Major Project Two

Essay

This is a critique of a virtual artwork written in MLA format for my Digital Art Criticism course.

Google Variations is an interactive, collaborative artwork by Leonardo Solaas. A commission from Turbulence, it is meant to explore Google’s pervasiveness, as well as its many functions and contradictions. According to the artist, the search engine is “a centralized traffic control in the (supposedly) horizontal and distributed Internet; a supporter of data openness and accessibility that relies on secret algorithms; and a ranking technology that is based on finding out popularity while it simultaneously determines it” (Solaas 2010).

The artist’s initial question could have been, “I wonder what kinds of tasks Google can accomplish?” The next step would be to search for existing websites that approach the brand in new and interesting ways. Solaas would then need to create his own webpages and combine them with links created by others onto a main page. This starting point mimics Google’s style with its classic logo, blue and purple linked fonts, and navigation bar toward the top. It therefore looks like a website produced by the company itself.

The piece begins with a list of links to various websites that parody the classic Google search engine. Some change its display or search results, while others simply produce external sites. The first few—such as Google Pond and Paint it Google—allow the user to search normally but warp the site’s letters with his or her mouse. Others are meant to criticize the company; when users search in the Google is Good engine, for example, they will see results related to the scandals in which Google has been involved. There is a long list of websites created by others, most of which alter the logo, as well as its background and special search buttons. The Nongoogles appears to be Google’s homepage, but when users search within it, they only see results from other engines. The Future is a thought-provoking page at the end of Solaas’ list that displays an error page with the message, “Some day Google will not be there.”

Google Variations helps viewers look more closely at the website they take for granted nearly every day. Every page highlights the aspects of Google’s use that are not clear to the average person, even though these factors have changed American life forever. Variations helps people think both creatively and critically about the company and its technology; it may even encourage them to apply the same analytical approach to other aspects of their lives.

Work Cited


Solaas, L. Google Variations, Turbulence,  2010, http://turbulence.org/project/google-variations/.