Volksfürsorge Art Collection 2003 - net.art generator nag_04 at Royal Meridien, Hamburg
—How Smart Artists Make the Machine do the Work
With the purchase of artist Cornelia Sollfrank's net.art generator 'nag_04', the Sammlung Volksfürsorge becomes a pioneering art collector.
In 2003, the Sammlung Volksfürsorge put together one of the largest collections of contemporary art outside a museum. With a budget of EUR 800,000, contemporary works from a wide variety of media were acquired: from painting and sculpture to photography and video art to Net art. The permanent exhibition space for the collection is the newly opened luxury hotel Le Royal Méridien Hamburg on the Outer Alster Lake. The Galerie Ruth Sachse, overseeing the project, proposed acquiring for the collection not only completed images by Cornelia Sollfrank but also the computer program that generates the images. In cooperation with Panos Galanis of IAP GmbH, Hamburg, the artist developed a new net.art generator that works exclusively with images.
Since 1999, Cornelia Sollfrank has been making new images, texts and/or automatic collages out of sites and HTML material available on the World Wide Web. So far, five versions of the program based on this concept have been created with varying emphases and formats. What they all share is a user-friendly WWW interface. The programs are based on Perl scripts which, once the user has entered the title of a work and the name of an artist, send the request to a specific search engine. The material called up according to the search terms is then processed in 12 to 14 randomly generated steps and placed in new combinations. The automatically generated images, texts or Web sites are stored in an archive, the 'net.art gallery.' Furthermore, the source code of the generator has not become private property of the collection, but is subject to the General Public License, GPL, which makes it possible for the code to be modified and distributed.
Processes of rationalization via computer and automatization become means of artistic production via the net.art generator. Art works, traditionally understood as authentic, unique, creative and innovative can then just as well be created by a computer program. With the advent of new media, classic questions regarding authorship, originality, materiality, the role of the artist and the work are newly challenged.
"And surprisingly quickly, you get used to the idea that the production of art can, in the end, only take place via the repetition, theft, quotation, combination and reprocessing of an underlying aesthetic program."
Ute Vorkoeper in 'Programmed Seduction' Anyone who finds all that too complicated can go to the six floor of the hotel and see for themselves a series of automatically generated and aesthetically quite appealing images of flowers.
Le Royal Méridien Hamburg, An der Alster 52-56, 20099 Hamburg
A smart artist makes the machine do the work. Keep on Generating!
Interview with Dr. Lemppenau, Volksfürsorge Collection
Cornelia Sollfrank in conversation with Dr. Joachim Lemppenau, Chairman of the Board of Volksfürsorge Versicherungen. As head of the insurance company, he is also responsible for the art collection and, as a jury member, took part in the selection of the artists.
Hamburg, November 1, 2003
C.S.: You've acquired one of my net.art generators for your collection. The purchase of a Net art work makes you a pioneer among collectors. What moved you to take this step and introduce Net art to the collection as well?
Dr.L.: The net.art generator is a contemporary work of art that makes use of one of the most important media we now have - the Internet. With this purchase, the Sammlung Volksfuersorge is supporting current directions in art. Ownership of a materially tangible art work is not our concern; other sponsors make a sculpture or a painting available to the public in a museum. We find this more appropriate for our time, and besides, we're making the work available to a broader public by doing this on the Internet and with Net art.
C.S.: One of the fundamental problems with purchasing Net art is the administration of copyright and rights of ownership regarding data that is online. What does it mean to you to be the owner of this generator?
Dr.L.: It was agreed that the net.art generator would have a user-friendly Web interface for anyone who might be interested in using it. So the net.art generator is a sort of public work in our collection. We allow the "user" to create the art on his or her own. Anyone can become a (Net) artist.
What's more, the code of the generator, that is, the program, is subject to a license, the so-called General Public License, GPL, which makes it possible for the code to be freely modified and distributed.
C.S.: How will you be handling the needs that arise for the maintenance and administration of an online project?
Dr.L.: The budget for the art collection ensures that the work will be maintained by another company for two years. After two years, we can decide how to carry on. (The costs aren't very high.)
C.S.: Could you imagine expanding further in this direction, that is, adding another work of Net art to the collection?
Dr.L.: The art collection has initially been set up to document exemplary works of contemporary art in various media immediately after the turn of the millennium. The plan does not currently project much further than that, particularly since it's a collection which principally has a single, immobile location — the Hotel Royal Meridien. The net.art generator represents the widest reach in terms of contact since it is accessible via the World Wide Web.
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