MIKAELA STEBY STENFALK

COLLECTIVE COLLECTION: SISTINE CHAPEL

 

Collective Collection: Sistine Chapel is a physical re-construction of the original chapel, using crowd-sourced images from social media and photogrammetry.

 

In a time when the experience of the physical world often happens first through images circulating on the Internet, the digital image has significantly gained value. As Hito Steyerl stated in Politics of Post-representation (2014): “Social media makes the shift from representation to participation very clear: people participate in the launch and life span of images, and indeed their life span, spread and potential is defined by participation.” Within this condition the ‘crowd’ determines the force of the image, not the professional.

 

Social media platforms such as Instagram can now be seen an open-source, digital archive of public space; collectively gathered, shared and remembered by the public itself. The visitors have transformed from passive spectators to virtual storytellers, as they upload the narratives of their experiences onto social media.

 

The Sistine Chapel is part of the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the pope, in Vatican City. The chapel is home to many pieces of art including statues, tapestries, and paintings by Michelangelo Buonarroti. One of the most famous attractions is Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings including the Creation of Adam, as well as The Last Judgment behind the altar.

 

Despite the strict prohibition of photography inside the Sistine Chapel, the number of images on Instagram are increasing rapidly. Digital categorising systems such as hashtags—a word or phrase used on social media to identify images on a specific topic—these images can easily be gathered. At the time of the production of Collective Collection: Sistine Chapel, the hashtag #sistinechapel had accumulated 118.615 images. Each day, approximately 30 new images are added to the hashtag.

 

What is the collective memory of the Sistine Chapel? Collective Collection crowd-sources one day worth of images (i.e. 30 images) from Instagram and re-constructs the chapel through photogrammetry. Mimicking a three-dimensional scanner, the public collectively present a fragmented, digital paraphrase of the original space. Simply explained, photogrammetry works better the more images are available: Areas of the chapel which were photographed frequently become clear and detailed, meanwhile areas such as the floor is completely missing.

 

The method works in a forensic way, which allows us to trace back a moment in time and space, through the lens of social media.

 

In the model, one can clearly read the gap between a physical reality and a digital one. And it is not gravity that poses the largest challenge for the digital architecture, but to be forgotten, un-liked and unshared. When images of our physical reality are broadcasted, circulated and exhibited as a whole online, even though they only depict selected parts – what is left behind? And is it important, or are we collectively deciding what’s worth remembering?

 

The sculpture is currently on display in the exhibition Venice Design during the 58th Venice Art Biennale, with support from European Cultural Centre and Täby Kommun. The exhibition is open to the public May 11th - November 24th, 2019. Read more about the exhibition on Designboom.

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