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Google Data Artist Aaron Koblin and Chris Milk Launch "This Exquisite Forest"

By Whitney Phaneuf , written on July 19, 2012

From The News Desk

Nowhere are the boundaries of contemporary art being pushed more than on the Web, and two of its visionaries, Google’s resident data artist Aaron Koblin and director Chris Milk, are back with a new project, This Exquisite Forest.

This Exquisite Forest is an art-meets-data visualization-meets-crowdsourcing experiment. Inspired by a Surrealist artistic movement called The Exquisite Corpse, in which a collection of words or images is assembled without narrative constraints, Koblin and Milk envision a forest of collaborative storytelling driven by short animations, writing, and music.

"Trees" in the Forest are grown from "seeds" created by leading contemporary artists, including Miroslaw Balka and Olafur Eliasson. Using a web-based drawing tool, contributors add short animations that become the leaves and branches of each tree. A Web Audio API also allows for the addition of music. The stories grow into a forest and, in what the artists call "a natural selection process," visitors to the site will help select the strongest contributed elements and ensure they survive.

Google’s Creative Lab and London's Tate Modern partnered to develop This Exquisite Forest, which is powered by HTML5, JavaScript, and works best in Google Chrome. The Tate Modern's curators selected the seven seed artists and will display the forest in an interactive installation, opening July 23.

"We're interested in figuring out ways to use technology to tell stories in a way that we haven't told them before," says Milk.

Milk, primarily known for creating music videos for Kanye West and Arcade Fire, trained at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He said the tech community has greatly influenced his work when I met him in March at Intel's Creators Project, where he premiered his video installation The Treachery of Sanctuary.

If Koblin and Milk's previous collaborations Wilderness Downtown and The Johnny Cash Project are any indication, This Exquisite Forest is going to be worth watching grow.