HIC SVNT DRACONES – Servus.at Artistic Research Lab 2017

Presentation @Kunstraum Goethestrasse, Linz

“Take images. Take lots of images. There is no limit to the level of detail you can add or the places you can go. Don’t take tens of images, take hundreds or thousands at a time. The more the better. Our servers can handle it, your phone can handle it.” – Mapillary Manifesto[1]

Caspar David Friedrich feat. Davide Bevilacqua – Wanderer above the sea of data, 2017

The emergence of the Internet and digital technologies radically changed what cartography used to be, as artist Trevor Paglen well describes by saying that “in our own time, another cartographic renaissance is taking place.”[2] This renaissance is based on technologies like GPS (Global Positioning System) and satellite scanning, that, combined with electronic theodolites, surveying cars and happy contributing users – and a spark of distributed computer power – create life-generated, three-dimensional images of the whole Earth that can be easily accessed by almost anyone from anywhere.

It appears as though some large corporations working with technology and internet services finally realised that a “Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire”[3] did not mean – as mainteined by Borges – the automatic destruction of the Empire itself.[4] These companies, in fact, create constantly-updated, in real scale, individually-personalized, “interfaced” maps [5], that simultaneously obscure the reality through its representation and empower the hidden cartographers, fulfilling with extreme accuracy any need of the dis-empowered user. Recalling the ideas of the philosopher of map history J.B. Harley, [6] a map cannot be a neutral medium: due to its very own nature, it always contains “silences”, “distortions” and technical mistakes that, over time, lead to the generation of myths and legends. As opposed to the famous Hunt-Lenox Globe – where expressions like “HIC SVNT DRACONES”, or illustrated sea monsters clearly marked undiscovered and dangerous areas. Today digital cartographic services hide their imperfections “behind a mask of a seemingly neutral science”[7], while at the same time they try to motivate users in collaborating in the maintenance of The Map and, therefore, the Empire. 

Derive Updated, Postcards. A series of 8 instruction-based postcards playing with the ideas of psychogeography and (des)orientation. Each postcard invites the user into performing actions that overcome the usual behaviours throughout physical and virtual territories.

In the course of 2017, the participants of servus.at artistic research lab playfully departed from maps and classic cartography to explore and discuss the landscape of currently available cartographic tools, services, and applications. Focusing on the narratives these tools could generate, Davide Bevilacqua, Veronika Krenn, Hanna Priemetzhofer, Franziska Thurner and Us(c)hi Reiter wandered physically and virtually through the city, discovering the beauty of the imperfections in its representation. 

Their explorations are based on a doubt about the current paradigm behind scientific mapping. Can this system work only through a compulsive generation, accumulation and analysis of data? In this almost over-mapped landscape, is there still something that can be discovered? How can one generate a novel sight on the well-known local territory? Or how can one go outside the personal “filter bubble” and find new places that are worth of visiting? What role could a playful approach have in this towards cartography and mapping? 

They reflected on the landscape, looking for the presence of technological infrastructure, to visualise how virtual and physical spaces are connected. Applying situationist methods to find unusual places, they tried to embed stories and interventions in these, aiming at overcoming the outdated conception of separated “online” and “off-line” life, behaviour and landscapes.

[1] Mapillary  Manifesto, https://www.mapillary.com/manifesto, last accessed 6.12.2017.
[2] Trevor Paglen, “Experimental Geography: from cultural production to the production of space”, in Nato Thompson (ed), Experimental Geography – Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism, Brooklin, NY, Melville House, 2009, p. 28.
[3] Jorge Luis Borges, „On Exactitude in Science“, in A Universal History of Infamy, 1975.
[4] Umberto Eco, “On the Impossibility of Drawing a Map of the Empire on a Scale of 1 to 1” in How to Travel with a Salmon & Other Essays, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995, pp. 95–106.
[5] Peter Weibel, “Landkarten: Konstruktionen oder Wirklichkeit?” in Christian Reder (Hg.): Kartographisches Denken, SpringerWienNewYork, 2012, p. 53–55.
[6] J.B. Harley, The New Nature of Maps. Essays in the History of Cartography, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.
[7] J.B. Harley, The New Nature of Maps, p. 158.


