Sergen Şehitoğlu, 2017

For a while, I’m continuing to work under the influence of the digital age. When considering the series “Kill Memories”, “GSV” and “Google Earth” before the project “TRIALS: 310 Artist Portraits”, the main axis of my productions consists of conditions that have developed recently and that we are trying to adapt ourselves to but cannot comprehend completely or come to a clear conclusion on. We encounter topics like privacy, personal rights, selfdiffusion, survival in digital environment as well as problematics along with Google, such as monopolization, objectivity, universality of knowledge, differentiation between knowledge and information.

“TRIALS: 301 Artist Portraits” rests on an intellectual basis with several axes. 

The first of these axes focuses on the identity of the artist along with the nature of art. When artistic objects in the post-Duchamp period lost their difference from daily objects outside the context, this led to the difficulty of identification created by the closed definition of art (the difficulty of perceiving the difference between Warhol’s Brillo boxes and real Brillo boxes) as well as of the definition of the artist. There remained no specific difference apart from the artist’s own statement. At the same time, the concept of the artworld defined by Arthur Danto and George Dickie required the perception of the object of art and the artist by the outside world. While the argument that Danto uses in the final line of the formulation to identify the object of art, namely, “X’s being a work of art is due to its position in the artworld”, makes the object of art dependent on a community which perceives, evaluates it and approves its visibility, it also compelled the artist to be approved by this community. Although this opinion sparks a debate in art platforms, the objectivity of the system called art history is likewise problematic. Art history is also, to a great extent, in a way far from objectivity, a result of the relationship networks of the community called the artworld.

This first axis where I dwell upon the definition of art and the artist is followed by the second axis where I question the recent hegemonic structure of Google upon knowledge. Whatever the subject is, we surrender to Google’s algorithm in order to obtain “knowledge”. At this stage, we move away from the objectivity of knowledge and enter the quantitative field of information far from quality. An example in terms of my works is that on Google Earth I only accept Google’s maps as data and although it is a case of a map which has to provide objectivity, the data I obtain from Google differs according to my location. Namely, “knowledge” is shaped according to the user, the borders might change according to the user.

Similarly, the results that appear in a Google search appear as data which are far from objectivity and not universal, which might be reshaped at any moment and shaped according to completely subjective algorithms inside an infinite mass of data. As the density of knowledge increases, its transmission becomes difficult. And consequently, what starts is the transmission of data and information, instead of knowledge.

In this sense, if we return to this project, “TRIALS: 310 Artist Portraits” focuses on the Google’s Arts & Culture interface. On this page and application, Google presents us some ‘artists’ (although among them there are designers, political leaders and architects) without giving any references concerning how it selects what. Here, one of the notable cases is

that this process of selection repeats the ever continuing hierarchical structure, that an institution finds itself competent to write art history and presents a selection of artists to future generations. Another case is listing as Umberto Eco emphasizes. Eco states that “The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. The list doesn’t

destroy culture; it creates it.” and adds “Google makes a list, but the minute I look at my Google generated list, it has already changed. These lists can be dangerous not for old people like me, who have acquired their knowledge in another way, but for young people, for whom Google is a tragedy. Schools ought to teach the high art of how to be discriminating.”

The works that I produced for the exhibition “TRIALS: 310 Artist Portraits” shaped on the outlines mentioned above might, in a sense, be called data visualization. I listed the search results obtained from Google of all the names presented as artists on Google’s Arts & Culture interface and out of these names I visualized 310 artists who have more than 400,000 search results, namely “the most popular” ones, in order to also include the approval of internet users which we might describe as the “artworld” of our age. In this exhibition, I display this visualization with variations that I consider as different expressions of the same idea.

The first of these variations is a kind of an art history monument where I document the visual results of all these 310 artists and present it on a wooden pedestal. The other version is a wall work where all these results have been printed on a glass layer by layer. And the last version is a metal plate where I engraved the names and search results of the 310 artists.