Speaking of Google, what’s the status of that Haim Steinbach piece called and to think it all started with a mouse (1995/2004), the Google search results of which you modified as part of your project After, About, With (2013–15)?
I’m no longer actively manipulating the search results for Haim Steinbach as I was in 2013–14, but the content I produced as part of that project still represents a majority of the sites returned on page one for and to think it all started with a mouse. During that year I worked with art writers and curators (and I also created my own online material) to weight the reading of mouse toward a viable, but deliberate, consensus of interpretation: this work is about Walt Disney. The intervention contextualized a typographic coincidence that I discovered in relation to his font choice—Apple Garamond—that I teased out in an homage.
I honestly never thought it would be so easy to control the “meaning” of another artist’s work in an online environment, but it only required exploiting a simple algorithmic principle: recent, widely dispersed, corroborative material is likely to be “accurate” and of interest. Distributed homogeneity is privileged by engines, privileged content is more likely to proliferate, and personalization/localization frameworks further promote information that’s similar to information that’s already been viewed. A dangerous echo chamber? Maybe. A powerful medium for artists? Certainly.
The days of the Disney ruse are numbered, though. Since the first of the year I’ve done a lot to contextualize the repeated readings. I published an artist book and have exhibited After, About, With twice (most recently at Witte de With, Rotterdam). This article too will become part of that page one majority, especially since we’ve used Steinbach’s name and the title of the piece several times already; but unlike the other references, these pieces are expository and big picture. The search results are shifting away from the fabricated “truthscape” and toward a new context that simply links my work with his.
Part of me was hoping that once Steinbach became aware of the project (through an exhibition we did together) he would fight back to reclaim his page one results. I imagined him hosting a series of his own carefully worded interviews where he discussed many different intentions for the work. So far that hasn’t happened, but we’ll see.
After, About, With
Vinyl lettering, iPad with search result set, Fujifilm instant film, artist book.
Search result set
Fujifilm instant film
The artist with Haim Steinbach at the opening of “mice”
After, About, With
Artist book published by Arpia Books (ISBN 978-0-578-14336-1)