previously: Webdriver Torso As Found Painting System
April 13, 2015
A little over five years ago I stumbled across this distorted Street View photo from in front of the Mauritshuis in The Hague, and then discovered the same guy kept popping up in all the nearby Street View shots, too. Eventually I realized he was walking alongside the Google Trike on its maiden European voyage through the Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch Parliament.
Sometimes only the top of his head would appear; in other panos, he'd appear in fragments; and in a few, a cobblestone lozenge would wipe him out completely. I called him "walking man," after the sculptures where Alberto Giacometti sought to capture that instant where a person comes into view.
At first I thought he was a tourist who'd happened upon the Google Trike and decided to follow it around, but several months later, and after other Google Trike images came online, I realized he was part of the mapping team. But the interesting tension between his persistent assertion of his presence and Google's algorithmic attempts to erase him did not require coincidence. By now we realize people are anomalies in the Street View datascape, whose appearance only diminishes the maps' utility. This was only becoming clear in 2009-10, though, when Google expanded its photomapping to Europe.
Anyway, I made a photobook of walking man's every appearance in the Binnenhof, but the book was never published, and remained trapped inside blurb's production software. While others trawled GSV for Cartier-Bressons, Crewdsons and Franks, I kept collecting these distorted self-portraits of the Google Grips, which blurred [sic] into [Google's] Google Art Project. But this first one is really the best. Plus, most of the panos have disappeared from Google itself. So I am releasing it into the wild as a pdf. I was briefly tempted to update the introduction, but I figure it's better as a souvenir of the time, and what GSV looked and seemed like way back in 2010.
Previously: Walking Man, the photobook [apr 2010]
Google Street View Trike has a posse [apr 2010]
Oh right, Google started deleting walking man's panos after I posted about them [june 2010]
co-opting GSV as a self-portrait medium percolated from this Binnenhof photoset [feb 2011]
and got surpassed/swamped by the introduction of Google Art Project [feb 2011]
Oh right, here's the intro text from the then-still-unreleased book [feb 2011]
They're adapting: Man With A Pano Camera [june 2013]
January 19, 2015
Wow, I'm sure they'll grow in--what's the date on this Google Maps image? Maybe they already have--but the trees at Katzenberg's place have an incredible, all-over, Ben-Day dots feel, like they were laid out by Sigmar Polke. Hope that's what they were going for.
Bonus points for those courtyards, though; that's a landscape photo for our times.
December 27, 2014
Last summer I wrote about discovering Artisoo, a company selling oil paintings of thousands of artists' images on Amazon. "Chinese Paint Mill has appropriated Google Images and put it up for sale on Amazon," I wrote.
Which reminded me of LifeSphere, the Spamerican Apparel botcompany Babak Radboy wrote about that systematically turns every public domain image into every possible Zazzle product.
We have all set our sights way too low.
image via @tomasvh
This week Dutch National Geographic photographer Tomas van Houtryve began posting pictures of iPhone cases featuring a photo of his, which had recently been selected as a Time Magazine photo of the year.
screenshot from pbs.org
PBS reported that NYT photographer Tyler Hicks found iPhone cases for sale featuring several of his images, including dire pics of Ebola patients and Palestinian children being shot by snipers in Gaza:
"Who wants to buy a picture with a dead child on it," said Tomas van Houtryve..."If any human being in the process had seen that, I don't see how it could possibly get through".Which is exactly the wrong question and the right answer for this situation. They and the outrage associated with them only exist once they've been searched for, and the product will only exist after it's been ordered. Because these images, like tens, hundreds of thousands more, have been scraped from the web and turned into products by bots.
By focusing on the laughably limiting category of public domain images, Spamerican Apparel was too timid and deserves to fail. For these Amazon iPhone case sellers copyright's no object, and Google Images is just the start. Cropping is strictly default settings, actual image be damned. Among the 6,324 phone cases offered for sale by Lynn A Carter are hundreds printed with the center of PR photos of various cars. They have descriptions like, "Daly R Martinez NVDWiaj2848OHOgq Case Cover Iphone 5c Protective Case Alfa Romeo Giulietta 36." Daly R Martinez is another Amazon seller. The string is a product ID, different from Amazon's ASIN. Then there is product + the data that was scraped with the image. SEO enough for Amazon.
They really do just grab any damn image at all. Like this, LvukQDp7415hnQVt Snap On Case Cover Skin For Iphone 6 Plus(kerry Washington). It's a red carpet photo from October 2013. There are nearly 300 other Kerry Washington phone covers like this.
