponsors? Would any of this devalue the project as art?



I would call the whole thing ‘The Genius of the Place’ because I recently watched a wonderful performance of Tom Stoppard’s beautiful play Arcadia for the first time. In it, there is a character writing a book she is going to call ‘the genius of the place’ as it she plans to use the hermit she is investigating to represent the downfall of Classicism to Romanticism because of his significance to the history of the garden, which shows the changes itself.



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