It seems that Google will stop at nothing to digitize the world into virtual landscapes, from the streets near your home to the Amazon jungle, and even the NASA Kennedy Space Center. And, of course, the interiors of buildings don’t escape Google’s roving nine eyes. Though it’s not just any old interiors in the spotlight, but the interiors of the world’s biggest art museums housed in the Google Art Project.
Google’s various eyeballs mean you can tour the world and its art museums without leaving the comfort of the glowing screen, but as with all technology—and something anyone who glanced at the now defunct The New Aesthetic Tumblr blog will know—machine vision isn’t without its errors and distortions. These glitches have long been celebrated artistically as an aesthetic in themselves and in Joao Enxuto and Erica Love’s Anonymous Paintings series, they use digital distortions to give an alternative way to view some of the works in the Google Art Project.
Screenshot from blurred artwork at MoMA
The images in their series are the unrecognizable remnants of famous paintings, obscured because of copyright issues, and come from screengrabs of the virtual walkthroughs. According to the artists, they are “re-imagining the negation of a censoring blur as an abstract mark available for use.” These blurry compositions become abstract works in themselves, printed out as stereoscopic inkjet prints giving physical presence to this anonymous limbo-art. These minimalist 3D artworks can then be viewed using anaglyphic glasses.
Enxuto and Love call the work a “counter-archive” which they’ll be constantly updating as new and revised works continue to be obscured. They see it as paralleling the anonymous people who get blurred out on Google Street View—with both being a symptom of the omnipresence of the virtual world colliding with the laws of the physical:
The censored artworks are like the blurred individuals caught in the path of Google’s omnipresent Street View camera where occlusion denotes an identity and subjecthood. Our Anonymous Paintings use abstraction as a code for autonomy and freedom from Google’s comprehensive visual record.
Anonymous Paintings are currently on view at New York’s Yossi Milo Gallery now through August 31st as part of “The Skin We’re In” exhibition.