L to R: "Corner Blocked Kitchen With Stainless Countertops Sleek White Cabinets"; "Kitchen Peninsula With Quartz Countertop In Kitchen"; "Eclectic Kitchen With Artistic Pendant Lights" iphone cases
My favorites so far have to be the kitchens. The scrapers have found Pinterest, and have turned it into iPhone covers. Here's the one on the right, on a Pinterest board called "Junk Ideas." Scrapers are turning the great image vortex of our digital ocean into an actual island of plastic garbage on demand. Who are these people?
I will wager they are not the people listed on Amazon, but more digital simulacra. Searching for the sellers turns up a Chinese-language website run on a free .tk domain which is used to manage case returns for various Amazon IDs. Poking around the domain also turns up a quick&dirty Amazon upload management dashboard. It looks to me like a Chinese case manufacturer is flooding Amazon with hundreds or thousands of bogus sellers, each with thousands of scraped data-derived products. That award-winning photographers' images and names got scraped as well should come as no surprise.
What Amazon will do about this vast, digital garbage dump of a retail offering is not clear. Maybe this is just the way it's going to be from now on, every image always available on every product. Maybe we will adapt to Scraper Capitalism by becoming Sifters, consumers attuned to the surreal moments, the horrific, the sublime, the sea glass and driftwood of the web. We'll develop tools for surfacing them, and critical faculties for appreciating them. If we do, Amazon will have them, just 1-Click away.
November 25, 2014
Police in Hong Kong have deployed a new mobile pepper spray platform against protestors near Mong Kok.
I start with this image via @krislc, Kris Cheng, because it gives nice context, also the guy is watermarking it with his face? I'm filing that trick away for future use.
At first it looked like it's made out of PVC pipe, but it's surely painted steel. Actually, it looks like a smaller variation of the stairs in Home Depot.
Most of the info comes from @galileo44, Galileo Cheng. Like this picture of the police conferring on Portland St. With their pepper spray cannons on their backs. Unless those are #umbrellas.
Here is krislcc's Vine of the new platforms in use on her. Galileo calls them castles. They're hand pumped. Like Super Soakers or something. Incredible.
Here's another. What is most striking to me about this one is how the two police officers move together: one with the pepper spray, the other with a video camera. Kris Cheng says the the pepper spray isn't that strong; the effects didn't last more than 45 minutes. But the police will play a long game with those images.
Speaking of long game, holy smokes. I thought I'd scout out the Mong Kok streetscape on Google Maps, and this is what came up:
It was startling to be met by an unblurred face. And the vantage point was so high. But turn around. This is a pano. Or a "Photo Sphere." From September, of the intersection blocked by a sit-in. It's credited to nJohn.
There are more recent Photo Spheres, too. Including November, by Kau Lam. The protestor-decorated police barricades are stitched together pano-style. Google Maps as a reporting platform. When will it go live? Will Google get castles of its own, or will cameras on long sticks suffice?
November 24, 2014
This is just so fantastic. Last month Eugene, OR photographer Blake Andrews wrote about this 2004 photo by Lyza Danger, which has gradually become confused and conflated with Andreas Gursky's 99 Cent photos.
Danger's photo, an unaltered image of a Fred Meyer in Portland, is CC-licensed on flickr, which has aided its circulation and re-use. Andrews discovered several instances where Danger was accused of both ripping Gursky off, and of claiming Gursky's image as her own. But the best part is that Google Images include Danger's photo in searches for Gursky's 99 Cent. The authoritativeness of Google, coupled with the plausible Gurskyness of Danger's image, create a virtuous cycle of re/mis-attribution that may or may not be slowed by Andrews' investigation.
And basically, I love it. Clearly, it's Gursky enough. Or rather, Danger's verite' image shifts what makes a Gursky a Gursky from the grand scale of globalist capitalism to the artist's manipulation of the same.
Danger's photo is not a Ghetto Gursky, or a Shanzhai Gursky either; those terms don't fit this scenario. It's an image made in the wild, a Found Gursky, which we now recognize and appreciate because of Gursky's influence. It's an example of a shift from Gursky as author to Gursky as worldview. It's of a piece with the photo that Brent Burket flagged last year, Taylor Swift's selfie with a Dallas stadiumful of people.
Andreas Gursky photo of a Madonna concert in Los Angeles on Sept 13, 2001, image via centre pompidou
And now I see a connection to the ruins of the World Trade Center I'd wanted to see Gursky photograph in September 2001, except he was touring with Madonna.
November 19, 2014
I was very happy to donate this study to the benefit auction last week for Franklin Street Works, the Stamford, CT art space where some Destroyed Richter Paintings and Shanzhai Gursky photos were in a show.
FSW had asked for furniture- or design-related works on paper. I have been trying for a couple of years to figure out how to make sense of the real-world, real object anomalies of Google Art Project panos, like the blurred out paintings, and especially the blurred out Noguchi game table [furniture!] at the Art Institute of Chicago. And I thought this would be a good opportunity to experiment, rather than simply print out the GSV image [not that there's anything wrong with that, as Paul Soulellis's very nice Webdriver Torso-related print demonstrates].
