Tonight, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves at the Denny Gallery on the Lower East Side will be crammed with Wikipedia entries you can thumb through, bound into identical, bright-white volumes. It's all part of Brooklyn artist Michael Mandiberg's massive project, "Print Wikipedia."
Mandiberg is three years deep in the project, which, the NY Times reports, has generated 7,600 volumes so far. He told the paper, “When I started, I wondered, ‘What if I took this new thing [the internet?] and made it into that old thing?’” To do so, Mandiberg wrote software that converts Wikipedia entries into a dictionary-like layout. These files are then uploaded to Lulu.com, a website that prints the pages on demand.
Of course, the act of taking a constantly-updating, ever-expanding resource and turning it into an immutable, dust-collecting, space-taking-up collection is fundamentally ridiculous. For context, the Times confirmed that, as of two days ago, the site has been edited 7.5 million times and counting since April, when Mandiberg started eternalizing entries in print.
But fundamental ridiculousness seems to be, at least partially, the point. An introduction to From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!, Denny Gallery's presentation of Mandiberg's project, states it's "a poetic gesture towards the futility of the scale of big data." Emphasis on the futility.
Courtesy Michael Mandiberg and Denny Gallery, NYC
Tonight at 6:00, Mandiberg will ceremoniously launch into an 11-gigabyte upload of compressed Wikipedia data, using a laptop set up in the gallery. The upload is set to take two weeks—the duration of the exhibition. Perhaps to emphasize the sheer drudgery of the endeavor, the gallery will stay open 24-hours through the weekend.
And although Wikipedia is free, it's physical manifestation isn't. Those interested in purchasing a volume at Denny Gallery should be warned—it will set you back $68.
The Denny Gallery is located at 261 Broome Street, near Orchard Street, on the Lower East Side. The (free!) opening reception is from 6:00 to 8:00 tonight, but you can visit any time, 24/7, through the weekend, and during normal business hours through July 2nd.