The exhibit From Aaaaa! to ZZZap! opened last week with a hit of the start button. Michael Mandiberg wrote a script to upload the Wikipedia corpus to print-on-demand service Lulu over the course of a couple of weeks. The work comes from his larger project Print Wikipedia.
Print Wikipedia is a both a utilitarian visualization of the largest accumulation of human knowledge and a poetic gesture towards the futility of the scale of big data. Mandiberg has written software that parses the entirety of the English-language Wikipedia database and programmatically lays out thousands of volumes, complete with covers, and then uploads them for print-on-demand. Built on what is likely the largest appropriation ever made, it is also a work of found poetry that draws attention to the sheer size of the encyclopedia’s content and the impossibility of rendering Wikipedia as a material object in fixed form: Once a volume is printed it is already out of date.
Hello, World Book Encyclopedia and Microsoft Encarta.