Rubbing the Internet Archive

Katie Herzog
Rubbing the Internet Archive
September 9 – October 14, 2017
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 9th, 6-8pm


“There is no way to perform architecture in a book. Words and drawings can only produce paper space, not the experience of real space. By definition, paper space is imaginary: it is an image”

– Bernard Tschumi


KLOWDEN MANN is proud to present Los Angeles-based artist Katie Herzog’s second solo exhibition at the gallery, Rubbing the Internet Archive. The exhibition will be on view from September 9th through October 14th, with an opening reception on September 9th from 6-8pm.

Rubbing the Internet Archive consists of a 10 foot high by 84 foot wide rubbing of the exterior of the Internet Archive building in San Francisco that Herzog made using rubbing wax on non-fusible interfacing. Created in pieces on-site in San Francisco’s Richmond district in July of 2017, the drawing will be adhered to the walls of the gallery’s main exhibition space, allowing the to-scale exterior of the Internet Archive to form the interior built-environment of the gallery.

The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library founded by Brewster Kahle in 1996 with the stated mission of “Universal Access to All Knowledge”. The archive provides free public access to extensive collections of digitized materials including websites (a large portion of which are no longer live), public-domain books, music, software applications, television, and movies. Currently housing over 30 petabytes of data in one copy of the full archive, the Internet Archive has partial backup sites in locations such as Canada, Egypt and the Netherlands.

By rubbing rather than drawing the exterior of the archive building, Herzog has created a two-dimensional physical manifestation of the world’s most extensive archive of digital information, and done so in a way that bodily mimics the digital “web crawling” that has gathered much of the information in that archive. Here, Herzog is looking at the digital divide: as individuals and as a society, what is our physical access points to the digital dissemination of knowledge? If this knowledge represents power, and machines are necessary in order to access it, then for whom and how is that access achieved?

Through the immersive nature of the piece, as well as the insistence on the physical representation of the building itself, Herzog also addresses our societal tendency to view the Internet and digital information as disembodied. While the Archive itself describes the Internet as an “ephemeral medium”, it also details the many mechanisms of material storage necessary to hold its expansive data. This material storage and its backups are also necessary to keep the societal record safe from the potential threats of war, politics, and fire that destroyed many corporeal archives past—including the Library of Alexandria whose Greek columns inspired the decision to house the Archive in the former Christian Science church with a similar facade.

The building itself is important to Herzog because she is interested in asking questions about the user/individual’s aesthetic experiences associated with digital libraries. How does the dissemination of knowledge change based on our feelings about the spaces in which we access data? How does it change based on the branding identities of our devices, or the aestheticized presentation of the information?

Alongside the large-scale rubbing that forms the exhibition, Herzog created a series of rubbing wax drawings that feature the “1923” found on the Internet Archive’s exterior. The number signifies the year the building was constructed, but is also a notable date in the history of the public domain. 1923 is the year before which all works in the U.S. have expired into the public domain—a date that accordingly presents another boundary between private and public knowledge, and the way in which our societal record continues to rest along lines drawn by commodity.

Katie Herzog’s work consistently investigates the politics and power structures of knowledge economies. Through various material and formal applications, she looks at the physical, electronic, and psychological interface between understanding of self, information authority, and hierarchies in which information is accessed and disseminated.