The Unconscious Performance of Identity: A Review of Johannes P. Osterhoff’s “Google”

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As part of this year’s Transmediale festival in Berlin, media artist Johannes P. Osterhoff organized an online collaborative performance of search engine queries, simply titled, “Google.” For one week, Osterhof convinced myself and 36 other participants to add a unique search method to our default web browsers so that everything we “googled”—from the personal to the mundane—became instantly visible online at google-performance.org.

The performers, who are mostly artists or technologists or both, recorded 1,322 searches over seven days. Search queries were displayed chronologically with their sequence number, date and time, participant name, and search tool used. The text of the search and participant name were also hyperlinked, so searches can be explored by keyword or participant.

Many queries reflect content from the Transmediale conference. Others reveal users engaging in play, submitting insider messages or odd one-liners. Most searches are about business as usual, as evidenced by the high number of phrases referencing programming or technology. Reading through them, by time or participant or keyword, gives the impression of a conscious stream of thought. They are a random series of words and phrases that make irrational leaps from noun to verb to sentence, only occasionally creating a complete thought when a participant repeats parts of phrases in their quest for the intended outcome.

The queries are often poetic, like these from my own stream:

xmas

 release serial ports

release serial ports arduino

chariot sidecar

pull down resistor

Others are strangely suggestive, like this snippit from Osterhof’s searches:

mspro

jennie garth

chrome french download

extrem wohlgeformet google suchanfragen mit poetischer kraft

ed2000

Sometimes they are coincidental, like these which share the common keyword, “python:”

python copy file os

Monty Python New Movie

python random coin flip

python do while

The project (see also its manifesto) made ...

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Search Beyond Text

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Google Fellow/software engineer Amit Singhal writes about the challenges inherent to searching for images in an essay for Google's Think Quarterly corporate webzine:

At Google, when we talk about organizing the world’s information, we don’t mean only text; images and videos contain a wealth of information. In the early days, this type of content simply didn’t exist online. Now, through efforts like Google Earth and Street View, we can provide something incredibly valuable: images of your physical world.

However, in many ways, getting visual information online is the easy part. What’s hard is understanding that information. Unlike text, we cannot simply read an image or video. We have to look inside them, dig out the pixels and translate them into something meaningful. For a long time, we considered this a pipe dream, but by combining search methodology and technological breakthroughs in computer vision, today we can match pictures at a visual level. Search for ‘Mount Rushmore’ on Google and our algorithms will analyze many factors, such as the shape and texture that produces a good image of Mount Rushmore, then return those images to you in striking full-color. 

 

 

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High Five (2011) - Niko Princen

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Originally via today and tomorrow

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333DDD (2011) - Mark Beasley

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333DDD is a javascript bookmarklet that converts images on the current page into red/cyan anaglyphs.

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Sphere and Similar Images (2010) - Jeff Thompson

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Google image search for "sphere", then "similar images" search under the original. All 400 images are shown in order at two frames each.

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Google Variations (2010) - Leonardo Solaas

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"Paint It Google"

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"Beautiful Signs"


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"The Nongoogles"

Google Variations is a 2010 commission by Turbulence.

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Required Reading

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Angelo Plessas, TheHistoryOfADecadeThatHasNotYetBeenNamed.com (still), 2007

Greek-Italian artist Angelo Plessas’ interactive websites (Angeloplessas.com) integrate elements of drawing, sound, Flash animation and innovative HTML coding. Each of his online two-dimensional “sculptures” is sealed with a domain name that playfully evokes the language of philosophy, literature and drama. Challenging concepts of space and ownership on the Internet, Plessas’ websites are, like graffiti bombed on a public wall, the acts of a guerrilla artist intervening in public space.

Plessas has come a long way since his first and ongoing aesthetic project: documenting face-like compositions he discovers in random configurations of objects and architecture (InternationalPortraitGallery.com). He officially launched his artistic career in 2001 when artist and curator Miltos Manetas selected his work for the Internet-inspired group show Biennale.net at Deitch Projects, New York. Now, the artist is exploring projects that take on a curatorial scope, including the recent one-day video projection extravaganza Bring Your Own Beamer at the Kunsthalle Athena.

With the lines between his online and offline work becoming increasingly blurred, Plessas is evolving in the manner of his medium. As the Internet expands, so does Plessas’ practice, and as the artist matures, perhaps he might shed light on where the Internet might take us. Sitting at his seaside apartment in Athens, Plessas takes me on a journey through his virtual universe, which ultimately leads right back to reality itself…whatever that might be, or could become.

-- FROM THE INTRODUCTION TO "ANGELO PLESSAS: LIFE THROUGH A WEB BROWSER" BY STEPHANIE BAILEY IN ART LIES, ISSUE 67

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Required Reading

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In a recent speech titled “Remarks on Internet Freedom,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the Internet was now an integral part of US foreign policy. “Some countries,” Clinton said, making a thinly veiled reference to China, “have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world’s networks,” while the US stands for “a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.” Although the technology of networked computers has its origins in military research, all this cold war-style rhetoric over Internet access would have come as a big surprise to anyone using the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. That Internet was very different: a place for meek computer science professors, adventurous home coders, and moms and pops who just wanted to say “Welcome to My Homepage.” It was not a place in which two superpowers did battle. What to make of this transformation?

-- FROM "SEARCH HISTORY" BY CORY ARCANGEL, IN ARTFORUM SEPTEMBER 2010

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Google Tea Towels (2007) - Thomson & Craighead

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[Source: Arc Projects Flickr]


A beautifully crafted set of four tea towels sporting a series of authentic search engine results returned to a user when the criteria, 'Please Help Me', 'Is Anybody there?', 'Please listen to me' and, 'Can you hear me?' were entered into the search field, while using Google in Netscape 4.7 on Mac OS 9.2 or Netscape 6 on Windows 98.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM ARTIST'S SITE

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Background Story (2010) - Kristin Lucas

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A sequence of fair use background images arranged for aesthetic and formal reasons, paired with a short story assignment generated through Amazon's Mechanical Turk in response to the image sequence.

-- FROM THE ONLINE SHOWCASE "MADE IN INTERNET" ORGANIZED BY MARCIN RAMOCKI FOR ARTBOOM FESTIVAL 2010

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