the Thinker

The Thinker, a funny name for an image data base, where there is not
much to think about at first: The Fine Art Museum of San Francisco saw
the chance of 30-80 Million additional visitors by exhibiting their
55,000 image repository from the last 2 centuries *on the web*. While
the Museum had to do an inventorization of their whole imagebase, they
made photographs, digitized them and added the descriptions into
something SGL based, not making sponsor contracts with Microsoft.

But let's not talk about the interface, it is all like you would expect,
clean and crisp, only that the highest size is not high enough for any
serious image interpretation. The resolution of the 'screen colour
print' is just not dense enough to have the same variety of scale and
distance, of colour and light, like when you are seeing the painting in
a museum room, or even a photo print.

But what is interesting is something else. The only way to fish in the
pot of this huge image memory is to connect it to your own personal
memory, not of images but of textes about images. Names, Titles,
Categorizations, Descriptions. As a standard search engine, only textes
are searcheable in an image base. Think about it.

At first i started with a kind of trivia game: how many names of big
painters do i know, and do i know one they don't have, or even an
unknown painter they have? Well this kind of game could be done better,
like a Sothebies Simulation Multiuser Game, where you can sell the same
Warhol a thousand times 'virtually'. It is also questionable why a data
base is only representing one certain collection. Why not the 55,000
most expensive paintings? This leads to the question of copyright, but
also the chance of a public domain museum-network of such

Second, a cultural history analysis: which paintings would you expect to
have reached the Californian sun? Anything which calls back as you
expected is not information. Isn't there a favorization of acid-bright
colours and beach club pastel? You look for surprises. And the pictues
are suprisingly unattractive. Think about it as if you would look
through a catalog of stamps whithout being a collector of stamps.

The indirect way to access the images gives way to reflections of an
art-history of the titles, the categorisation and names, a hermeneutic
and textual work, computer aided. How many Heidelbergs they have, how
many mices appear, what's with CocaCola or Disney? As a collective
memory of representations it becomes interesting why and how which
paintings are not appearing. The patterns of in and exclusion tells you
how a culture wants to see itself through time.

And after several random searches one gets an interesting stochastic
overview of what the whole museum contains. A lot of landscape stuff, a
lot of self-realizing american identity trying to get culturally
independent from 19th century Europe, who-are-we paintings, and then a
invisible cut and the very iconographic and screen-compatible selection
of modern art. things we expected and which get validated, but a new
macro view on 'content'..

So what if you once have never seen such paintings in original, what if
the screen becomes the Museum for everything? The decontextualizing
frame of the screen, makes already data objects out of the fetishs of hi
culture, the architecture of the data base, becomes as important as the
one of the building, the secularisation of the Museum as art church has
begun. Search for Aura.