Algorithmic Art History by Stéphanie Vidal
France, written by Pauline Auzou
« A visit to Stéphanie Vidal’s blog Algorithmic Art History may start out with Keith Haring’s « Tree of Monkeys« , but you’ll end up coming across psych rockers, a Candy Crush-like scene with golden rabbits, and a lamplit bazaar.
To obtain this mix of genres, Vidal uses Google. First she chooses a work of art on Google Images, then consults its “Similar images.” She takes the first different image that appears and searches for images similar to it, repeating the process nine more times, the maximum amount allowed by Tumblr. The tenth image bears the name of the work at the source of this exquisite pixel corpse and we witness how far it has brought us. Vidal does this to create what she calls, “photographs of what is of interest on the internet at a given time.”
On Google, the most recurrent images are the ones that appear first. “Two days later, the results would be completely different.” Since the blog was created, only one image has remained within the realm of art history at the end of the process. The rest drift into pop culture, manga, smiley faces and scientific diagrams.
“I like seeing what comes up in the search results,” she says maliciously, explaining how a Félix Vallotton woodcut, “L’anarchiste”, becomes a photo of Lee Harvey Oswald walking behind a police officer.
It’s not always obvious how two images are linked. Sometimes Google’s brain makes funny associations. What could a group of young male models have to do with former Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo shaking the hand of Mahmoud Abbas? The same sense of style, no doubt.