As far as the internet is concerned, Google is certainly a trusted name. Providing game-changing web tools time and time again, it would probably be a fair assessment that Google’s mass-scale projects have, in recent years, seriously affected the ways we have integrated the web into how we navigate and experience our everyday lives. This time, however, Google is looking to tackle their most culturally nuanced subject yet: art.
This past week Google went public with their latest venture: The Google Art Project.
As one can see, Google’s introductory “visitor guide” Art Project (fueled by Google Street View technology) is poised as a serious personal and professional resource. With 360 degree views and integrated perspective tools, Street View is a technology that has already made an ever-shrinking globe even smaller. By allowing us to feel as though we are somewhere we physically are not, somewhere we may never physically be, Street View offers us a glimpse of reality, even if it’s not our own. And at this point, who hasn’t used the tool to take a tour of their hometown, preview walking directions, or explore a city half-way around the world? Art Project proposes to pick up where Google Maps stopped; taking us inside the walls of some of the world’s most premiere art collections and uniting their collections under one, beautifully executed, online umbrella.
Art Project’s dedicated website is conceived with the traditional museum in mind. With a “visitor guide” video you are able to “explore the museum” and even “create and share your own collections online.” (Though as an interesting aside, some images in the museum are blurred due to copyright laws). All of which simply points to the present cultural revolution we’re all experiencing: a world where, to quote Lawrence Lessig, “an extraordinary range of diverse culture could be accessible, cheaply, anytime and anywhere. Access could be the norm, not a privilege.” A world built increasingly on instantaneity, universal access, unrestricted availability. In other words, cultural consumption with minimal restrictions.
In many ways, it’s the museum of the future. However it is certain that Google Art Project provides a distinctly different gallery experience than simply visiting a gallery– perhaps even a better one: No crowds, no travel time, the advantage of viewing art through a camera lens which is able to capture image details at levels higher than the human eye could ever hope possible, and of course it provides instant gratification, its available anytime via googleartproject.com, and its completely free. It would be easy to agree that, as a personal and academic tool, Google’s endeavors to document the contents, and moreover create a virtual experience, of just one more institution’s cultural holdings will leave its mark.
I am moved to ask: Is this what viewing art is about? Is art only an image? Or is there something about the experience of the image that has the ability to transcend the pigment and illusions of the surface to which it is bound?
1. Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin, 2008. 252. Print.