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10/29/2004: "Canadian Press newswire story"

Toronto artists modifying Internet GPS game for public art exhibit (ART-Geostash-Toronto)
Source: The Canadian Press
Oct 29, 2004 10:55

By Angela Pacienza

TORONTO (CP) _ Taking a page from adventure-seeking backpackers and hikers, a group of urban artists is planning to use GPS technology for a high-tech treasure hunt this weekend.

The goal isn't to find their way around a lake or to a campground but to beautify the city as part of a game they've dubbed "geostash."

Five teams have put together a "stash" of art supplies to be hidden somewhere in the city.

An opposing team will receive co-ordinates and a basic global positioning system (GPS) unit to help find the stash. The unit uses signals from satellites to pinpoint an exact location on the ground.

The team must then use the found items to create public art on the spot.

The concept of the game isn't new.

Geostash is a modification of geocaching, an online game that has taken the Internet by storm in recent years.

Around the world, GPS enthusiasts hide items such as disposable cameras and post the co-ordinates online for strangers. Even families have started playing.

The majority of activity is based out of www.geocaching.com but there are plenty of other sites that orchestrate hunts as well.

"We wanted to expand on the idea because traditionally all geocaching does is find an item," said Michelle Kasprzak, the 27-year-old curator of the Toronto art project.

"It's building on the tradition of orienteering. It's cool to say you found an object but what if it was something you could do something with instead? We think artists are the best people to expand on that notion and try something a little different."

Kasprzak and co-curator Michael Alstad will follow the artists around to document the activity, posting the results on a blog, www.year01.com/geostash/blog.

Participating artist Shawn Micallef equates geostashing and geocaching with a traditional pirate hunt.

"In the olden days they had treasure maps with a bunch of dots and an X marking the spot," said the 30-year-old Torontonian. "With GPS you can just be given the co-ordinates of X and use the device to drag you to the location."

Micallef was drawn to the project because it allows him to use technology "where it's not necessarily designed to be used."

"GPS is used by canoers when they're out in the wilderness. It's interesting using GPS in an urban environment where you kind of know where you are because there are signs and real maps," he said. "You don't really have to use GPS in the city. It flips technology around to use it in a different way."

It's not Micallef's first foray into digitally inspired installations. Last year he and some friends started a project called Murmur in Vancouver and Montreal.

It came to Toronto this past summer.

As part of Murmur, signs displaying a phone number are plastered throughout a city.

Passersby use cellphones to dial in and listen to an audio documentary of the specific location's history.

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Reference Links:
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October 2004