What mattered to me was getting the blur just right. Years ago, in the early Iris Print era, I'd seen some amazing Gabriel Orozco works--which I can't find a trace of now--where he'd dripped and brushed water onto inkjets of lush Baroque paintings of the Madonna, dissolving the center into an abstract mess. Very non-archival, but very beautiful.
And all but unreproducible. In terms of inkjet and paper coating technology, we've come a long way, baby. I tried several printer & paper setups, but nothing would bleed like I wanted. Finally, in desperation, I emailed my sister, who had a clanky old  desktop printer in her basement, and she printed some images for me. Even this modern paper resists staining and dissolving like the inkjets of old. After several test, though, I found if I let water sit on the paper long enough, it'd give me a blur. Study #3 was the first one to be successful enough to let out of the house. I don't know where it went yet, but I hope it stays out of the rain.
September 22, 2014
From the moment it launched, I've been trying to figure out what the Google Art Project would look like in real life, what the relationship is between the physical world we inhabit and the spaces and objects we encounter and the digitized pano simulacrum of Google Street View.
Though a few slipped in at the beginning, even a year ago Google seemed conscientious about avoiding or removing images of its Street View crews at work. In the Spring, the Google camera cart and its operator were still being blurred out of panos at the Getty.
Well, now I wonder if Google's wondering about itself. This morning Google Art Project tweeted these panos from the Votive Hall of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, and I swear, I've never seen a more Google Mapsian space in my life.
The lighting, the reflectivity, perspectival polygons in the air, the glass vitrines with text stenciled on them, little placards floating on wiry stands, the crispy way these matte-finish urns get backlit by the vitrines and end up looking like digital renders of themselves. And then holy crap, what is this thing in the doorway? Now it's like they're just trolling us. Us and Dan Graham.
Google Maps is not hiding anymore; it's taking selfies. And it's remaking the world in its own image. Googleforming.
Click the arrow, come on in.
Turn around, look back, see where we were. Where you were. Where we were.
June 18, 2014
I've had this image of a spread from On Kawara's Journal on my desktop for months now. I love the reduction of the Today Series paintings to desk calendar size. There is one binder journal for each year since 1966, when the series began. [chungwoo has more images and details the content and format of the journal. In Korean.]
Anyway, while surfing through Michele Didier's site just now, Kawara's Trilogy stood out for a couple of reasons. First, and obviously, is its sculptural presence. They look so Juddy, especially with the sliding front covers on.
Kawara's not necessarily known as a sculptor, but then, it's not just these boxes, is it? The paintings are objects in boxes, too. And books and binders and CDs, however unreadable their information, always read as physical objects. [The file name on this image even turned out to be on_kawara_boites.jpg,]
Didier published the Trilogy over four years: I Met (2004), I Went (2007), and I Got Up (2008). Each twelve volume set is an edition of 90, with 10 APs. I Met is now only available as part of Trilogy.
I Got Up, detail. Wait, so will there also be a I Photographed Postcards? How did he get pictures with postmarks? Did he get the cards back? This is no small task. [images: micheledidier]
The sets overlap in time, an 11.5-year period from May 10, 1968 to September 17, 1979. Actually, I Went, in which Kawara traces his movements on a map of whatever city he's in, didn't start until June 1st. Which now makes me curious. Did it take a couple of weeks to figure out? Did the idea only come once he'd started logging his interactions [the people he met and the ones to whom he sent his wake up postcards]? Did he have somewhere to hide?
Or to use Didier's term, "the information within [I WOKE UP] intersects with the facts reported in I MET and I WENT." Information and facts. Data. Kawara was logging by hand exactly the kind of information our computers and phones now track automatically. As metadata. For Kawara, metadata is the data. The difference, of course, is that he's tracking himself, intentionally marking his passage through time and space, and across his social matrix. [btw, does I Met include the cashier at the deli? Does he live in a doorman building? Is his partner in there? His hookups? What do these maps of Kawara's mindfulness communicate?]
The takeaways here are clear: What IS it like maintaining such total personal information awareness? Since Kawara's not talking publicly about it, we can turn to Eric Doeringer, who has re-enacted three Kawara projects, including I Got Up (2008-13) and I Went (2010) [above].
Also, who's going to digitize the 14,000 pages of Trilogy to create the On Kawara Database Beautiful boxes of books are great, but information wants to be free of the box. Why flip through a book when we could be reliving Kawara's 1970s day by day on Street View? At a time when we're all unwitting, indifferent, or dispirited subjects of constant surveillance, the lessons of Kawara's project have never been more important.
UPDATE: Or it might be the exact opposite, hard to say.
May 27, 2014
What you need is a system. To keep you going, to avoid artist's block, to keep the pipeline filled.
