Collected Works 2008-2016 is a printed hardback cover book published [by the author] Bruno Ministro. It contains 720 pages of the author’s Google personal search history and its visual aesthetics deliberately emulates traditional, encyclopaedic, pre-digital editions.
This work engages with, on the one hand, with the definition of literature as well as its themes, strategies and techniques. By framing Google’s records of Ministro´s search history on the web with the formal aspects of a book, Collected Works engages with the field of literature and asks questions – is this literature? What is literature? Can a work of literature involve no writing as we understand it? These questions resonate with experimental and avant-garde art, and literary movements such as Dada, Conceptual Art, OULIPO, Fluxus, Concretism because they invite to a certain dilution of the very definition of the field itself and try to push its boundaries. This is attained by experimenting with unexpected methods and themes of creation often ‘borrowed’ from other sites of knowledge and human practice. Following this, much like Duchamp’s The Fountain in contemporary arts, or Kenneth Goldsmith’s published books, or Sherrie Levine’s photography, Ministro’s anthology questions the artistic value of appropriation, reconfiguration and recontextualization – how should we engage, both as consumers and critics, with art and literature work that doesn’t claim originality in the sense of uniqueness and origin of something completely new? Adding to these questions, Collected Works embodies a parody on the seriousness of a certain formal and aesthetic choice associated with canonical and traditional literature – Collected Works is a hardcover, heavy and big book and its title is engraved in a golden, sans serif, solid font.
On the other hand, the work engages with the category of digital literature. The content itself is digital-environment specific – stored records of Web searches – being it impossible for Collected Works to exist before the widespread of internet infrastructure and the digital encoding of information. At the same time, it is a printed, bookbound work. Can digital literature include material properties such as these? How far can we go? This work proposes at least one extension - that we add to the widespread notion of “the affordances of the computer” defining digital literature, the affordances of digital society and culture. Collected Works is deeply engaged with themes and language that are specific of digital society, culture, life. By reclaiming his personal Web searches Bruno Ministro asks about the ownership of our digital trace (who owns His Web history? Him or Google?). By publishing it he emphasizes the first question and adds the one about privacy and its commodification (Who can share with others our personal Web history? Us or Google? Why can this information be selled to other corporations?). In other words, by using personal web information, already included in a stream of Big Data, selled and used to profile users habits, tastes and behaviours , this work takes part on the critic of digital culture and digital ubiquitiousness provided by the constant sharing of information and transformation into data. Can we label Collected Works as digital literature because it questions digital society and culture?