Google, One-Year Performance Piece (2011)

Since January 1, 2011, Interface Artist Johannes P Osterhoff publishes all of his search queries with Google in a One-year Performance piece called “Google”.

The term One-year Performance has been coined in the 1970s by performance artist Tehching Hsieh. Of his own free will, Hsieh spent one year captured in a cage, punched a time clock every hour on the hour for one year, or spent one year entirely outside of any building.

Osterhoff updates the genre of the One-Year Performance and takes it into the context of “post-privacy” and the domain of modern information retrieval.

Full Description

Most queries are tracked by a modified dictionary plug-in. When Osterhoff enters a search word into the search bar of his browser, this search is tracked by a PHP script and sent to a modified blog software. On this page, the public list of search results immediately is updated.

In case he enters a search from the various Google web sites, searches from the web, image, video, maps, news, shopping and scholar sections are tracked by a browser extension. In case he refines searches with Google Instant, this extension publishes all searches that are confirmed by pressing enter.

Dictionary plug-ins and tracking extensions are installed on all of Osterhoff's computers, his laptop, his netbook, and his PC at work. On his iPhone Osterhoff uses Google through a special website that tracks searches from Mobile Safari. On his site, searches can be distinguished according to the device the search was sent from.

To each search a unique ID is assigned and for each of the searches automatically a web page is created that contains the search string, single search terms, and a timestamp. Search pages and search terms are linked to each other. In the process of the performance, this interlinking of searches created a network of thousands of pages, that are indexed by the Google crawlers and make Osterhoff's searches publicly available for search by everybody.

Due to this interlinking, and depending on up-to-dateness and search terms, the searches appear well ranked in the Google results.

How to Participate?

“You can see the latest queries on my personal website, follow all searches on the ‘Google’ site at, you can subscribe to its RSS feed, or you can follow me on Twitter where I publish a selection of my searches.”

Besides, you can order queries. For the bargain price of 99 cents, Osterhoff takes orders and searches what you want. You decide, if the search is performed in his own name or is marked as ordered search.

In case you like a search, you can express your appreciation with a donation via Paypal or Flattr.

Work metadata

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Artist Statement

“Each time, I perform a search with Google, this search immediately is published online. My searches can be found in the Google results, if one searches for something similar.”


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