EYES ON CULTURE #017
14th June 2023
EYES ON: 0% Food by XK Studio
0% Food is a visual “research” project by XK Studio. It uses the question of whether machines need food as a springboard (or excuse) to design a virtual feast fit for a computer.
Of course in fact inedible, the project presents appetising renders of a technologically-dipped meal plan.
WHY WE’RE WATCHING:
This project was chosen for obvious reasons. The images are hard to take your eyes off. Plump, sharp and bright, they’re pure indulgence. Like “food porn”, 0% Food plays with our greed, retrofitting it for the digital. The project does this by replacing what would usually entice us in an image of food with sheer 3D technical talent.
But is that explanation enough? Our instinctive and immediate appeal to these images is so strong, so notable, that it might be worth spending a long time with these images to figure out just what’s so appealing about them. Is it the crispiness of food translated into the crispness of an image? Something of our reaction to these images feels important to understand as more and more tech-tinted creations fill the internet, keeping our attention hostage.
EYES ON: TVs from Craigslist by Penelope Umbrico
For her project TVs from Craigslist, the artist Penelope Umbrico collected images of TV screens for sale on Craigslist across different cities. Within many of these screens lay embedded self-portraits — reflections of their sellers in the act of capturing the TV, and so reflections of their personal lives and homes.
More than that, inside these images there exists a blurry intimacy — one that has travelled across multiple screens, many times transmuted, one that we are privy to, but by mistake.
WHY WE’RE WATCHING:
It’s always fascinating to see the inside of other people’s houses. It’s thrilling to see how each other lives, especially if that glimpse is unrehearsed and accessed without invitation. Pictured in vulnerable positions — often unclothed or surrounded by shameful mess — the sellers stuck in these screens are seen as they truly are. They are likely unaware of their own reflections.
Umbrico, herself, isn’t sure of that. She points to the incentives behind putting these super intimate self-images on the internet when she writes, “But thinking about the promise, and ultimate absence, of intimacy that the internet fosters, I can’t help thinking there’s a subconscious undercurrent of exhibitionism here; a plea for attention.”
A View Of The Web
EYES ON: 1:1 by Lisa Jevbrett
Created in 1999, Lisa Jevbrett’s project, 1:1 was a data visualisation project which aimed to record every website in the world on a single database. To do this, “crawlers” were sent out onto the Web and told to store any website address that they stumbled upon.
By 2001, it became clear that the database wasn’t exactly representative of the Web, with websites popping up faster than the database could possibly be updated. But, in the years that followed, second and third databases were developed to fill those gaps of knowledge and trace the Web’s growth, making for a more accurate portrait for what was the early internet at the time.
WHY WE’RE WATCHING:
What does a portrait of the internet actually look like? What features stand out as characteristics? Jevbrett’s project asks that question. And to answer it she offers 5 different interfaces through which we can engage with the data — Migration, Hierarchical, Every, Random, Excursion. Each interface takes a different perspective, and so offers a different face of the Web.
At the time, these portraits gave an experience of the internet unlike any other. As Jevbrett writes, “they are a new kind of image of the Web, and they are a new kind of image.” Much like now, the Web was experienced predominantly internally as users jumped from search engine to website to website. It was navigated through narrow personal tunnels. Jevbrett’s Web portraits jog us out of this perspective. They force us to think topographically, or even structurally about the shape of it all. “They are a new kind of image” because they offered a completely novel way of imagining the internet.
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