Physical Exercises with the Digital Image
a  participative work

This participative form of artistic exercise is based on the Situationist Dérive. Unlike the original model projects from the 1950s, I did not focus on discovering and mapping the metropolises leading to new psychogeographic maps, but rather on the servers of the company Google. I decided to explore the cyberspace of the internet service YouTube, providing its users with the opportunity to share videos for private or professional purposes.

So far, I have organised four virtual excursions. An initial gathering of several people watching YouTube has progressively developed into an elaborate exercise focused on both wandering through the online world, and the ability of the individual to grasp the global communication network through mental mapping. The direction of the journey is partly determined by a simple movement of the body, such as the click of a mouse when selecting a video.

The art action itself requires a room with a computer, a projector and a sound system. It begins with the introduction of four “compost makers” who prepare the fertile ground for the ensuing excursion. Each of them has at their disposal about half an hour to show their favourite YouTube videos. They all use a Google account set up directly for the purpose of the exercise. Thanks to this dedicated account and the “compost makers”, a new avatar is created inside the remote server that serves as guide through cyberspace for the next part of the action. This can go on for several hours, but also for as long as an entire day. This depends on the abilities of the organiser and the willingness of the participants themselves.

Then comes the most entertaining part of the day when each of the participants may take part in the action for several dozen minutes, as follows: at the end of each video a selection of ten to twelve videos – suggestions – pop up on the projection screen. Each participant uses them to find their bearings. They move the cursor onto one of them, launching them with a click of the mouse. With the aid of the avatar, they thus try to discover as many videos as possible with unforeseen content encoded in the servers of private corporations such as Google. With them they undertake a journey through virtual spaces supervised by powerful algorithms that are constantly modified to meet the needs of each user.

The task of the exercise is not liberation from hidden internet tools capitalising on our online presence. Its aim is to engender awareness of these dangers and search for functional strategies that would teach our senses and faculties of reason to work with these computational operations. This objective functions under certain conditions, but requires concentration on the part of the participants, the ability to remember the videos they have viewed and pay due attention to the large number of images and to which user published a given video. They should combine this information with their knowledge of Google algorithms, the way they qualify videos and the importance they attach to them on the basis of genre and number of views.

photos: artist’s archive and Nikola Brabcová