Pictures, I Think

Two works in collaboration with Sebastian Stadler (Photography) for his exhibition at Kunstmuseum St. Gallen.

In the work 'Pictures, I think' from which the exhibition in St. Gallen takes its title, an algorithm generates constantly changing new exhibition titles for the presentation. An image recognition program uses a pool of photographs that are uploaded at irregular intervals from the artist’s iPhone. The computer program produces a description of the image and displays it on two monitors without revealing the image it is based on. For example, it shows descriptions such as “A close-up of a person, I think.” If the contents of the photograph are not recognized by the program, it displays the phrase “Pictures, I think.” Thus, the image analysis in the work depends on the ability of a computer program to recognize and describe the image.

The two-channel projection Titel is based on an algorithm: the complete list of 60,000 e-books from the freely accessible digital library as well as a selection of archival images from the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen are combined. Reproductions of artworks from the collection as well as exhibition views of past presentations at the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen and the art area of the Lokremise are analyzed by a computer program. The keywords resulting from this analysis are then compared with the digital library, and in a matter of seconds an excerpt from one of the available texts is projected. Once again, the image analysis is handled entirely by a computer program. Thus, the image and text result in a kind of algorithmic intelligence: literary quotations describe the images from the archive of the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen.

Sebastian and I worked on the concept together remotely over the course of 5 months and I implemented the installation and the underlying algorithm that produces the captions.