For her curatorial project Hotel Palenque, Elise Lammer invites artists to create just one piece of work that gets displayed for just one night in a certain location. There are two further criteria the guest artists must adhere to: the work has to take the form of a standard A0 print, and the artist has to destroy all the digital files that went into the piece’s production before it’s put on display. The idea, Lammer writes on the project’s page, is to emphasize "the idea of the original by limiting its existence in time as well as space." For her Hotel Palenque piece, the Estonia-born artist Katja Novitskova took inspiration from a similarly limited sliver of time and space: a few hours on the internet.
The piece, Process Watch, was made and exhibited on June 27 in London. Novitskova’s poster is comprised entirely of mundane data from that day—stock quotes, exchange rates, weather updates and more, captured in screenshots and then reassembled piecemeal in Photoshop. As Novitskova wrote of the piece on her site, "Fundamentally unique occurrences of particular weather and economic conditions of the day were further intensified by freehand digital tool use." Basically, the piece makes good on its title: the collage is a warts-and-all look at one artist scrambling to piece together a glimpse of the world, as seen through the internet, over the course of a few hours. Or as Novitskova puts it, it’s "a document to the reality of the moment and a product of the conditions that led to it."
But the seemingly straightforward piece raises some interesting questions about experience and reality in the internet age. The largely black and white screenshots do give us exchange rates and weather forecasts for a particular moment in time, but do they really tell us what the world was like on June 27, 2012? Surely not in the same way a collage of candid snapshots would. The poster shows us that it was 30°C in Houston, TX, but wouldn’t a sun-kissed photograph of a Houston city block show us so much more? Sure. But then again, for all those people who spend their days staring at their computer displays, the screenshots in Novitskova’s piece are exactly what June 27 was like—boring, pixelated, and not sun-kissed in the least.
This year, the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977 finally left the bounds of our solar system, becoming the third and fourth man-made objects to do so. Aboard each vessel is a golden phonograph containing sights and sounds from our home planet, intended to give potential extraterrestrial audiences a glimpse of life on Earth. Among the images on the discs are scenes of the natural world—things like elephants, snowflakes, and rivers—as well as photographs showcasing man’s technological achievements, like supermarkets, X-rays, and telescopes. Here’s what I’m getting at: if we were to put together a similar survey of our world today, would it be crazier to include a screenshot of Google.com or to leave one out?
[Hat tip: Triangulation Blog]