The Image Pillager
Search engines, portals, and online indexes create the surface appearance of order on the web. The ultimate, unreachable aim of these engines is be able to index everything, repeating the dreams of the early encyclopedists. In its ideal form a search engine such as Altavista, Lycos, Ditto, Yahoo, or of course Google, could retrieve any image of anything, as long as it is online. Within its search trees and databases, the entirety of this created space could be categorized and controlled.
Another form of image database is an archival service such as Corbis (www.corbis.com). This database is comprised of stock footage, historical archives, and the rights to an increasing percentage of the world’s “fine art.” These images are copyrighted and sold to designers and advertisers as a source point for the creation of the contemporary visual landscape. The aim of the Corbis service is to be able to provide a visual encyclopedia of the physical world, human history and culture, as opposed to the virtual space of the web.
Both types of databases, however, present views of imaginary spaces. Altavista and Lycos index the web, a virtual space filled with banner graphics, snapshots of friends and pets, decontextualized graphs and charts, advertisements for unidentifiable products, landscapes from unknown tourist destinations, unattractive logos and icons, and a high percentage of porn. Corbis, on the other hand, presents the real world in pictures – but it is a strange view of the real world. Highly saturated in color, artfully composed, this is the equally imaginary fantasyland of the mediated world.
By circumventing the structures imposed onto this glut of information by the search engine, the Image Pillager presents the raw data itself in completely random form – admitting noise for what it is, hoping that signal may emerge. It may also be used as a tool for restructuring this information by making collages, generating an ever-changing surface of densities and visual signs.