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Public Access

Ed Steck and David Horvitz
Publication Studio Vancouver
Artists' Books
19.5 × 24 × 1.5 cm

From December 2010 to January 2011, photographer David Horvitz traveled up the California coastline on Highway 1, beginning at the Border Field State Park on the Mexico border and ending at Pelican State Park on the Oregon border. Horvitz stopped at fifty different beach access points to photograph the view of the Pacific Ocean, carefully placing himself somewhere within each frame with his back to the camera, observing the horizon in romantic repose.

The Public Access project released these landscape/self-portraits into the public discourse: Horvitz began adding his photographs to Wikipedia articles about each of the coastal points, in some cases creating articles to correspond to the location. Horvitz imagined that his image would become a kind of digital postcard for the locations, recurring as the images circulated through the internet. However, the flurry of activity around articles on the California coast raised suspicion in the Wikipedia community, sparking a witchhunt. Wikipedia users accused Horvitz of sock puppetry (creating multiple usernames for the purpose of deception) and practical joking, deciding first to edit Horvitz’s silhouette from the photos, and then to remove them from the articles all together. Horvitz’s project proves that the flood of data that comprises the internet is not random or formless. Even in cyberspace, the public mind retains its capacity to self-edit, scrutinize and curate.

Public Access ultimately asks how a piece of information can be deemed useful, beautiful or true when released from its maker’s original intent and argument. Defenseless against the internet’s infinite eye, what creative work can stand alone, free of suspicion?

The original edition was produced for SF Camerawork’s 2011 exhibition As Yet Untitled: Artists and Writers in Collaboration. The new edition, which retains Ed Steck’s original poetry, is designed by Miya Osaki and printed by The Future.

  1. Public Access

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