ONE by ONE WEDNESDAYS’ is a weekly series wherein one of our Blacklist staffers selects a cultural contributor of their choice and provides an introduction to that person. These are the people who get us excited, inspire our pitches, and interrupt our days with something beautiful.

This week’s One By One, brought to you by Blacklist EP Andrew Linsk, highlights multimedia artist Jonathan Harris. Primarily working online, Harris’ art and design seeks to understand and re-interpret the ways we connect with each other. The two projects we’ll focus on here are ‘Sputnik Observatory’ and ‘We Feel Fine’, both of which explore networks, each in a unique and original way. Through his manipulation of the internet as a medium, Harris is able to bridge a gap and make work that is, almost paradoxically, technologically human.

Spread from ‘We Feel Fine’.

Screengrab from ‘The Sputnik Observatory’ website.

An incredibly ambitious project, The Sputnik Observatory bills itself as ‘…a New York not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to the study of contemporary culture‘. The site itself functions like a meta-internet in that a viewer can jump from interview to interview based on smaller connection points and links. As you move between content, Sputnik Observatory will keep a log of your ‘path’ at the bottom of the screen. As your path becomes longer, you can single out specific pieces and share them externally with the myriad other websites linked to SO. The beautiful thing about this model is that it exposes the similarities and overlaps in seemingly disparate schools of thought, all of which fosters collaboration and more open dialogue.

Initial spread from ‘We Feel Fine’ giving a summary of the project.

Another of Harris’ works, ‘We Feel Fine’, shares similarities with ‘The Sputnik Observatory’ but manifests in a different (and somewhat analog) form, a book. A vigorous, infographic heavy document, ‘We Feel Fine’ utilizes a whopping 12 million statements on human feelings culled from personal blogs. The data is collated and organized into features on a variety of topics like New York City and which parts of the United States are feeling happy, sad, fat, or otherwise. The book succeeds in highlighting just how huge online existence is in a format that makes the hugeness very tangible.

Spread from ‘We Feel Fine’.

Overall, Harris’ work is incredibly important because of his forward thinking integration of network technology and the internet into his landscape of art and design. By deconstructing a forum where one can remain blissfully anonymous, Harris exposes trends, topics, and feelings in a world that has been and is continuously re-defining the way we speak.

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