A few months back, I had an email exchange with a Web/technology expert for whom I have great respect, and who made an interesting point about works of art in the age of Google. (The exchange was a sidetrack to an off-the-record discussion of a different subject, and he may be appalled by what I’m about to do with his wise insight … so I’ll leave his name out of it for now.)
Basically we were discussing the Web, memory, and what sort of record current technology would one day leave behind, and he sent me a link to the Google Image Search results for “Mona Lisa.” See above: This results in a pastiche of remixes and references. “There are all these mashups of the painting,” he wrote, “but where’s the original?” It’s there of course, but I see his point.
That said, the truth is that whatever this may or may not suggest about art and the age of digital reproduction, I found the actual Google Image results page kind of fantastic: Some algorithm picking the elements; some other string of code arranging the results in tidy rows, each image somehow commenting on what’s next to it, above it, below it. Time went by, but I kept thinking about this and finally I decided to do a few cold searches for iconic imagery, to see what came up.