Image © Joan Fontcuberta

Googlegrama: Ozono (Googlegram: Ozone), 2006
Fontcuberta, Joan
Digital photo

Joan Fontcuberta has incorporated play as a determining factor in developing his projects and in their resulting relationship with the public. One must know how to play to approach many of his works. The rules may be unwritten but they are always operating for the viewer. In GoogleGrams Fontcuberta produces images composed of other images resulting from an google search based on a set of associated terms. After the search results are obtained, a software programme interprets them and composes an image. This new image uses for pixels the images and texts that resulted from the Google search, making use of the darkest and the lightest ones, as well as their predominant chromatic compositions. The procedure considers fact that all digital images taken to their extreme are mosaics. Pixels are replaced and formed by other images. This apparently simple process, clearly explained in the captions accompanying the image, has fundamental consequences for what could be considered a reflection on the images of synthesis and the information society. The name of the series itself suggests the kaleidoscopic nature of Google as the major Internet search engine.

Google can be seen, then, as a game of chance. When one types in a term, one obtains a number of related responses whose associations are unexpected though related through their reference to the term. Actually, the element of chance is relative. In any case, it is an "objective randomness", perhaps in a strictly Surrealist sense. One almost always gets some response to the term one types into Google. Search results, depending on how general or topical the term is, are usually quite numerous and heterogeneous. At times, results contain valuable information on the subject of the search but they are always accompanied by others that don’t. The computational mechanics of Internet search engines have inaugurated a new associative system that is not exactly random. The semantic movement incorporates a high percentage of significantly imprecise data into the search network and constructs a field of allusions that can lead to a sort of cryptic, repressed semantics of the names created in the global Web archive. This scenario is a heterotopy of names and reveals the unsuspected roots of its semantics, roots reaching into a linguistic reality that is based on the contexts of use.

When Fontcuberta brings this phenomenon into the realm of images, he adds a new variable and “forsees” this associative game, establishing a new visual semantics superimposed on the already complex network of linguistic links. His re-making draws on freeware products- that is, commonly used, free software—to build on the images gathered. It is a visual configuration of the semantic field formed by words on the Web. The game lies in the associative ambiguity of its requirements for inclusion. The rules for this game are logical, as in other projects by Fontcuberta. They follow a clear pattern like an algorithm, and are presented with a rational respect for the outcome. It is in the outcome that the world reveals a strange face, a chaotic image, and the search becomes intentional and political.

The compositional purpose of the image, using relatively accessible software, is formal while the contents seem to reveal a hidden image. In spite of the simplicity of the procedure, the images obtained surprise us as easily as objects at a fair. The semantic field activated in our memory by the words suggested by Fontcuberta is subjected to the verification process of the vast Internet searches, as well as an awareness of current issues or the historical resonance of terms such as the names of certain oil tankers responsible for major environmental disasters, or the names of chemical compounds that harm the ozone layer. They are all subject to the mirror of the information returned by the most universal and useful search engine. Its massive capacity for access in many languages is demonstrated not only in all the information it can identify but also in the world of images.

SEACEXLABoralFundación TelefónicaZKMInstitut Ramon LlullMediaLabMadridINBAsociación BanqueteUnesco
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