selected works by Gretchen Andrew
// You might remember us introducing you to Search Engine Artist Gretchen Andrew who hacks search results for places, people and ideas in the hopes of replacing all image results with her original paintings and drawings. Why? "Having the power to impose my own perspective on what this place is, just because I know how, is a reminder of the ways this happens in more sinister ways all the time." If you search "Bow, New Hampshire" aka Gretchen's hometown, your image results might look a lot like the following series of paintings and drawings. That's all thanks to the power of SEO (search engine optimization) and Gretchen's dedication to merge it with art. We caught up with Gretchen on her current Internet takeover as a part of her project titled Internet Imperialism, the results she created, and the relationship between art, content and the Internet.
Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your most recent Internet Imperialism work.
Gretchen Andrew: It’s awesome to be including your community in the unfolding story! As I shared last time, Internet Imperialism is my method of intentionally structuring of information so as to dominate the online definition or reputation of a person, place or idea. Through it, I manipulate search results, swapping existing results for my paintings. This infliction of my personal work and subjects on universally returned search results is a warning against our trust in the Internet’s authority while also moving the Internet to be less product focused.
AM: How does it compare to your other work?
GA: I’m still using a lot of charcoal on paper but also experimenting with other surfaces including panels and furniture. Some recurring motifs: the clock and dream journal. Some new ones: cars and palm trees. The main difference would have to be the presence of bold and joyful colors.
Because Internet Imperialism depends on echoing my working all over the internet I’ve found new strategies and sources for the Search Engine Art side. For example, I’ve reviewed my high school on yelp and discovered that liveJournal & MySpace are still alive and well! I’m spending more time considering the content sites, the content I post, and the HTML/XML and metadata code I write as equal parts of the work. I’ve just published a print newspaper that contains screenshots of all the interconnected sites and sources that make the Internet Imperialism successful. By sharing the method in this way, I hope that over time more people will understand or at least be curious about, how the Internet works.
AM: What search keywords have you been "hacking" with your art?
GA: This series focuses on hacking “Bow, New Hampshire”, which is the town I grew up in. I wanted to take over a place to get my audience thinking about the connections between imperialism and my Internet Imperialism.
AM: And what are the results?
GA: I’d actually started to take over the search results for “Bow, New Hampshire” once before, so I’ve ended up competing with my older work. The two series exist together in the search results which dominate more than half of the first page!
AM: And you're back in Los Angeles! What's your biggest inspiration working in LA?
GA: It is strange to be in LA and making work to imperialize Bow, New Hampshire. Some of these drawings are of Bow, some are about Bow, others are both. I think some of the ones of Bow are about other things: obsession, growing up, change, returning, the feeling of not knowing you are running out of time. I’ve been exploring how this relationship between subject and object plays itself out online.
Both in content and form, inspiration had to change since living in London, but I’m seeing and feeling that could be a good thing. I’ve really been trying to work from places of joy and light that are still true to me. I got to spend some time in Japan this fall, and the Japanese have this word for foreigners, Gaijin (外人, [ɡaid͡ʑiɴ]) , that historically was discriminatory but now many expats adopt with affection. It’s one of my mantras going into 2018 because I learned that feeling new and lost in your environment can be a way to give yourself permission to introduce yourself to strangers and ask questions. I’ve been trying to bring that to my new life in LA. For example, I made a new friend at yoga and then we decamped to a bar where we proceeded to abuse the happy hour and wound up watching the Golden Globes [together]. I’ve never watched an award show in my life! But there I was crying at speeches and feeling hopeful about the future. That’s my LA inspiration at the moment. The city is going through something big. I am hopeful it continues to bring me and others light.
AM: Tell us about your current installation at 18th Street Arts Center. What can we expect to see?
GA: While in residence at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, I created new paintings about my experience of Bow, New Hampshire, growing up there and visiting as an adult. Through Internet Imperialism, these paintings are coming to replace the stale and impersonal real estate listings that once represented it. The exhibition, #accordingToTheInternet: Bow New Hampshire is an Internet Imperialism / Search Engine Art exhibition with four components:
- The physical paintings and drawings–some hung gallery style on the wall and others tucked within a large “dream journal” portfolio.
- An installation recreation of my living room in Bow New Hampshire where the furniture is drawn. I’ve taken scenes, objects, and motifs out of the paintings and established them in physical space. The next two components are integrated into this part.
- I wanted to find a way to show the dynamic search results into the installation scene. As part of the installation, there is a TV, iPad and computer as you might find in any living room. On their screens is the search results page showing the same paintings you can see on the gallery walls. You can enter the installation and play around with the search engine art!
- A printed newspaper showing the content, sites, code, and metadata I created in order to achieve the hacked search results. The newspaper also lives within the installation as a newspaper might within a living room.
AM: That's amazing! What can we expect to see from you next after this?
GA: I'm so excited about what’s next! I’m working with Whose Knowledge and some other awesome internet organizations to address how women are represented online but conducting Internet Imperialism projects on perfect female body, powerful person, women’s work, and female conception (all of these sites are under construction). The hope is to take the groundwork of the last year and start addressing some important issues of how, and by whom, women are defined. It’s really great to have Asymmetric as a partner here!
Installation open to the public
January 8-28 // Monday-Friday, 11:00-5:00pm & by appointment
18th Street Art Center // 1629 18th St. (Santa Monica)
Residency Open Celebration + Artist Talk
Tuesday, January 23 // 4:00-7:00pm (artist talk @ 5:45pm)
18th Street Art Center // 1629 18th St. (Santa Monica)