Despite what everything from the title to the content and presentation of the work might suggest, I’m pretty sure that Jason Ferguson isn’t really concerned with God, or finding God, as much as he is in searching for him. With only three pieces installed, two of which are photographic prints and the third a sculptural relic display, the latest show from the dynamic ebersb9 duo is much more of a thinker more than a looker – but that’s okay, there’s plenty to think about here.
If you’re into the classic omniscient Deity model, the idea of Google as God isn’t too far of a stretch. Even if you’re not ready to kneel on your keyboard, you could probably admit that there is something strange and magic and special about looking for something online. With the right eye, the search itself is fascinating.
Since we all add data to the searchable material (the internet) at a faster rate than any human can observe, the searchable material becomes (at least for the human user) functionally infinite. For every bean you count, two are being added to the pile. While less romantic than trying to count the stars (and filled with a lot more pornography), I’m sure everyone has at once time marveled at the kind of unknowable infinity of the internet. I’m sure Jason Ferguson has.
Ferguson’s sculptural piece (also named Google Searching for God) consists of a scroll on which has been inklessly typed the entire page source of Wikipedia’s God entry. Each instance of the word God has been lit from below, through cuts made on the wooden surface on which it rests. Like any good relic, it is both beautiful and appears supernatural, revealing a human craft and undertaking of monk-like dedication.
The important thing to remember is that like all religious material, the pieces in this show were artificial – not only physically but also in their content, determined by the crowd culturally or otherwise, generated through emergence and individually selected on by the artist for elevation and confirmation. While this piece references God, the piece itself first references the Wikipedia page, another man-made structure and one that in this context makes a convincing real-time candidate for enlightened text.
Ferguson’s two Google Maps images, while not really adding anything to the content that wouldn’t be brought up in the scroll and sculpture, are none the less satisfying visual accompaniments to this central piece. Blown up and saturated, the satellite imagery works very well as art object, with their pixelation encouraging viewers to approach and retreat to bring them to focus in that well-known op-art gallery dance. If you feel like seeing the original to compare, here’s God Sighting A in its original context. It looks better at the gallery.
When you put these three works together and wonder at the point, you might come to conclusion that the deity most separate from humanity is most often found buried in its crawling development, its web-weaving, and its organic self arrangement. Wikipedia is the ultimate emergent model for knowledge, with millions of users determining its form; Google’s search engine runs on PageRank, a system is entirely dependent on the entire internet ‘s intelligence to decide what is most relevant and important; and the satellite/God’s eye image is constantly used as a method of illustrating the odd algorithmic growth patterns of human construction.
Using such real inhuman and limitless ways to search for the cultural embodiment of inhuman and limitless is a clever mirrored elevator, and it doesn’t bother me that this sort of recursion can easily come off as absurdity or humor. Recursion is always absurd, as in when I ask a dog to pronounce “bark” or put a car in your car so you can drive while you drive, and there’s always a risk that it may distract those who haven’t played blow-minded awe-struck with Google Earth for weeks like I have from getting past the humor. As potentially absurd as its premises are, if take Google Searching for God seriously, it crafts a compelling conversation between concepts as apparently diverse as the divine and the online. Not bad for an end of summer show.
I give it a:
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