Can a sunset be crowd-sourced? Artist Jasper Elings has done just that with “Sharing a Beautiful Sunset” (2009), a 1 minute video that creates one single ocean sunset from hundreds of disparate images found on Google Images. The resulting video, set to a industrial drone soundtrack, is both poetic found art and intriguing conceptual exercise. As found internet artifacts, the source of Elings’ images is a popular tool for art-making lately, but “Sharing a Beautiful Sunset” succeeds in transcending the banality and kitsch of sunset photos into something much more inspiring.

As day turns into night, a series of blue-skied beach scenes gives way to darkening skies and growing shadows. Eventually, the sun comes into view at the top of the frame, slowly moving down the horizon as the video goes on. There are quick flashes of beach runners, relaxing couples and sailboats floating placidly on the water. Things don’t stop after the sun has crossed the horizon line; there are a few brief frames of darkened expanses of sand and flat silhouettes. Then it’s over. Though brief, the video underlines our collective experience of the sunset, a daily event that happens pretty much the same everywhere, and can be captured anywhere.

Claude Monet, “Sunset at Pourville” (1882) (image via kreegermuseum.org)

Instead of showing how one moment can be captured in a thousand different ways, as Monet and the Impressionists did with their series of paintings of the same subject (haystacks, anyone?), Elings’s video shows how the sunset is the same, universalized, transcendent over time and place. This is our subconscious experience of day fading into night, distilled to a point. Other media artists have approached universality with a similar strategy of appropriation, see Christian Marclay’s recent “The Clock” (2010), but Elings’s piece to me is less about appropriation for appropriation’s sake or restructuring experience than highlighting a natural experience we already have. Like Lisa Oppenheim’s “The Sun Is Always Setting Somewhere Else” (2006) (featured in the New Museum’s Free exhibition), “Sharing a Beautiful Sunset” invests in the poetry of the moment, not just its semiotics and aesthetics.

The artist’s website shows a body of work engaged with collecting things online, from a printed book full of broken-image JPEGs to another video compiling found photos where the camera flash creates an overexposed blank spot in the image. The animated blank spot moves in a circle as the video progresses. As the final result of a body of careful collecting, I like Elings’ clip as an artistic object as well as a viral internet video — this one has YouTube potential as well as exhibition potential.

The Latest

Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

2 replies on “How the Sun Sets in Google Images”

    1. Not that she has the actual animations up, but to my eyes the format looks pretty different, as is the presentation (if Vimeo counts as an installation).

Comments are closed.