Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

Themesicon: navigation pathMapping and Texticon: navigation pathArchive/Map
Net Art Generator (Sollfrank, Cornelia), 1999non weddings (Bruno, Christophe), 2002

icon: previous page

Era of image exchange

The media archive (and not just the database) is the ‹backbone› of globalized culture and a concrete expression of the fact that people are living in the above-mentioned «era of picture exchange.» The «iconic turn,» as diagnosed by William J. Mitchell and Gottfried Boehm [19] in the mid 1990s, is obvious from the new media view, from the omnipresence of technical images in the natural sciences, but also in the expanding use of digital cameras, webcams, MMS and other picture generators, thus filling the computers' ever-growing memories. The physical act of storage is accomplished so quickly and simply by a click that content-related decisions of an archival or curatorial nature are postponed, at least until the hard disk is full or relieves us of the problem by crashing completely. And yet every user would love to know what he is storing the data for. One of the answers could be: so that they can be sent off again into the infinite circulation of signs on the Internet. The images acquire exchange value, and not just utility value.

When greater bandwidth and larger memories increase the quantity of data, machine-to-machine processing becomes necessary if we are to filter and


sort. This leads to an exponentially climbing curve in terms of information quantities, which can be handled only with ‹intelligent› tools. [20] Over the 1990s, powerful search engines (from Lycos to Google) increasingly revealed themselves as the actual ‹strategists› of the New Media boom. They make it possible to navigate within an immense expanse of data that has never existed before in this form. If we have learned to appreciate artists' antennas it is because they often recognize this development sooner than others, and respond to it with their own counter-strategies even before the whole impact of the development can be recognized—see Cornelia Sollfrank's «Net Art Generator» (1999) or Christophe Bruno's «non-weddings» (2002).

But can algorithms achieve complex semantic data indexing, or create meaningful indices for images? Is an automatic archivist in prospect, or does the automatically indexed data-set with headwords still have to be checked by an expert eye? The Geneva computer academic Stéphane Marchand-Maillet is researching these problems. It is difficult not to suspect that it is only possible to describe pictures

icon: next page