Googling contemporary art: How Google is changing our interaction with visual art

More than just a search engine, Google and its new technologies are revolutionising how we make and view art.

Hands-free wearable computers googling art, is this the future for arts practitioners? New technology always brings innovation in the arts and the new Google Glass, which is in beta testing, is already gaining attention in the art world. Other Google products are also transforming our experiences with art.

Gallery Glass' studio visit with Eric Diehl. Image courtesy Samantha Katz.

Gallery Glass’ studio visit with Eric Diehl. Image courtesy Samantha Katz.

Remember when VHS tape revolutionised the art world? Artists such as Nam Jun Paik used the new medium to reach audiences worldwide. Willoughby Sharp used the new technology to create both conceptual art films and to record  his “Videoviews”, videotaped interviews with artists such as Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci.

Forty years later, new technology is once again transforming the way artists work. Internet behemoth Google, whose mission is “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” is providing artists and arts enthusiasts with new ways of interacting and creating art.

Art through the Google Glass

Google’s newest innovation, the Google Glass wearable computer, inspired New York-based curator Samantha Katz to launch the first Google Glass artist interview series on 1 September 2013. Calling her project Gallery Glass, Katz interviews artists in their studios during the thirty days of September. Recorded on the Glass headset, the short videos allow viewers to have a first person perspective of artists at work: in one of the gallery videos, artist Jen Dunlap sketches while wearing the Google Glass.

Speaking to Art Radar, Samantha Katz pointed out that arts practitioners were only just starting to experiment with the Google Glass.

As of now [my work is] one of a couple [of] art projects, and [I] am the only one (out of 8,000) who has launched a series based on my documentations.”

Google Glass. Image courtesy Techradar.com.

Google Glass. Image courtesy Techradar.com.

What Is Google Glass?

Google Glass is a wearable computer that is worn like a pair of glasses. One of the frames contains a tiny screen of data, where users can read street directions, or printed textual information. Voice commands trigger the Glass to take videos or photos, share links with friends and translate the user’s voice into various languages. Since Glass is still being beta-tested, it is not yet available for the general public, and the product is not as yet widely used by those working in the visual arts.

How Google is engaging with contemporary art

Besides Samantha Katz and her online Google Glass interviews, there are several notable Google art projects. Some of the projects try to make art accessible for anyone who has an internet connection while other independent projects highlight the downsides of the new technology.

Google Art Projects

Google Cultural Institute is a partnership between Google and numerous international institutions to help make cultural heritage accessible. Site users can browse through objects of museum collections such as the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum or the Tate Britain.

A side project of the Cultural Institute, Google Art Projects sees the company partner with art museums around the world, posting images of their collections online. Currently, there are over 40,000 high resolution images from museums worldwide, including The National Gallery in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Jim Thomson, 'Copyrights', 2013 depicts the blurred paintings in the Google Art Project. Image courtesy the artist.

Jim Thomson, ‘Copyrights’, 2013, depicts the blurred paintings in the Google Art Project. Image courtesy the artist.

Blurred lines: Whose art is it anyway?

Bringing art to the masses may sound altruistic, but it is not so according to British artist Phil Thompson, whose art project “Copyrights” is discussed in the Huffington Post. Due to copyright issues with some of the art museums in the Google Art Project, Google had to blur out some of the artwork’s imagery. Phil Thompson sent screenshots of the blurred images to Dafen Oil Painting Village in China, where artists painted these images, thus creating new works that blur not just the image, but the issues of appropriation and copyright.

Google art graffiti, a project by street artist Paolo Cirio. Image courtesy the Creators Project.

Google art graffiti, a project by street artist Paolo Cirio. Image courtesy the Creators Project.

Google Earth

Google Earth is an initiative which digitally maps the entire world via satellite photography and three-dimensional street view camera shots. Numerous artists download these Google Earth pictures to transform them into new creations. The Creators Project Blog lists ten notable Google Earth art projects.

Searching for contemporary art on Tumblr. Image by Art Radar.

Searching for contemporary art on Tumblr. Image by Art Radar.

Susan Kendzulak

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Related Topics: resources, art and the internet, democratisation of art, lists

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