Projects > Illumination


In this installation, we explore a new role for the computer in art as a reflector of popular culture. Moving away from the more so static audio-visual installations of other artistic endeavors and from the traditional role of the machine as a computational tool, we fuse art and the Internet to expose cultural connections people draw implicitly but rarely consider directly. The online world is a reflection of these links, this connectivity, and the shared culture that built them.

The Imagination Environment reflects these links back to us; from the virtual world into the real. Using any video stream as its starting point, it discovers images linked to the words being said, and shows us the flow of connections between ideas and images that we ourselves crafted. Exploiting the connectivity of the Web and the core technologies of information retrieval, it opens a window to our world that is a machine's "imagination" of who and what we are.

Search engines, web logs (blogs), web portals, and individual web sites are reflections of our cultural reality. They represent a set of created systems that expose and heighten the connections we use, but rarely see, both in our minds and in the online world. The images and media online are linked and indexed by how we refer to them in a variety of contexts: blogs, news feeds, and web pages. By exposing both their results and processes, these systems reflect and reuse the mundane, the available, and the purely popular as art. In doing so, the system itself is an artistic agent, gathering, sifting, and presenting our own reality back to us as it moves through the web, seeking information.

The Imagination Environment uses advanced information retrieval techniques on media streams that are invisible to us. When we "watch" TV, the TV receiver is reading (actually decoding) the closed captioning (CC) stream and using it to identify what is being said. Then, by exploiting indexing mechanisms within search engines, it finds distinct images and displays them as juxtaposition, to externalize either the canonical or the popular culture.

Our goal is that in this new form of art and technology, we introduce the machine in art; a role in which the machine is used to expose the world of communication and cultural connections that are linked together and within the grasp of online systems. Doing this creates a new breed of artists who are able to harness the power of these interconnections to not only create art with the machine, but also create artistic agents that themselves are active in the creative process.

Video Demo - requires Windows Media Player:


Project Papers

  • Network Arts: Defining emotional interaction in media arts and information retrieval
  • Network arts: Exposing Cultural Reality
  • Imagination Environment: Using the web as a source of popular culture
  • Using Web Frequency Within Multimedia Exhibitions
  • Towards a Non-Linear Narrative Construction