Via Art in America
…In his first solo exhibition, at New York’s Postmasters Gallery this spring, Gage presented a selection of subtle and engaging digital pieces he calls “Glaciers,” named for the slow transformations they undergo. Many artists have experimented with piping live internet data into a gallery context. Gage’s output in this vein is unique for its simple premises, clean forms and unassuming physical housings. Like well-designed apps, his works tend to the humble and precise. They feel engineered to illuminate, not confound.
The exhibition included a series of thirty or so screens the size of small paperbacks, each bearing the text of a single three-line poem. The screens use electronic ink, and the poems are defined by parameters, making them more like containers than content. With a substrate hooked up to the internet, each “poem” is the text of the first three suggested searches auto-completed by Google, from one of Gage’s pre-programmed prompts. Thus, the poem titled tell me. . . reads “tell me a joke / tell me a story / tell me something good.” “Search predictions are generated by an algorithm without human involvement,” Google explains on a help page. As the suggested searches change over time, the poems change in response. The electronic ink is refreshed, producing new poems from the same seed of query, but grown from shifted collective concerns.
The experience of reading the poems feels somewhat like reading a disaggregated browser history. The visitor confronts the textual handiwork of millions of anonymous strangers. Each poem is a signature traced over and over, until it can’t be recognized as the name of one person. Gage’s prompts are baited hooks in a crowded sea.
The artist explains that, because of the massive volume of data harvested by Google’s search-predicting algorithm, the auto-completed suggestions tend to linger for a long time. Still, some day in the future each screen will have depolarized and reconfigured, revealing something about the appetites of the new moment by crystallizing a fresh new poem.
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