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Salty Glitches

The Salty Glitches Series is the starting point of an ongoing counter-mapping project that uses Google Earth satellite imagery to problematize the notion of truth in digital media while drawing attention to zones of ecological disaster as part of our consumer society. The photographs therefore explore the relationship between technology, people and nature as revealed through digital errors.

The project highlights colorful misrepresentations in Google Earth‘s use of satellite imagery that emerge from malfunctioning software. Better known as „glitches“, the errors are best described as unintentional, but at the same time they offer the potential to better understand the technical logic of our media-saturated environment. By examining them, we get a vague idea of the complex apparatuses that are monitoring the Earth from orbit using multi-lense technology.

These glitches occur in the salt deserts of South America, where lithium is extracted from the soil of Chile‘s Atacama Desert and the Caucharí Olaroz project in Argentina. Since it is needed for everyday devices from smartphones to electric vehicles, the areas suffer environmental damage to feed consumer hunger. So it‘s not just the colorful software errors, but also the Turquoise fields on the actual surface of our planet that aesthetically represent the impact of human behavior on the environments we live by.

As a result of bug reports and updated photographic material, the glitches quickly vanish. Hence, the project is part of an ongoing process to document and emphasize these errors in order to preserve how software continuously obfuscates our world, but also leads to new, unexpected discoveries.

By scanning QR codes linked to the photos, people can explore the areas of the lithium mines with their own smartphones. Maybe a glitch has changed when the satellite imagery was updated? Or maybe they have already disappeared.

QR Codes to
Google Maps

Exhibited at
re:publica 22: Any Way the Wind Blows. Arena Halle, Berlin. 08.06. – 10.06.2022

Published in
Winfried Gerling (Hg.), Sebastian Möring (Hg.), Marco De Mutiis (Hg.): Screen Images. In-Game Photography, Screenshot, Screencast, 2023, Kadmos Verlag.
Mnemozine Magazine Season #1