Artist MTO is Live on Google Earth ! Check out the Activation of a Dormant Virus

Art News

October 2, 2015

Ok, so, you don't know something, or you can't remember something - what do you do? In old, prehistoric times, before Internet, people used to talk with each other. "Say, you remember that movie we watched a couple weeks ago? What was the name of that actress, you know, that blonde, pretty one, that didn't have underwear beneath that white dress - and then she crossed her legs in front of a room packed with policemen? You know, Sharon-something." - that's something someone from the last century would have said. Today, you don't need people. When you don't know something, you google it - whether it's about Basic Instincts 2 (hopefully not), or about that new restaurant across the town, where is it, what food does it have, and how to get there. Google is thoroughly shaping the way we think and the way we learn. But, is Google unbiased? Does it emphasizes certain things, and hide the others? That's a multi-billion-dollar question. And the French artist MTO is here to give us a warning.

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MTO - Live on Google Street View

Censorship by Google Corp.

During this spring, MTO had started and finished almost five hundred feet long mural. He created an image a lot of us experience from time to time, except we see it when we are surfing the web. MTO wrote: Google Error 404 - Mural Not Found, and his mural was the part of the Memorie Urbane 2015 Street Art Festival in Gaeta, small town in Italy. His mural was accompanied with a billboard that presented some mock newspaper - The Sun from May 2020 - and a huge headline: "First Case of Artistic Censorship By Google Corp.". MTO called this work "We Live On Google Earth", and his message was clear: Google controls the biggest part of information that are heading our way on a daily basis - and, certainly, that kind of a control should never be concentrated in just one company. Never ever. And yet, that is the kind of world we are living in today.

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Actual Google Street View

Anti-graffiti Law in Detroit

But, it was not only Google that was criticized by MTO's mural. We all know who is the biggest censor of them all - state authorities, no matter which state we are talking about. Some countries are more repressive than others, and street artists are sometimes among the first ones that go under the attack of state authorities. For instance, mayor of the Peru capital, Lima, ordered that every graffiti in Lima should be covered with yellow paint. Why, and why yellow paint, one may ask: we'll refrain of answering the first question, because it won't be decent, but we'll answer the second - yellow is the color of mayor's political party. Lovely, right? But, this whole graffiti-is-vandalism thing isn't exclusive for just Lima: city of Detroit is introducing a new anti-graffiti law - anyone who doesn't remove graffiti from their property will be fined, even those property owners that ordered or allowed street artists to make graffiti on their walls.

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Actual Google Street View

The place where MTO's mural is located, near Italian town Gaeta

MTO on Google Earth

Yes, that's nuts, but it is happening. The funny thing about MTO's mural in Italy is that it couldn't be seen on Google Earth's Street View in May, when he had finished it. Fast-forward two months, and Google had updated its Street View during July, thus, MTO's mural Google Error 404 - Mural Not Found could be found on Google Earth, as if some form of computer virus had been activated. Way to go, MTO!

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All photos courtesy of Flavia Fiengo, the artist and Google Street View.

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