Golan Levin with Kamal Nigam and Jonathan Feinberg: The Dumpster
This seems a fitting post with which to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and the end of a 3 week holiday-induced blog silence:
The Dumpster is a visualization of the romantic lives of American teenagers. Extracting breakup-related blog entries from millions of blogs, it charts them along a chronological axis with text excerpts and relevant data like age and sex of the poster. The blog entries themselves are visualized as a pleasantly pastel cluster of bubbles, falling from the top of the screen and percolating to the bottom.
The Dumpster bears some similarities with Golan’s earlier work Secret Lives of Numbers, which was shown in the Generator.x exhibition. It utilizes the same time axis and pixel grid navigation device for accessing the many nodes. The project description claims that the Dumpster reveals “underlying patterns of these failed relationships”, although this is hard to quantify. There is a “Match” data field shown for each entry, this could indicate a match against other entries. Another possibility is that it represents how well the text matches some text pattern used to identify blog entries dealing with romantic breakups.
But even if the numerical relevance of the visualization seems slightly impenetrable, the Dumpster charms the viewer with endless text excerpts demonstrating the banal beauty of love. Despite the large number of entries there seems to be practically no false positives, just endless teenage musings. And given the impeccable timing of releasing it on Valentine’s Day, you can’t fault it.
The Dumpster is a joint commission from Whitney Artport and Tate Online. Along with Turbulence these portals are becoming serious spaces for the creation and publication of more complex online works. Given the difficulty of exhibiting net-based art in a gallery context, even modestly paid commissions become a major incentive for the creation of new work. At the same time, it allows museums like the Tate and the Whitney to dabble in “experimental media” without committing to showing it in their physical spaces.