project: TEXTPORTRAIT

1770 days Internet Art Project “TEXT PORTRAIT“ [ German Version ]

On August 22nd, 2006 the first and to this day only art project started which exclusively deals with the worldwide global networking, the internet and the therewith connected medial elements.

Visual Display
Text portrait as visual display is inseparably assembled out of text (internet) and photos and is therewith bound to a readable portrait. The typeface white on black relates to the DOS input mode (visually). That way, in 2002 one of the first text portraits was created out of the text: Wikipedia „David Beckham“ and his portrait photo by Ralph Ueltzhoeffer.

DOS input mode


Wikipedia: David Beckham standard text

Public space
As the internet was in a new process of development regarding search functions at that time (2002/2003), exclusively digital presentation in the net was not imaginable. That is why the first text portraits were exhibited location-dependant on billboards (Plakatinstallation Mannheim) and so at least the public character of the art work could be met.

Later, exhibitions at historical locations, as Ground Zero, New York as well as in showcases of cafés, subway stations etc., followed. “There is no location where art could not be presented”
(Ralph Ueltzhoeffer 2008).

Search engine GOOGLE
Only when the artist Laura Maria May dealt with the subject of internet search functions (Google-Search-Algorithm) in 2004-2005, art project sites could be taken into consideration with help of internet experts regarding search engine positioning (page-views).

Patrick Bernau from F.A.Z. writes: (abridgement)

“Everyone wants to outflank Google”
„The first impression of a person is nowadays only rarely received face to face. Ten years after Google was founded it has become normal that the name of new friends or business associates are googled first, even before you speak to someone on the phone or meet the person face to face. It is about time that I check to see what Google has to say about me […]“

Internet information out of truth and lies
One of the major elements of this art project predicts the fact, that no other faulty product is demonstrable highly frequented as the internet as absolute information medium. That is why the visually created text portraits which are analogue to the internet content within the project are created with partly faulty information which suits the arty thought totally.

Albrecht Ude from DIE ZEIT, January 31st, 2008 No. 06 describes this phenomenon as follows: (abridgement)

„The internet is a gift for democracy. Nowhere else are there less financial, technical and political hurdles to express your opinion. On the other side the quality controls do not apply as customary in print media. Oftentimes information is not proof-read and no editorial office views the material, the possibility of anonymity brings forward misuse. However, too many internet users still take everything they read on their browser window at face value [...]“

Goal of the text portrait work in the internet
Is there a possibility to apply an artistic thought to a global media as the internet is with all its different facets and therewith loosen the bonds of being just a simple information or sales media? Can the internet itself become art by representing itself?

The internet is most definitely a reflection of our society and would therefore be predestined to nourish the artistic thoughts. Subject to sought and found information, the global memory will take over more space in the future and will thereby change our lives.

FOCUS author Andrea Koenig: “Global view of humans“ (abridgement)
„There is a great demand for the search for people in the internet: A US market research institution found out that surfers type in 1.5 mil. requests in the internet every minute. The market leader Google registered more than 37 milliards search commands in August 2008. Every third search refers to people, the operators of say. […]“

Who am I – What am I
Whoever searches for information in the internet has maybe already noticed the confusing and hard to understand search functions of the internet. Whatever has to be found will be found. But is it really what I was looking for? And does the picture really correspond to the text…? What is my name doing there…?

TEXTPORTRAIT… Text Portrait… an internet art project by Laura Maria May and Ralph Ueltzhoeffer


March 2009


Collection of press releases - 2005/06/07/08


Visible (from A.K. Simmel)

Visible – aren’t we exposed to being portrayed every day? In subways, on public locations, train stations and at public and private facilities…

We are being portrayed more often. Almost invisible we are being listed, ranked, categorized and evaluated. The portrait itself however, is hardly ever seen! Haven’t we always tried to be honest to one another?
Do we feel monitored? It is useful for our safety. We accept some things, not everything, but maybe we do accept a lot of things …who are “we” and who are the others?

The initiators of text portrait – the project:
The visual display, by Ralph Ueltzhoeffer, the search programs as well as the technical realization in the internet, by Laura May and Georg Wegener.

A.K. Simmel 2006

Art projects in the public area

The art project text portrait deals with the multi liberal handling of personal data. Personal data (photos, biographies, text etc.) was partly found fully automated and was at that time exposed to anyone!
The art project text portrait combines photos and text to a so called „TEXT PORTRAIT“.
The internet art project text portrait is a non-profit-project, meaning, the project does not have any commercial or marketing strategies. (2005)

Text portrait - the project.