I think Lewitt's cubes were less a system than an idiom. Flavin's fluorescent tubes, too.
Shapes from Maine, 2009, image: petzel.com
Allan McCollum's got a few systems going. Systems are his medium. Define some parameters, calculate the total set, start producing, and don't stop till you--or your market--drops. The Shapes Project, started in 2005, has 31 billion possible permutations, enough for everyone ever to be born on earth to have one. Personally, I'm largely unmoved by McCollum's results, but I respect their jawdropping systemic integrity.
But On Kawara's Today Series, now that's a system I can get behind. It's a bonus when your system is conceptually tight, also when it can carry you out of this world.
As that Kawara link above mentions, Hirst's spots are also a system, which operates autonomously and, he's even hinted, which could continue posthumously. [Kawara's date paintings and Hirst's spots were up in NYC at the same time in 2012, and Karen Rosenberg said one series was about time, and the other was about money. I love that.]
Anyway, you want to make sure you don't get trapped by your system. Flavin had a helluva time with that, especially towards the end. So keep enough irons in the fire, throw a system or two into the merchandise mix. Like Richter's new Strip paintings; he'll be able to pull those off the printer till the very last. And he could leave the print queue open in his will, even. [I wish him all the continued health and happiness and look forward to seeing his show at the Beyeler.]
One would want a system to be ambitious, to stake a large claim, but to be doable, sustainable, saleable over the course of its realization. When Bruce High Quality Foundation announced their project to recreate all 17,000 objects in the Metropolitan Museum's antiquities collection in Play-Doh, it seemed daunting. I guess you could say they'll probably have product available as long as they're able to keep selling.
Danh Vo's We The People project to recreate the Statue of Liberty as 250 separate panels, meanwhile, has a finite end, even though the ridiculously awesome scale of the project seems impossible. On a purely physical object level, this has to be one of my favorite art undertakings ever, a confluence of abstraction & representation, metaphor & literalism, presence & absence. As soon as I get to Vo's pieces on view in City Hall Park and Brooklyn, I'll try to write more about it.
From Kawara [solo] to Hirst [factory] to McCollum [vector files] and Richter [digital] we can see a diminishment of the artist's hand in inverse proportion with the expansion in scope, approaching capitalist nirvana, an industrial-scale infinity.
This is all nice and terribly important, but it's also prelude to what might be the most ambitious readymade art generation system ever, which I'm totally calling dibs on: Webdriver Torso.
Webdriver Torso is the largest of at least four related YouTube accounts which have been uploading randomly generated videos [the pace is currently two videos ever 8-12 minutes] since mid-2013. Webdriver Torso has nearly 80,000 videos now; on all four accounts there are more than 130,000 videos total. Webdriver Torso's channel now has more than 38,000 subscribers. Where a few weeks ago, almost all the videos had zero views, or maybe one, now videos of seemingly nothing immediately get several dozen views. [The other channels still have mostly zero views.]
Since being discovered and publicized a few months ago, various websites have speculated on the purpose and origin of Webdriver Torso, calling it an alien communications tool, or a crypto-spy numbers station, or a test channel for some video software developer. The most persuasive explanation I've seen so far is Italian blogger Paolo B.'s theory that the Webdriver channels are connected with a YouTube uploader development initiative for 3D videos or multiple videos, run out of Google's Zurich office.
Each video is eleven seconds long and contains ten slides, each with a composition of blue and red quadrilaterals. That's 1.3 million possible compositions, with more being added at an average rate of one every six seconds. And they all look more or less like a Malevich, or Lazslo Moholy-Nagy's Telephone Paintings.
So obviously turn them into paintings. It seems impractical to sort through all the videos, looking for some "best" composition. Better to stay true to Webdriver Torso's random nature, and grab a few. Or even grab one and use it [all], make nine paintings at a crack. Or maybe use the slides in the most recently uploaded file from the moment you make a sale, or the moment you place the order with Chinese Paint Mill. Then it becomes an indelible, but meaningless, marker, an index of its own creation. Like On Kawara's date paintings, they can be made in various sizes. Maybe you get a giant hard edge monster to anchor an important wall. Or maybe you get a smaller, complete set and grid them up, a la Olafur.
A web storefront that offers paintings in only the compositions from the last few minutes of uploads wouldn't just reward quick purchase decisions: it would demand it. Out with this fair-wandering nonsense of, "Oh put it on hold for me, I'll let you know." and in with Buy It Now. Of course, what'll happen is that someone will sit there and hit refresh all day, in eternal hope that the next batch of nine will have the Webdriver Torso Mona Lisa in it. [Just a second, gotta check Twitter.]
Ooh, tmpK89znn, which just went up, has some really nice ones in it:
Let's see how those turn out.