A Robot Walks into a Room: Google Art Project, The New Aesthetic, and the Accident of Art


  • Susan Ballard


On the 1st February 2011 Google unleashed the Google Art Project, a new way to engage with the major collections of the world’s art galleries. With the Google Art Project came a new way of viewing, not just art but the other objects that inhabit art galleries. Google Art Project depends on a robot looking machine. This aesthetic machine is a different form of digital material that has entered into what have for a long time been quiet still spaces for human, and not machine contemplation. With an equal focus on the spaces between things as much as on the things themselves, Google Art Project suggests a new way of understanding art, in the interval. Except it is not new at all. This essay draws a connection between the Google Art Project, James Bridle’s new aesthetic tumblr log and Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas in order to suggest that accidental encounters and ghost images formed in the spaces between things remain key to contemporary understandings of aesthetics.