"Painting" Sites

2000-2001, 18:12 min, color, sound

The first in a series of videos investigating the use of digital effects on appropriated imagery, "Painting" Sites compiles pictures arbitrarily yielded by an Internet search for the word "Painting," and peppers the resulting series of images with digital graffiti, courtesy of editing software. When Price began the piece, in 2000, automated image-search tools did not yet exist online; instead, the artist used text-based searches, taking arbitrary screenshots of each and every page that was returned and then cropping out all but the image, an approach that occasionally yielded visual hallmarks like improperly loaded data or the appearance of the cursor.

Writes Chrissie Iles, in the 2002 Whitney Biennial Exhibition Catalogue:

"'Painting' Sites demonstrates Price's interest in the Internet's role as a vast interactive archive that makes accessible otherwise disconnected groups of cultural material, from fine art to popular music. The ease with which material from the past can be recovered and recontextualized at random epitomizes the condition of postmodernity, in which previously fixed cultural canons have become fragmented, fluid, interconnected, and relative.

'Painting' Sites articulates this relativity by creating an ironic, fractured narrative using two classic forms of high culture and popular entertainment: painting and the fairy tale. Reproductions of paintings from various periods in art history, drawn randomly from the Internet, appear one after the other on the screen, as Price narrates a story he wrote in the style of a German Romantic tale. He begins: 'In the Wild Woods, west of the Hartz Mountains, lived a man named Ludwig Tieck.' Casting Tieck as the fictional protagonist signals the elliptical structure of the piece: he was one of the canonical Northern European fable writers. As the story unfolds, characters and locations change, and the tale evolves into an elaborate, improbable narrative, a labyrinth in which stories within stories double back on themselves in an endless deferral of resolution. Price manipulates the 'ideal' of narrative, with its perpetual promise of something meaningful to come.

Iconic images from the history of art appear, punctuating every phrase: Boticelli's Venus, Leonardo da Vinci's Pieta, a brooding landscape by Jacob Ruysdael. For brief moments, our desire to correlate the images with the story creates an implausible synchronicity, and a pattern seems to emerge. The epiphany is quickly erased, as the capricious randomness of the image reasserts itself. The disjunction of logic in 'Painting' Sites evokes both the creative potential within the inherent randomness of the Internet and the dreamlike boundlessness of fairy tales, in which the normal world is disrupted in order to open up another kind of space, where the unconscious can explore the outer edges of reality."

Text and reading by Seth Price. Music: "Two Portraits: One Ideal; One Grotesque," by Béla Bartók.


In exhibition, this work should be presented in a cinematic situation, i.e. a projection contained in its own room, preferably projected onto a screen, in a black box gallery, with seating provided. Please contact the office for further information.