Liberty Battson is inspired by Modernism, in particular Modernist theories around the role of abstraction in the pursuit of ‘truth’ and ‘true art’. In Truth Sleuth, the artist employs statistics as a numerical indicator of ‘the truth’. For almost two years, Battson focused her research on Google and tracked user's most frequently search topics on this globally phenomenal search engine.
Battson tracked the frequency of searched terms and noticed that globally relevant issues, such as ‘xenophobia’, ‘ISIS’ and the ‘refugee crisis’, were searched as frequently as ‘aliens’, ‘fidget spinners’ and ‘Instagram’. The global internet user’s interests constantly oscillate between the socio-political and the as the user chooses what is relevant or search-worthy. For example, in three consecutive months, ‘Zuma’, ‘zombies’ and ‘Zimbabwe’ were the most popular search terms respectively. In the process of tracking which terms get searched from month to month, and recording the differences in the data, Battson aims to reveal something closer to a ‘truth’.
Battson became interested in the accuracy of Google reflecting the burning questions of the individual and the day. Battson produced a video with footage of 100 interviewed people over a period of two days. The participants were asked what they wanted to know the truth about, and their answers were recoded, indexed and assigned a colour by the artist.
Statistics are not only the subject matter of her work, they also govern the abstraction, as the order of colours and lines in the work represent the search patterns on the internet.
The data not only reflects current affairs, trends and politics, but also the human experience of the internet age, where the average person has access to Google. What we choose to search through Google is highly personal, often deeply private, and reflects the minutiae of an individual’s daily life. Perhaps these Google search terms present us with the most ‘truthful’ representations of our society, reflecting our secrets, dreams and desires.
In Truth Sleuth, Battson takes the notion of tracking data represented through stripes a step further. Inspired by Abstract Expressionism premised on the effects of colour on the viewer, and pioneered by artists such as Mark Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly and Barnett Newman, the artist challenges the viewer to stand before her work feel/intuit the represented colours.