Tel Aviv University Magazine. 7.1.2012


Is hahaha art as well?

The artists Tal and Omer Golan collaborated with the software engineer Yuval Adam and created Plant a Comment—a display that combines art, technology and social networks. “This connection between the different worlds excites us very much. In general, we believe this is where the future lies, in connecting between various fields,” says Omer Golan. “In our opinion, one specific field is very limiting. What distinguishes us in general, and in the art world specifically, is our aspiration to push the familiar boundaries of every field and discover new places.” “Plant a Comment” is a 3D-world that was created with programming languages, such as Python, HTML5 and WebGL—and that is where the thoughts of the participating audience grow into trees. The work was displayed on the Google Liquid Galaxy—seven LED screens that were interconnected and synchronized to one panoramic image that surrounds the viewer. If you haven’t visited the exhibition yet, imagine a panoramic scenery that allows real-time control of the Plant a Comment fantasy world. “The idea of creating Plant a Comment was born from a known custom in the art world, inviting artists to discuss their art and include the viewer into the mysteries of the work. So here we decided that we also wanted to involve the viewers and let them conduct the discussion,” Golan explains. “The work of art is the discussion that the audience creates.” In fact, anyone can participate and be part of the work by sending a ‘thought’ by SMS, Twittering or through the website of the display. The moment the message has been sent, it is semantically analyzed by algorithms and in this way the meaning of the sentence is determined. Messages related to love, for example, will grow from a tree whose other branches are considered romantic. A message containing a new topic will sprout a new tree. Every ten messages that reach the fantasy world instigate a process of death and rebirth, in which the two suns set, the world becomes dark and the trees return to the earth until the break of dawn, which brings with it fresh consensus tree buds. The works are attractive and look good, but also raise difficult questions, such as the claim that it is not really art, but rather computer codes and scripts.   “I have encountered such questions,” Tal Golan says reassuringly. “I explain the development of the artistic concept behind Plant a Comment and explain that there are people for whom the experience is real. It is like Marcel Duchamp, who placed a variable in the center of a museum and told us all that art is like an experience, it is what you make of it, it is the concept and not just the variable in the center of the museum. Art was considered something elitist and such works of art make it accessible to the wider audience. People can experience in a direct and unfacilitated manner.”   Presently, the algorithms of Plant a Comment can analyze Hebrew and various Latin languages, but soon it will also be able to analyze Russian and Arabic. This means that the trees in the fantasy world will look like a modern version of the Tower of Babel. In addition to simplified semantic analysis of languages, there is also content analysis that understands slang and knows how to decipher intriguing letter combinations such as “hahaha”.