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Net Art as Collectors' Object
—How Smart Artists Make the Machine do the Work

With the purchase of artist Cornelia Sollfrank's generator 'nag_04', the Sammlung Volksfürsorge becomes a pioneering art collector.

In 2003, the Sammlung Volksfürsorge put together one of the largest collections of contemporary art outside a museum. With a budget of EUR 800,000, contemporary works from a wide variety of media were acquired: from painting and sculpture to photography and video art to Net art. The permanent exhibition space for the collection is the newly opened luxury hotel Le Royal Méridien Hamburg on the Outer Alster Lake. The Galerie Ruth Sachse, overseeing the project, proposed acquiring for the collection not only completed images by Cornelia Sollfrank but also the computer program that generates the images. In cooperation with Panos Galanis of IAP GmbH, Hamburg, the artist developed a new generator that works exclusively with images.

Since 1999, Cornelia Sollfrank has been making new images, texts and/or automatic collages out of sites and HTML material available on the World Wide Web. So far, five versions of the program based on this concept have been created with varying emphases and formats. What they all share is a user-friendly WWW interface. The programs are based on Perl scripts which, once the user has entered the title of a work and the name of an artist, send the request to a specific search engine. The material called up according to the search terms is then processed in 12 to 14 randomly generated steps and placed in new combinations. The automatically generated images, texts or Web sites are stored in an archive, the ' gallery.' Furthermore, the source code of the generator has not become private property of the collection, but is subject to the General Public License, GPL, which makes it possible for the code to be modified and distributed.

Processes of rationalization via computer and automatization become means of artistic production via the generator. Art works, traditionally understood as authentic, unique, creative and innovative can then just as well be created by a computer program. With the advent of new media, classic questions regarding authorship, originality, materiality, the role of the artist and the work are newly challenged.

"And surprisingly quickly, you get used to the idea that the production of art can, in the end, only take place via the repetition, theft, quotation, combination and reprocessing of an underlying aesthetic program."

Ute Vorkoeper in 'Programmed Seduction' Anyone who finds all that too complicated can go to the six floor of the hotel and see for themselves a series of automatically generated and aesthetically quite appealing images of flowers.

Le Royal Méridien Hamburg, An der Alster 52-56, 20099 Hamburg

A smart artist makes the machine do the work. Keep on Generating!

Internet Addresses:
Sammlung Volksfürsorge
Homepage ' generator' generator nag_04
Images (download)
Interview with Dr. Lemppenau, Volksfürsorge Collection

Contact: Julia Eble
Press and Publicity
Tel.: 0049-40-2865-4603
FAX: 0049-40-2865-5771
E-Mail: Julia.Eble at