Extending Artworks in the Time of Auto Complete

Conan Lai/Montreal, Canada — Jun 24, 2017

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Extending Artworks in the Time of Auto Complete
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“Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see photographs of sunsets on Flickr!

The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by photographs of people looking at photographs of sunsets on Flickr!”
– Milan Kundera

In the context of the Solitude Web Residencies, I propose to algorithmically extend Penelope Umbrico’s Suns from Sunsets from Flickr series, an ongoing typological collection of thousands of users’ sunset photos. Through this indexical exercise, we see how users engage with the same sight, capturing it and sharing it on Flickr, where eventually their experience is placed within the context of a collective mind. In this and other large scale found-photograph artworks like Eric Oglander’s Craigslist Mirrors, the artist searches for meaning and structure within an overwhelming, data-abundant post-Google landscape. The sameness of the images, and Umbrico’s specifications (‘the sun has to be able to be decontextualized […] without anything from the Earth interjecting’) make Suns is an ideal candidate for automation. Via open source image recognition and computer vision libraries, the project will explore the possibilities of creating a bot to continue the series indefinitely – receiving the images from Flickr in real time, evaluating their fit in the context of Umbrico’s project, cropping and framing them, and posting them on a live feed.

I am Conan Lai and I am a programmer, researcher, and (sometimes) artist based in Montreal, Canada. My work is about internet culture and social media, and I am still trying to figure out if there is a name for the rectangular prism in this scene or what it really is? I remember seeing this in a book somewhere when I was younger but I can’t put my finger on it.

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