Gretchen Andrew is a self-proclaimed Internet Imperialist artist. Best known for her playful hacks on major art world institutions, Andrew’s current practice involves actively reprogramming the artificial intelligence underlying the global internet. By performatively manipulating the artificial intelligence of the tech giants’ search engine optimisation (SEO) technology, she can make her dreams come true – at least virtually. Artificial intelligence is inherently backward looking and susceptible to being reprogrammed through knowledge of the internet’s structure and Andrew exploits this, rewriting existing representations of reality by using a search engine’s own rules and limitations against itself.
Andrew calls the paintings she produces in conjunction with her hacks, ‘vision boards’ and she has been producing them in series with titles like “Cover of Artforum”, “The next American President” or “Best MFA” since 2019. They begin as charcoal on canvas and grow to include traditionally feminine imagery such as flowers and butterflies with collage elements that add a level of kitsch which contrasts with the tech-tools, AI manipulation and SEO the artist uses to create her hacks.
When Google images is searched for the phrase “Cover of Artforum” for example, the first hits produced by the search engine are all works by Andrew, notwithstanding the fact that the artist has never actually appeared on the cover of the magazine. Search “Frieze Los Angeles” and the top results are images of Andrew’s paintings digitally rendered to appear in the fair. Andrew used the same methodology to get her works to the top of “Whitney Biennial” search results. For her recent project “The Next American President,” the artist made a series of paintings inspired by the aesthetics of vision boards which manifest Andrew’s ideal leader – “a kind, democracy-respecting, loving person” – and these works now take up the majority of top hits when the phrase is googled.
Andrew notes “As much as I’ve used tech to hack the art world, I’ve also used art to hack the tech world.” Her process exploits the vulnerability of tech giants and their services, and in particular search engines like Google, to create awareness of her works using the SEO-driven revenue model they promote. Critic Jonathan Griffin described her practice in LALA Magazine as alluding to “the Wild West possibilities of the Internet and to the scale of her artistic ambition.”
Gretchen Andrew was born in 1988 in Los Angeles. She trained in London with the artist Billy Childish from 2012-2017. The artist joined Annka Kultys Gallery in 2020 and will have her first exhibition, Other Forms of Travel, at the gallery’s London new exhibition space in February 2021. Her work is currently on view in Future News at the Monterey Museum, US marking the artist’s first solo museum exhibition.
In 2018 the V&A Museum released her book Search Engine Art. Her work has been featured in The Art Newspaper (November 2020), The Washington Post, Fortune magazine, Monopol, Wirtschaftswoche, The Los Angeles Times, and The Financial Times.
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