Why am I being portrayed? What is this project about? Who or what is behind it? The project text portrait is an internet art project, that with the help of partly automated search programs, looks for biographies of public characters (Public Person) to list, rank, categorize and evaluate in order to create the visual portrait. The choice of the portrayed person is made partly by Google keywords-search, meaning, who is searched for in a specific timeline in a category.

Text portrait – a symbiosis out of text and photo, biography and portrait (PHOTO).

A portrait is a painting, a photo, a sculpture or another artistic display of a person. The intension of a portrait is, next to the display of the physical similarity, is also to express the character, respectively the personality of the portrayed person.

If you now extend the basic requirements of a portrait by the name, the biography, the finger print, an iris scan or the DNA, the portrayed person becomes more and more recognized without a doubt among a multitude of people. Therefore, the society can easily respond the needs of an individual.
A text portrait can start off with the NAME, the BIOGRAPHY or the PHOTO. Only the combination (symbiosis) of the single components form it to a text portrait.

Text portrait – what is that?

A text portrait is a version of lettering and photo of a usual portrait, with the difference, that the text (e.g. biography) and the photo (e.g. passport picture) create an inseparable symbiosis. The fusion of two visually different components to a readable portrait – the text portrait.




Can the Internet Make a More Open Government?
By Saul Hansell

The Obama presidential campaign made groundbreaking use of social networking sites and other tools to organize its supporters. President Obama has promised to use similar technology to bring citizens into government. As in so many other areas, turning promise to policy may well be more difficult than it sounded on the campaign trail.

That’s the conclusion of Peter Swire, who was a lawyer for the new media team of the Obama transition leading up to Inauguration Day. He had also worked as the top privacy officer for the Clinton administration. He has now returned to his job as a law professor at Ohio State University and as a fellow with the Center for American Progress. He published a paper Monday on the early use of Web 2.0 techniques by the administration. (The paper will be on the Web later in the day here.)

The administration, at least in the early days, has struggled to replicate the responsiveness of the campaign, he argued. The paper cites a survey of new media experts by the National Journal that gave the administration’s Web 2.0 efforts a grade of C+.

Mr. Swire writes that the scope of the problem became clear in the transition, which was much less responsive to comments and questions than the campaign:

The campaign learned how to cope with a motivated group of just over 10 million individuals. After Election Day, the transition and later the administration had to respond to the concerns of over 300 million Americans, as well as interested persons in other countries.

More important, campaigns trade in aspirational generalities. The government, Mr. Swire writes, defines the framework of rules that affect so many people. Moreover, even vague foreign policy statements are parsed for nuance. The upshot is that many government pronouncements need to be cleared by policy makers, slowing down the process of responding to queries.

The consequences, Mr. Swire writes, in an extreme but not entirely impossible example, could well be dire:

Now suppose a White House blogger — or someone else answering comments on — can’t get a hold of the North Korea expert and simply goes with his or her best judgment about what to say. During the campaign, that could backfire if the other candidate gets a good talking point. But in government, the consequences can be much more serious: What if North Korea didn’t like the White House comment and decided to launch a missile attack on a neighboring country?

Mr. Swire lists some ways that the Obama administration has gotten around some of these constraints so far. It has extensively used Web video to communicate. Video has an immediacy, he writes, but it still essentially one-way communication.

A final approach Mr. Swire cites is simply to sample comments randomly. President Obama is said to receive a purple folder each night with 10 letters he has received, by mail, fax or e-mail.

I’m not sure that most people who send a letter to the president expect he will read it personally. But I do know that the campaign promise for open and interactive government is a difficult one to keep. And the promises keep coming. Citizens are invited to find and report abuse in the stimulus program using its Web site.

Mr. Swire, by the way, also is releasing two more papers Monday: One is on the legal issues faced by government agencies that want to use social networking tools. The other looks specifically at the challenges for government in using free software and Internet services.

What are some of the other ways the White House can be more responsive to more people?


Article | 06/14/2009

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  more... Ralph Ueltzhoeffer | Projekt TEXT PORTRAIT - Ralph Ueltzhoeffer - Textportrait - Kunst-Ausstellung / Kunstprojekt Textportrait Ralph Ueltzhoeffer & Laura May.