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If you buy a "WorldWide Carpet" by German designer David Hanauer, you can have the world beneath your feet. Hanauer’s carpets are printed with aerial Google Earth images of snowy wonderlands and the endless uniformity of trackhomes in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Viewed from above and printed as mirror images, the photos create a symmetrical pattern that baffles visually and pleases aesthetically. For Hanauer, artistically using the images Google shoots of our private homes and property is a way of taking back what he owns.
At 29, and still a student at the Academy of Media Arts and Design in Germany, his carpets have been sold in designer stores in Berlin for up to 400 euro, and his reversible frames are sold in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Hanauer, a product design major and photography minor, centers his work around taking familiar objects and altering their original form, purpose, or position, a habit he may have picked up from his previous three-year stint as a tailor for fashion label Escada.
Hanauer’s work can be found on his website, where you can purchase a carpet inspired by Google’s watchful eye. Click through the slideshow for more striking carpet designs as well as GOOD's interview with the visionary himself.
Interview edited for content and clarity. Photos courtesy of David Hanauer.
GOOD: You first started working on the worldwide carpets for a project for university in 2008, right?
David Hanauer: Yeah, that’s right. My minor is photography and I created it this way. I started with the imaging and photography and with building my own cities and areas with all the screenshots, like in Sim City, the videogame. In one point there was a question of how I [should] present the photograph itself: Will I present it on the wall, or the floor? I didn't know on which material [to use either]. Since I'm studying product design it was a perfect decision for me and for the project to put it on a carpet so I could incorporate both my minor and my major.
GOOD: How did you first start looking at these Google images and why was it interesting to you?
DH: I started with it because in 2008 I was in Las Vegas for the first time and in the States, so I was really impressed by all the city planning and the structure. Of course, we know a little bit about this American way of building cities...but when you’re there you just get more of the feeling. And then I started reading a book; it’s like an architectural theoretical book. It’s called Learning from Las Vegas and this way I kind of started with it. Why I’m attracted by this is only because of the top view of things, because in normal life you always walk around with the horizontal view, so you only see the horizontal line. And the thing is when you have the top view you can barely see what things are like, so if it's a house or a car you just see these graphical elements and colors but you probably don't get firsthand what it’s really like.
GOOD: Why is mixing tradition with more modern things important to your work?
DH: Actually, this was a part of the project we had in uni. For this project I built the carpet and the aim was to create something very contemporary. For me it’s interesting because I really like the aim of the Persian carpets. The images are incorporated in the carpet and these images relate to the way of living in these times. I just wanted to try to make a very contemporary Persian with all the [traditional] intentions behind it, how it looks like in our times. So for me Google was just the perfect thing for it because it’s contemporary still.
GOOD: How did you pick a single image to create a carpet?
DH: When I do the screenshot for Google I go around the world like a regular photographer, [but] instead of a camera I have my computer and a screenshot. But like a real photographer, I’m just looking for things which attract me visually. The second thing would be some things which interest me the most, like the city planning and all this theory behind the city planning and a new way of living.
GOOD: With these images you sometimes left the actual Google marker on the image itself. Why did you decide to do that?
DH: That's a tiny bit of a provocation. There was this question, if I used the image can I also use the watermark? Of course, I don't pay for it, but this is the freedom of art that you can use what you want more or less. Also, it's because of the way that the cities in America are structured...they copy and paste all the time. Actually, I do the same. I also copy and paste the image and that's also why I use the Google watermark because all the behavior behind it also has something to do with Street View, or the whole way of how Google works because they pick us or they make an image from our house and our living area and I actually do the same when I use their images. So I take what I own anyway a little bit.
GOOD: Does that have anything to do with the idea of Google being in our lives watching us, the privacy issue?
JA: Yeah, definitely. It’s just what I said before, that if they take the image from my house I take the image and do a carpet from it or do a photograph of it because I own the house. And of course they have the right to use the image because they did it, but it's actually my house and it’s the world. I don't think you can own the world.
GOOD: Can you tell me more about the differences between the landscape and buildings you found here in the United States compared to what you’re used to in Germany?
DH: Mostly it's the geometrical thing, because in Germany and Europe [design is] not that geometrical. This is also something which attracts me, just the straight lines, and the 90-degree thing. Most of the time in Europe it’s more playful. It’s just not that structured like in America. I just like structured things. Also, the street names, [how] the first street starts with one, and then it’s the second street. I just like all the simple and kind of animalistic things. The way the Americans are doing this, it's like a simple way for me. I just think it’s an interesting art of city planning, different to Europe and all the other areas. And if you take a look around there are cities like this in Asia or in Africa which are brand new and in one year they build a city for millions of people and it’s also like a copy-paste thing. This way of building is not sustainable but that would interest me.
GOOD: What was it like to go from being a student artist to suddenly having your carpet on sale for 400 euros in Berlin?
DH: That’s a good question. It was a little bit different but till now not too much because I didn't sell that much till now. But it was the first really popular product I’ve done. I just recognized what it means to have this kind of product because you get all these answers from magazines and still I have to do all of this by my own. I don't have people helping me like staff or employees, so it’s just really tough work actually to do all this. So that's probably the first thing I recognized.
GOOD: Do you want a studio of your own with people that work for you?
DH: Yeah, probably, if I make it. I’m studying, but it’s totally free studying so actually I’m behaving like [I'm self-employed] right now. I just try to continue with it and force it a little bit.
GOOD: What are some current other projects that you’re working on right now?
DH: It’s still a lot of work for the carpets, of course. But our semester starts in two weeks and we have a project with an Indian company who are doing metal parts for cars and we [have been] asked to do other products for them. I decided on a really simple lamp. It was this popular lamp from the Bauhaus school, and it was this metal sheet pressed into a natural mold. And it was a really normal shape, so it was round, of course. What I am doing now is a circle also, but I changed the circle a little bit, so with a computer I just do a little bump or a dent. The thing is that the circle is just not regular anymore, but just very slightly. I always try [to make] the eye a little disturbed by the things I’m doing, so if you see these kind of lamps you’re actually used to seeing a circle. And now if you see the lamp I am doing it's just that you get distracted a little bit because you don’t know anymore, is it a circle or is it not? So I always try to think more conceptually, which is the idea of not making a new product.
GOOD: How have the different places you’ve traveled to affected your aesthetic or your view on art?
DH: Actually, it’s kind of hard if you do all these travels. You don't have time really to think after the travels, because then you have a lot of work because you've been overseas, and then you come home and [there's] still much more work, and you don't have time to really think about it or where you've been, and then there’s another travel. It’s more important that you meet different people and see what they’re interested in, what they’re attracted by, and how they think, because there are huge differences. We've been to China with uni and its really crazy over there. So, it’s not like my products or projects are done because of my travels or I have ideas because I travel a lot, but it’s probably more like getting to know the world.