Evan Roth’s intervention in Google Images

June 24th, 2013 | By | 5 Comments »

Ted Talk

Earlier this year at FAT Lab‘s show at Eyebeam in New York, bad ass motherfucker Evan Roth had an installation called Ideas Worth Spreading. Basically, the installation is a mock stage setup for a TED conference, the popular conference with the tagline “Ideas worth spreading.” Getting to give a TED talk is considered a pretty high honor in some circles, but naturally not very many people get to give them. Roth’s Ideas Worth Spreading gave anyone who stopped by Eyebeam the opportunity to at least appear like they had given a TED talk. Naturally, lots of people pretended to give TED talks, took photos, and shared them on social networks, getting plenty of kudos from their friends in the process.

Roth recently posted an update about Ideas Worth Spreading on his blog. As it turns out, a few of the photos were reposted and shared enough that a Google Images search for “ted talk” brings up some of the Ideas Worth Spreading photos in the results. As you can see below, there’s even one Ideas Worth Spreading pic within the first 10 images of the “ted talk” search (it’s the one at the top of this post).

Ted Talk

You may be asking, “Isn’t this Vandalog? What the hell does this project and some Google Image search results have to do with street art?” Hear me out. This is what my upcoming ebook Viral Art is largely about. In Viral Art, I argue that this project falls into a category that I call active viral art, and that street art is also active viral art. Basically, active viral art is art that is imposed upon an unsuspecting audience. That’s what street art is on the street, right? Artist decides to put up work in a public space for an unsuspecting audience, bypassing any art-world gatekeepers in the process. Well, now that we spend so much time in front of screens and online, the internet is a kind of new public space. What Roth has done here is put up his work in this new public space for an unsuspecting audience. In this particular case, I guess the street art equivalent would be a subtle ad disruption.

Am I crazy or am I on to something? Let me know what you think in the comments. I can’t wait to more of my thoughts on active (and passive) viral art later this year when the Viral Art ebook is released (for free of course).

Photo and screenshot courtesy of Evan Roth

Category: Featured Posts, Photos, Random, Viral Art | Tags: ,
  • Ally

    Interesting comparison of the streets and the internet. Although I agree that they are related, I think this example is a little stretched. This statement is more of a arbitrary in-joke than an artistic creation. The only people who will ever pick that image out of the TED talk image search will be people who are already familiar with the Ideas Worth Spreading movement and likely in agreement with the message. Otherwise, the searcher will simply overlook it, feeling proud that there are so many different TED conferences (So many ideas spreading!). This may seem like street art in the way that it is often secretive and overlooked, but to me this example reads as a sort of juvenile “Made you look!” gag instead of a creative visual statement. Its not terribly artistic, skilled, or powerful. Also, the comparison in this instance propagates the notion that street art/graffiti has to be political or cynical in nature in order to be valuable. This seems to me to be the reason a Banksy is preferred over a piece or tag (Literally any piece or tag in the entire world.) People today are preoccupied with street art and graffiti being “clever” or “smart” as opposed to simply appreciating damn good art.

  • Sarah

    It is interesting that street art and internet have become virtually synonymous. Even in vernacular speech, we describe the internet as “the information highway”; in other words, the very mediums of street art and the internet are connected by this metaphoric link of an urban infrastructure. Yet at the same time, the built environment onto which street art is produced and displayed is rendered obsolete due to the proliferation of images/viral capacity of the internet. Thank you, Walter Benjamin and Jean Baudrillard.

  • CDH

    It’s an interesting idea. It seems like you’re arguing that there’s an order to the images and information we consume (in physicality or online) and you’re interested in the disruption of that order. We could place other things equally under this banner, like DOS attacks, Dan Savage’s google bombing of Rick Santorum, the flying dicks at the second life press conference. I remember seeing a video of a disrupted funeral on world of warcraft…
    found it:

  • Yes, exactly. Disruptions the expected order, and inserting art where it isn’t expected. Which is, to me, basically the same as street art.

  • That said, disruptions aren’t the coolest