Toronto artist Mary Porter and I have been working on joint projects since 2012. Our shared interests in art history and collage were the starting point, and the nature of our long-distance collaboration lent itself to web-based work that explores the shared language and imagery of the internet as organized by Google.

A Conversation is a digital correspondence project with 120 collaged images. We typed our text, reminiscent of instant messaging, into Google Image Search and then made a digital collage using a selection of the top 20 images. We followed a series of rules that included a 30-minute time limit for creation and restrictions on how to manipulate the source imagery. The image and text were then sent to the other, who responded. The results are an absurdist call and response that is fragmented but has an internal logic. We found ourselves using stock images, personal photos, stills from films and video games, and memes. Sometimes Google interpreted our texts in predictable ways, while other times we got images that were seemingly unrelated, making Google (and its users) a third collaborator. By collaging these results together, we created new meanings that we didn’t anticipate at the outset. This project showed at Latitude 53 in Edmonton, Alberta, and at Truck Gallery’s window space in Calgary, Alberta.

Our current project is a series of four tableaus, each composed of 12 individual animations that play simultaneously and repetitively. Last Four Things borrows its title from Hieronymus Bosch’s The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, which illustrates what awaits us at the end: Death, Judgment, Hell, and Glory. For this project, we upload images to Google’s Reverse Image Search, which suggests “visually similar images.” Each tableau will start by uploading one of Bosch’s Four Last Things. With the results, one of us will create an animated gif that will be sent to the other, who will upload it and make another gif based on those results. Repeating this exchange, the image will gradually morph from its origins to something entirely different by the series’ completion.