Recovered from the depths of the online art platform known as Google Art Project, João Enxuto and Erica Love’s Anonymous Paintings betray the ambiguities inherent in the experience of visual art in the age of digital culture. Deliberately selecting the censored cast-offs that are blurred due to copyright restrictions, their project emphasizes the condition of the art object today as one of contingency, while revealing Google Art Project’s elevation of mass culture as an expansion of corporate culture’s influence over the comparatively "dusty" environs of the world’s great museums.
Billed as a democratization of culture, Google’s venture into the world of fine art is in some ways a repetition of the Victorian-era museum’s agenda of collecting one-of-everything, but now all the world’s treasures are available at the end of our fingertips. While accessibility and efficiency might be considered laudable goals, it is still not clear what this means for the once significant relationship between perception and physical space, a complex combination of moment to moment encounters with the phenomenal world, which makes subsequent visits to the same artwork highly distinct and memorable.
Filling the exhibition space with a quasi-museum "salon" installation of more than twenty examples of blurred Google masterworks, which, when viewed with Anaglyphic red and cyan glasses appear in 3D, the paintings turned screen grabs turned paintings possess a haunting relationship to their actual counterparts, which are found in museums across the country. Existing as ciphers that have regained their object properties, the Anonymous Paintings render subject and author mute, in some ways mimicking the non-objective purity of the abandoned goals of modernism, and in others serving notice to a possible future where visual experience is resigned to a virtual "no place," as the contemplation of works of art is relegated to the algorithmic and quantifiable limits of online culture.
With the growth of Internet activity producing previously unimaginable amounts of personal data that has recently been revealed to be freely accessible to government agencies, the convenience associated with online activity has increasingly been shadowed by the surveillance of its users. Google Art Project’s benevolent image fuses tradition with a sense of the inevitability of its reach, as their massive transfer of cultural wealth facilitates both the notion of culture as instantly accessible, and Google’s role in this "new world" as fundamentally benign. Derived from the remnants of pixelated art works that have returned to the world of objects, the Anonymous Paintings seem to exist between an artwork as memory, and an assertion of the indispensable nature of a tangible space, where meaning is derived from a conscious encounter between subject and object.
image: Enxuto & Love, Anonymous Painting 3D #V2GE-N204, 2013, inkjet on cotton, 40" x 36"