Joan Fontcuberta Googlegrams
January 31, 2006 - March 11, 2006
Googlegram 5: Abu Ghraib, 2005
47-1/4 x 63 inches
Zabriskie Gallery exhibits a new photographic installation by Joan Fontcuberta from January 17 through March 11, 2006. Fontcuberta uses the popular internet search engine Google to create large, colorful photo-mosaics that construct an elegant metaphor for the internet-era’s liaisons between mass media and our collective consciousness. Never resting at the boundaries of his medium, Fontcuberta takes a step further back from the process of photography, using the Google image search engine to blindly cull images from the internet by controlling only the search engine criteria with the input of specific key words. These Google-selected images are then assembled into a larger image of Fontcuberta’s choosing, displaying challenging relationships between words and pictures. Fontcuberta’s concept focuses on the deft juxtaposition of search-engine criteria against the larger image those criteria comprise. Penny-sized portraits of the richest men and women in the world are pieced together into a mosaic depicting a homeless man; the iconic image of detainee tortured at Abu Ghraib is cobbled together out of images of public officials involved in the scandal.
Like traditional photomosaics, Googlegrams have the pictorial tension of being legible on two different scales, illustrating Fontcuberta’s interest in both trompe-l’oeil and palimpsest. Unlike other mosaics, these works also exhibit the friction between the artist’s selections and the supposedly impartial selections of the computer. In representing these tensions, Googlegrams become emblematic of today’s media culture, presenting a sterile archive built of many decentralized voices competing for attention.
As the artist notes, the internet itself is “the supreme expression of a culture which takes it for granted that recording, classifying, interpreting, archiving and narrating in images is something inherent in a whole range of human actions, from the most private and personal to the most overt and public.” World affairs and human sexuality are topics mediated by the cacophony of news, pornography, blogs and ads on the information-superhighway. The thousands of images that comprise the Googlegrams, in their diminutive role as tiles in a mosaic, become a visual representation of the anonymous discourse of the internet. With his characteristic sense of mischief, Joan Fontcuberta brings these tensions together in a provocative demonstration of media navigation.
Joan Fontcuberta was born in 1955 in Barcelona, where he continues to live and work. He has exhibited extensively at museums and galleries in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and has been associated with Zabriskie Gallery since 1981. His work is in numerous institutions, including the New York Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He contributes regularly to scholarly journals and has published many books, including Fauna, Sputnik and Miracles and Co. A catalogue Joan Fontcuberta: Googlegrams (143 pp) published by the Instituto Cervantes de Paris is currently available at the gallery for $30.
This exhibition is concurrent with the Aperture Foundation’s publication of Joan Fontcuberta: Landscapes Without Memory and an exhibition of this new landscape series from January 12 through March 30, 2006 at their gallery at 547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor. There will be a talk and book-signing with the artist on January 11th at 6:30 pm and an opening reception from 6 – 8 pm in the Aperture Gallery on January 12th.