Walk the field
I’m the inverse of a conceptualist. I don’t illustrate preexisting ideas. I don’t know how to do it. — John Gossage, from ‘A walking conversation with John Gossage’
To try at home
Look up the word field in google image search. Now search for the word field in the image libraries of any of the large museums and photography institutes.
For me, this is what came up
My google image search results for field were (are still) chock-a-block full of stock images of green fields, all pretty much identical. I also looked at the Instagram hashtag for field, and it’s basically the same green stock photo field, but with girls, horses, baseball players and tractors.
Photos & algorithms
It’s not in our vocabulary to think of already made photographs like this, but I’m starting to think that search terms, even innocent bland sounding words like field, are now operating as algorithmic tools, acting less like words, and more like digital photo brushes. Not metaphorically. Literally. It’s an operation of an algorithmic toolbox that’s being developed in graphics, animation & computer game design where there’s some interesting work being done right now by people who are working on algorithms to complete scenes. Building scenes is tedious so they’re working on developing drawing tools that trail grass, fields, trees, much like a paint brush trails paint. It’s not completely analogous though since in graphics, animation and computer game design everyone knows that they’re using an algorithmic tool to build the image.
This has been my experience. What about everybody else? What do other people see on their phones when they search google image?
Collective project, proposition, challenge
Here’s the project. It’s super simple.
Take a photo of google image search results for field or champ, feld, 领域, フィールド . vखेत etc
#walkthefield and post on instagram
#walkthefield on instagram @algorithm_photo
Please join in. It’s a serious, but ludicrous project, and so to stir up public enthusiasm I will be hosting a few events, kind of like tupperware parties but without the tupperware. The first of these events will be at Volume 2 : L’art et le livre in Montreal, Oct 5 & 6, 2019. There will be a second round of events for the launch of Walk the Field at The Wrong Biennale, in November 2019.
The changing landscape
We know our landscapes are changing, and that includes the landscape of images and pictures as well as actual landscape. How we address these problems is important. At the moment we use the language of data clouds, image oceans and an ever evolving photographic medium of post-truth. Coming back to the idea of field and landscape is not in and of itself a panacea. It cannot cure all our ills. Or even, perhaps, any of them. What it does have is the potential to supercharge conversations about photos and algorithms, and massive conflicts and awe inspiring collective feats, which at present seem to be elements limited to accounts of war (and politics).