A window on the world according to the World Wide Web
The 2014 Barclays L’Atelier winner, Liberty Battson, debuts her solo exhibition I bet you wish you did this at the Absa Art Gallery in June. The exhibition promises to be a fascinating exploration of popular culture, world affairs and unfolding ‘history’ as interpreted through the lens of internet search-engine results.
The exhibition taps into the heart of our current technology-based culture to reveal those statistics that were most searched for by online users. The results are represented statistically and visually, allowing viewers to actively participate in the exhibition by inviting them to be part of and decode the searched results.
The exhibition uses Google, statistically the most used search engine in the world, and its ‘search suggest’ or ‘Google instant’ feature, to look at the most searched for statistics. In doing this, the actual numbers or article-related results become irrelevant and the most searched for research becomes fascinating.
Battson used the search phrase ‘statistics about’ in the Google ‘search suggest’ function coupled with each letter of the alphabet. This formula enabled her to obtain the most searched for statistics. She tracked her searches every month and documented what was bumped off the charts, what decreased in popularity and what became ‘more important’ in the eyes of Google users.
“The data obtained in this way represented, in my opinion, a truth truer than the actual numbers. By eliminating the authenticity of the article or research, the reputability of the information became less biased. In tracking the changes I don’t only represent what was being searched for, but essentially document a piece of unfolding history,” says Battson.
She adds that this process allows her to talk about topical issues that are important to her. “I am now able to let a formula govern the abstraction as well as the subject matter. Topical issues such as xenophobia or the refugee crisis are in the same field of view as rhino poaching or Xbox 360,” she states.
“In an ongoing pursuit to use statistics to govern my abstraction, I am now more intrigued with the type of information available than the actual numbers. When researching stats I found great interest in stats about stats. In exploring this I have allowed stats to now govern the stats.”
Battson’s data-gathering commenced in November 2015 and the exhibition covers the most searched statistics in the six months prior to the opening of I bet you wish you did this which opens at the Absa Art Gallery on 05 June.
Each searched result is colour coded, with a series of paintings following the central work, representing the changes that occurred each month thereafter. The viewer is able to track the changes visually and decode them through a catalogue that will be on sale at the exhibition.
“This exhibition offers us a glimpse on so many different levels into the current psyche of the global population. It’s fascinating to track the statistics and how world events shaped their importance in the lives of online users. It represents an intriguing blurring of the lines between the tech and art cultures and is a true triumph for Battson’s first solo exhibit since winning the Barclays L’Atelier Award two years ago,” says Dr Paul Bayliss, Absa’s Art and Museum Curator.
I bet you wish you did this opens at the Absa Gallery on 5 June 2016 and runs until 24 June 2016