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NET ART
ANTHOLOGY

Natural Process

exonemo

2003 - 2004

Natural Process is an installation that translates the iconic circa-2003 Google search engine home page to the form of a large-scale painting, and then back to digital media via webcam.

This double remediation, enacted by Japanese net art duo exonemo (Kensuke Sembo and Yae Akaiwa) was exhibited at the Mori Art Museum in 2004, at a moment when artists were increasingly interested in the slippage between art’s circulation online and in the gallery. The painting was purchased by Google, and has not been exhibited publicly until now; it is on view through March 10, 2019 at ICC Tokyo and as part of Net Art Anthology.

Visit livestream

“Will you come see the ‘real’ webpage painting at the museum? Or will you see it ‘virtual’ through the web?”

- exonemo

Natural Process started with a simple desire to “give a physical reality to a digital object.” Exonemo commissioned artist Masayuki Inagaki to produce an oil and acrylic painting of the Google home page.

They chose the page because it was, in their eyes, the “quintessential landscape of the web.” In 2003, before social media, search portal site like Google or Yahoo were a starting point from which to begin surfing the web. Exonemo chose the Google home page because it was their everyday search engine. It brought no special emotion or associations with it - as mundane as a landscape through a window in their house. The resulting painting was titled A web page.

A web page was installed with a web cam that livestreamed it to a dedicated page. By returning the image of Google’s home page to its original context, the web, the work highlighted the friction between various modes of representation at play in the work.

Remediating the web page as a painting made it nonfunctional and opaque. It opened it up for primarily visual inspection, drawing attention to aspects of the UX that were easily overlooked by web visitors.

The webcam then allowed the work to take on a different function within the network, allowing visitors to see across distance into the museum. It picked up all of the activity around the object: its installation, viewing, deinstallation, and lighting changes in the gallery.

Read an interview with exonemo about Natural Process

It also made visible aspects of the network as medium, which become even clearer through a comparison of the 2004 and 2018 versions of the work. Fluctuations in bandwidth would affect image quality from moment to moment in 2004, but the work’s 2018 presentation is rendered at high fidelity.

The interface also changed, from the unbranded embed of 2004 to the minimal, but still present, interface of YouTube in 2018.

“...by filtering through the medium of the museum, will the ‘data’ deteriorate? Or will it mature into something else!!!!!!?” - Exonemo

Natural Process is one of a number of artistic experiments in translating images between digital and analog forms. For instance, in 1998, Valery Grancher produced a series of “webpaintings,” translating websites to oil and canvas. Ola Pehrson's Desktop (1999) was an installation of a 10:1 scale installation of a Windows 95 desktop “filmed and presented in real-time on a computer screen on the other side of the room.”

Natural Process enacted a similar kind of remediation, while also recuperating the on- and offline circulation of the work as a part of the project.

This aspect of the work was fully realized only when, after the exhibition’s closing in April 2004, Google itself bought the painting. It was installed in the then small and hip tech company's Tokyo office.

Today, the work is on loan and online for the first time since 2004 as part of “Open Space 2017: Re-Envisioning the Future” at ICC in Tokyo, and on view as part of Net Art Anthology.

In this new iteration, it is being remediated in a further way, via the Instagram hashtag #awebpage. This kind of remediation is the process at play in Natural Process, its consistent line of inquiry, whatever form it takes.