Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN
We may not know who will be the next American president by election day, but Google “the next American president” and you will find that the search engine already has an unexpected idea.
The faces of incumbent President Donald Trump or the democratic bearer of hope Joe Biden do not appear first on Google Images. Instead, monochromatic collages in red, white, and blue, filled with stars and floral motifs, are ranked against previous nominees like Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders.
Did you Googled “the next American President”? Recognition: CNN
The strange search results are no accident. They are the work of Los Angeles-based artist Gretchen Andrew, a self-proclaimed “Internet Imperialist” and “Search Engine Artist” who played Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to fool the Internet into believing she won the prestigious Turner Prize receive. exhibited at the Whitney Biennale and appeared on the cover of the Artforum. Andrew did not receive any of these awards, but for those looking for certain terms, they will find that their pictures are at the top of the pictures.
“I think a lot about the power structures that have the potential to shape our future,” Andrew said of her work during a video conference. Before becoming an artist and training to be a British painter, Billy Childish, Andrew studied information systems at college and began her career at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters. Then she combined both backgrounds to infiltrate the art world, targeting career awards and shows. In this way, her quest to become a recognized artist became a reality as she received lively press for her work (which further increases her SEO ranking) and collaborated with the Victoria & Albert Museum in London on the book “Search Engine Art” . “”
With the project “The Next American President” Andrew projects her wishes onto the upcoming elections rather than onto her personal ambitions.
“The work itself is about what the next American president should value,” she said. On the project’s website, she outlines these values: “I want THE NEXT AMERICAN PRESIDENT to believe in love, harmony, choice, nature, respect, democracy, joy, science, international business, campaign funding reform and the rule of law.”
Andrew’s “vision boards” express the values she hopes the next president will have. Recognition: Gretchen Andrew
By including the things she wants from a president in her playful collages, which she calls “vision boards,” she hopes to make her wishes a reality. But it also shows that “the internet cannot analyze desire,” she said.
“On the Internet ‘Gretchen hopes to be on the cover of the Artforum’ one day, only ‘Gretchen is … on the cover of the Artforum …”, she writes on her website. “It cannot tell the difference between a hoped-for future that is intensely presented through art and what has actually already happened.”
“When we see art, we know that it is not a global truth … and that is lost on the internet.”
In her collages, Andrew uses artisanal materials traditionally viewed as feminine, adding them to the realm of technology and politics where women have historically been underrepresented. “There’s this female infiltration into the perception of what someone … who can manipulate the internet (what it looks like),” she said. “I’m not your stereotypical cyber hacker; I’m not your stereotypical troll.”
“I want to show that it’s not that hard, you don’t need electricity … just a little knowledge,” Andrew said of her search engine tactics. Recognition: Nick Berardi
But Andrew’s work is not just a feminist statement; She also wants to show that algorithms can be manipulated and that anyone can.
To “win” the Turner Award, Andrew began associating her name and images with the award through preferred Google search sites such as Twitter, WikiHow, Pinterest, and Quora, as well as their own websites . She has used similar methods for her other projects, including The Next American President.
“I use all of these websites – these websites that are available and really usable for everyone – and network them in these information structures that I have developed,” she said. “I want to show that it’s not that difficult. You don’t need power, you don’t need money, you don’t need foreign cyber government – just a little bit of knowledge.”
Andrew’s artwork is playful and feminine, some made from materials from craft and party stores. Recognition: Gretchen Andrew
In doing this, Andrew emphasizes the inherent tendency in search results that is often confused with truth or fact.
“When we see art, we know it’s not a global truth – we know it’s someone’s lens,” she said. “And that’s getting lost on the internet … It’s far less obvious to us … that we are being presented with something that someone intends to do.”
While Andrew hopes to manifest the president’s outcome she desires – although she doesn’t say who she believes is implied – she also wants to use her search engine art to advance internet literacy and change the way how we use them as tools.
“I think one of the best ways forward is to have a better understanding of technology and its limitations, rather than relying on the truth and connection as we increasingly do,” she said. “Part of my practice that I really love … is that by getting to know my practice, you get an understanding of how the internet works.”