The Googleheim Museum of Art

Rob Walker | @YahooTech

Google may have set out to "organize the world's information," but thanks to the creativity of a huge variety of artists, designers, hackers and other tinkerers it’s become something else: an art museum hidden within a search engine.

Because a slew of people have found clever ways to exploit or misuse Google’s tools and algorithms and endless troves of data, Google has accidentally become a mother lode of artistic inspiration (and, often humorously, a passive artistic collaborator.) Google has proven such a muse that you could mount an amazing museum show of Google-derived works – which is precisely what we’ve done.

Until we raise the capital to rent out a physical space, you’ll have to settle for the virtual version of the Google-heim Art Museum that follows: The most comprehensive collection of Google arts we think you can stand, grouped by specific Google products and services. Enjoy, and please don't touch the artwork/your computer screen.


In Juxtapose, Daniel Schwarz gathers Google satellite images of adjacent, remote patches of Earth at different times of year, and pairs them.

Meanwhile, Elena Radice seeks out “joints” on Google Maps where seasonal shifts are revealed inadvertently: One seasonal set of images abruptly bumps up against another. Her images are collected on the Tumblr Abstract Season Changes.

Onformative, a design studio, has collaborated with Christian Loclair to highlight another landscape feature visible via Google Earth: Google Faces.

The spooky video Algorithmic Architecture, by Charlie Behrens, takes viewers on a trip through Google Earth — or rather through its many corners where images register improperly. The result is a smeary, blocky, disconcerting landscape, built out of sputtering algorithms.

Clement Valla curates on ongoing collection of charmingly surreal glitch scenes from Google Earth, in the series Postcards From Google Earth.

Peter Root uses Google Earth in his video Digital Detritus. But here it’s a backdrop setting for what he calls “digital installations” — wild, sci-fi, 3D-modelled shapes and structures hovering over and sprouting from Earth (or Google’s rendition of it, anyway).


Phil Thompson’s Copyrights actually draws on Google’s more official interaction with the art world: The Google Art Project, which documents various museums so they can be explored from afar via a Street View-like interface. But evidently there are “copyright issues” around certain images in certain museums. Thompson seeks those out and captures them with screenshots — then he has the pixelated abstraction copied in the form of an oil painting (by companies that offer this service in China; who knew?). Thus a blocked digital image is converted back into a physical art work.


In this truly lovely short video, The Theory (which openly credits its collaborator, attributing the piece to itself and “Google Street View”), stop-motion animation and Street View are combined to show the story of a “lonely desk toy” who uses Google’s tool to make a virtual cross-country road trip.

Two of the most celebrated examples of extracting art from Google data involve using Street View as something like street photography. Jon Rafman's “9-Eyes” (a reference to the multi-direction cameras mounted on Google’s Street View vehicles) plucks disturbing, funny, beautiful, or otherwise surprising images from the service and collects them on

And Michael Wolf has created several series culled from captured Street View images, grouped into themes such “ Portrait” (zooming in on faces blurred by Google’s system) and “ Interface” (which include Street View’s interaction graphics).

As part of an installation project titled “Higher Definition” earlier this year, Jeroen Nelemans mounted Street View iconography on Plexiglas in front of a home/gallery in Oak Park, Illinois, making the suburban dwelling look in the physical world as it would on a Google-mediated computer screen.

Paolo Cirio’s Street Ghosts focuses on the random human beings captured by Street View’s documentation, reproducing their semi-blurry forms as street art in the same real-world locations.

Type an address into Street View Stereographic and it converts “any Street View image [into] a stereographic projection” — resulting in a pleasingly insane visual.


Google Goggles is an Android app designed to enable “visual searching”: Take a picture of a book or a landmark or whatever, and Goggles is supposed to spit back relevant information. Samuel J. Bland got interested in the “similar images” component of the results, particularly in cases when Googles didn’t seem to comprehend what it was “seeing.” Bland’s series Googlology paired images he submitted with a collage of images Goggles served up in response — which weirdly mimic the original form, despite being non-sequiturs.


The Art of Google Books tracks unexpectedly compelling images squirreled away in the vast Google Books project — often the result of some error or misstep in the digitization process.


For the series “Satellite Collections,” Jenny Odell selected specific categories of built-landscape features (swimming pools, nuclear cooling towers, stadiums, parking lots, etc.) and assembled them into fascinating collages.


Daniel Mercadante
gathered up a massive trove of pictures of spherical objects, “most” from Google Image Search, and assembled them into the dazzling short super-super-supercut video, Ball.

Ben West and Felix Heyes used Google to search every word in the dictionary, grabbed the top Image result for each, and assembled a 1,240-page book (titled “Google”) of the results.

Ken Goldman’s series of “Google Portraits” render Google Image Search results pages in the form of watercolors.

Dina Kelberman’s “I’m Google” was inspired by “wandering through Google Image Search and YouTube,” and recreates the journey of similar Web-culled visual leading to slightly similar visual, gradually evolving into completely different visuals — infinitely — in an endless-scroll Tumblr. (Endless scrolling is currently disabled, but a note on I’m Google says it will be restored “in a week or two.”)

Phew! So, what did I miss? If there are other Google-derived or –inspired art projects I should know about, speak up in the comments or tweet them @notrobwalker.

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