The Picture Before the Picture

The Picture Before the Picture (2019-2023)
Ink-jet print on mesh vinyl 850 × 1191 cm

The Picture Before the Picture refers to colors that appear as placeholders under the ‘Images’ tab of the Google search engine before the final image is fully loaded. The first iteration of this work was based on the searches the duo made using this feature during the European Parliament elections in 2019. The artists kept adding search words suggested by Google to their search tab and applied the resulting colors on the walls of the exhibition space with paint. The colors used in the installation made for the façade of İmalat-hane in Bursa are derived from the results of screenshots of Google searches made between the first and second rounds of the 2023 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Using VPN to perform searches based out of Turkey, the artists selected a certain sequence of suggested search words. These pictures before pictures represent an abstraction of the news items that shape the agenda at a specific time and in a given location. For instance, when the duo entered “Twitter” into Google Images, titles such as “bandwidth throttling,” “access blocking,” and “The Information and Communication Technologies Authority” were suggested by the algorithm, painting a picture of that particular moment through the most frequently used search terms.

The fact that these abstract and angular images, the colors of which are determined by the dominant hues of the partially downloaded pictures reach us before the intended data, reflects our once-removed relationship with data itself. Thus, the viewers find themselves looking at a picture that records the distance between the written content and the image. This digital surface with which we, as web users, are all too familiar points to an image regime that obscures the reality and the influence of web design strategies on users. Sterilizing our interaction with data –ignoring its content, scientific credibility, political bias, or brutality– the colors transform into a spectacle of pacifying abstractions, referring to the increasing data flow, information pollution, fake news, and censorship. Covering the façade of the exhibition space, the installation builds a layer that also becomes a threshold between the inside and outside of the exhibition space. While preventing us from seeing the “big picture,” this picture before the picture also refers to the historical discussions around the relationship between institutional frameworks and art, serving as an interface that casts the shades of its colors on the exhibition.

Text: Duygu Demir

Installation view; IMALAT-HANE, Bursa

Photo: ©IMALAT-HANE, Bursa