“Google Earth: A Poem for Voice and Internet” by Manuel Portela

Screen capture of “Google Earth: A Poem for Voice and Internet” by Manuel Portela. Google Earth satellite imagery of several towns and cities with differing angles of the author giving a lecture. No text.
Open “Google Earth: A Poem for Voice and Internet” by Manuel Portela

This highly professional video documents a live performance of this poem, which uses primarily three materials: speeches by presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and Google Earth. These works are brought together in a political and economic mashup that incorporates texts read aloud by Portela in English and translated to Spanish and Portugese, voice recordings of the speeches, and a large projected video of Google Earth navigating to parts of the world that resonate with the poem. Portela intervenes upon these materials in a variety of ways, defamiliarizing them towards the poetic, emphasizing particular words or passages by isolating and repeating them, and placing them in conversation with its other materials through juxtaposition and superposition.

The quietest but most noticeable juxtaposition is that of the Google Earth in the background, swooping from one location to another without any written language, just pure mapping and photography, reminding us of how real and constructed the distances in a globalized world can be.

Featured in Avenues of Access

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