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You're looking at something pretty amazing: a photograph of a photograph taken by Edward Burtynsky, one of the world's most celebrated landscape photographers, especially for Venue.

Except that Burtynsky took the photograph using Matt Richardson's Descriptive Camera — our guest device on this leg of Venue's travels — which means that, instead of Burtynsky's carefully selected and composed image, we instead have a short description written by an anonymous worker for a $1.25 reward.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Descriptive Camera works by sending the images it captures off to Amazon's Mechanical Turk jobs board, where anyone, based anywhere in the world, can choose to accept the task of describing it for a fee.

In this case, our lucky anonymous worker saw a brand new photograph by Edward Burtynsky, entered a few lines of text, and then hit send. Back in the bright yellow service staircase of the Nevada Museum of Art, we waited patiently till their description printed out, like a receipt, from the front of the camera.


A quick snapshot of Burtynsky taking the photo in question. We gave him 24 hours to select a subject in the museum, and this was the spot that caught his eye. Photograph by Geoff Manaugh.

And there it is: "A network of pipes, having valves and joints with meters between them." Burtynsky, in someone else's words.

The shooting of this photograph followed a morning of hearing Burtynsky in his own words, in a special lecture at the Nevada Museum of Art on the occasion of the opening of his new Oil exhibition, followed by a fascinating conversation with Venue—our inaugural interview—during which we discussed drones, collective acts of consumption, his deliberate avoidance of the colors green and blue, and the seemingly impossible challenge of making a compelling photograph of Niagara Falls.

We'll be posting the full transcript of that conversation, with images, online here shortly.


Unpacking Venue in the Nevada Museum of Art's loading bay. Photographs by Nicola Twilley.

The various elements of Venue — its tripods, box, devices, and, finally, its human operators — have made their way over the last few weeks to the loading dock of the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno.

With everything unpacked, assembled, and tested, we were finally ready to launch on Friday, June 8, at 6:00pm, alongside the Museum's premiere of the fantastic new exhibition, Edward Burtynsky: Oil.

Launching Venue at the Nevada Museum of Art. Photographs by Geoff Manaugh.

Responses ranged from foot-stamping enthusiasm to hands-in-the-air confusion as attendees played with Venue's array of recording instruments, suggested people and places for Venue to visit, and heard about Venue's role in the museum's ongoing efforts to explore the ways in which humans interact with their natural, built, and virtual environments.

Geoff listening to the Earth's magnetosphere, using a VLF antenna designed by Chris Woebken based on underlying technology by Stephen P. McGreevy. Photograph by Nicola Twilley.

The Venue box, designed by Semigood. Photograph by Geoff Manaugh.

As gold-mining consultants donned neon green headphones to listen to space weather and gaming industry executives scribbled itinerary recommendations, Venue began its sixteen months of site visits and interviews amidst lively discussions of air pollution in California's Central Valley, Reno's new food co-op, and the adoption of linear perspective in Renaissance art.

Our high-tech Dürer grid, originally used as a drawing technology by Renaissance artists, and updated for Venue using EL wire by Chris Woebken.

Matt Richardson's Descriptive Camera — our guest device for this first leg of Venue's travels — proved to be the evening's runaway hit.

Running in accomplice mode (thanks to Stacy and Dan Lewis, Carlos Solis, Jamie Kruse and Elizabeth Ellsworth of Smudge Studio, Amanda Spielman, Marissa Looby, and Michael Holt), the camera's distributed eyes provided succinct, occasionally poetic descriptions of the evening's events:

A happy couple stands together. The man is laid back and loves the sun. The woman is a patron of the arts and looks very content.

Both people in this photo look dubious about this concept. He has cleverly put his "N" badge sideways to make a "Z."

This woman looks like my mother. How odd.


A Descriptive Camera "photograph" of Venue.

A Venue family portrait at the Nevada Museum of Art. Photograph by Nicola Twilley.

And so we go, successfully launched and with more updates to come...
 
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