Histeria: Manipulated map, print. Maps not only reflect spatial conditions and structures but also illustrate religious, philosophical and political concepts, as well as fiction.


whois.com/pillwein: Wall map, threads, markers, print. Analogue visualisation of all the digital references in the Pillweinstraße Linz, 20. November 2017 03:53:33 pm–04:31:11 pm



THERE BE DRAGONS: Print, Google Street View Spheres Manipulation. In the financial world, high-risk speculations are informally named “T.B.D.” (there be dragons). Leaked documents from the Panama Papers contain addresses in Linz, now marked with dragons.


(L)eavesdrop, FM sender, FM receivers, custom made antennas. Camouflaged antennas are built to hide the presence of the communication infrastructure in natural structures that expose more than what they conceal. (L)eavesdrop are custom-made antennas for radio communication that are built imitating the most popular camouflages of LTE antennas. Due to the non efficient design, noise interferences are generated and forwarded to the next antenna.


Glitchcar, Object, Photos, Google Street View Spheres. Transforming a digital glitch into an analogue object, creating a feedback by putting it back to its digital origin.


Post for F.X. Fridelli, intervention in public space: house number shield, mailbox, submission on digital mapping services, online accounts, fidelity cards. F.X. Fridelli, a fictional descendent of the cartographer Xaver Ernberdt Fridelli (Linz 1673 – Peking 1743), has a new home in Linz.


Derive Updated, Postcards. A series of 8 instruction-based postcards playing with the ideas of psychogeography and (des)orientation. Each postcard invites the user into performing actions that overcome the usual behaviours throughout physical and virtual territories.


Quo Vadis (All roads lead to Rome), Rolodex, printed paper. A scroll-display of a browser-based derive. Starting from a specific website, each click is a new step of an unconscious virtual journey.


Street Poems, A4-Sheet, typewriter, GPS-path. Walking a path, writing a path. A Street Poetry Walk is an urban dérive focused on words and letters. A method of mapping through reading and writing.


Dragon, Digital video. We’ve seen dragons fly over the city! They usually come and go as they please, always leaving changes to the city. Telling a story by twisting the context, playing with glitches.


All these works were created in the frameworks of the Research Lab and were thought, planned and produced as a form of collaborative experiment amongst all the partecipants.

Biographies of the Participants:

Veronika Krenn – artist, designer, and assistant at University of Art and Design Linz. Veronika studied Interface Cultures at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz. Her works are in the field of new media, interactive art and Eat Art, with a focus on the manipulation of already known and everyday objects. She investigates traditional arts and crafts as well as food as a medium to develop unconventional communication strategies that act as carriers for socially relevant problems through daily habits. www.vkrenn.at

Hanna Priemetzhofer and Franziska Thurner – Since 2005, the two Austrian artists working together as “System Jaquelinde” have been following their passion combining analogue and digital techniques. In their “Laboratory for visual things” they focus on autobiographical and socio-political topics. The coexistence of conception and coincidence forms the base of their artistic work. www.system-jaquelinde.com

Us(c)hi Reiter – artist, curator & project developer. From 2005 till 2017 Reiter run the non-profit cultural backbone organisation servus.at/Kunst & Kultur im Netz. She continues to research Free/Libre/Open Source Software in the frame of cultural production and art as well as work on conceptual and performative setups. She is one of the main founder of Art Meets Radical Openness (AMRO), Festival dedicated to Art, Hacktivism and Open Culture. http://www.firstfloor.org/ur

Davide Bevilacqua – Davide is an artist and curator working is the blurry area between media and contemporary art. His interest relies on the rethorics of the technological development and on the understanding of the art exhibition as an „interface“, a processual space for exchange. He is part of the artist collective qujOchÖ and since 2017 works as program developer for servus.at. www.davidebevilacqua.com

servus.at – As a net culture initiative operating its own network infrastructure in Linz, Austria, servus.at deals with central issues of the information society. Servus.at offers virtual and physical access possibilities for art and cultural producers. A main goal of the association is to implement ideas of a “free society” in the daily practice of art and cultural production. www.servus.at

The presentation of the Research lab took place in December 2017 in Kunstraum Goethestrasse xtd, Linz. We thank therefore Susanne Blaimschein, Beate Rathmayr and all the team of Kunstraum Goethestrasse, as well as the rest of the team of servus.at

Funded by BKA, Wien and Linz Kultur