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Features / July 29, 2015

Geoffrey Farmer’s Top Tabs

Geoffrey Farmer shares some of his favourite Internet haunts, including auditory experiences, Internet archives, sound maps and other esoteric links.

We asked Vancouver artist Geoffrey Farmer to share some of his favourite online destinations for the first instalment of Top Tabs, a new series featuring the top Internet finds and fancies from artists, curators, dealers and more.


If I were to count the times I got lost in the fingers sprouting fingers of the Internet, I would need as many fingers sprouting fingers to count them. In the past four years I have become interested in the physical archive and its digitization. I enjoy the hands-on process of lifting, sifting and processing the material and then considering how it might be shared and experienced in new ways.

1. Sound Maps

Recently, the British Library launched a campaign to raise £40 million to digitize the country’s sound archive of more than six million recordings. Two million of these are at risk of being lost within the next decade due to physical degradation and the disappearance of the technology to play them. Digitizing the material is only the beginning of the process; it is how the material is organized and presented that creates new forms of experience for people.

2. Spoox Audiozine

Another auditory experience is Spoox, a really beautiful idea for a zine (organized and published by Julia Feyrer and Pietro Sammarco) and a way to create a collection in a kaleidoscopic way. It is an opportunity for a community of recordings to be collected and shared based on more subjective and associative connections.

3. Everything?!

Everything2 started as a database titled everything in 1998. The site is not a democracy, and the degree to which users influence decisions depend on the nature of the decisions and the administrators making them. Some write fiction or poetry, some discuss issues, and some write daily journals, called “daylogs.”

4. Virtual Time Machine

Way Back Machine is a searchable archive of 427 billion web pages and is part of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco–based non-profit digital library located in a former Christian Science Church. It was founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle, an Internet pioneer and advocate for universal access to all knowledge. Inspired by Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Kahle is also collecting one copy of every book published and storing them in modified shipping containers. This is what a Yahoo! search for “Arts” looked like on October 17, 1996.

5. Searchable Life

When I was working on the restoration for my project Leaves of Grass, this word-searchable digitized collection of Life magazines helped us find images by searching for the words that we found on the backside of each image. Also, they have recently released the archive holdings of images that were not previously published.

6. Listening to History

Websites like the Library of Congress’s National Jukebox, Library of Congress’s Collections with Audio, Smithsonian Folkways and UbuWeb: Sound, are windows to vast resources of sound material. Unlike photography, sound recordings contain valuable information on vanishing dialects, oral histories and endangered and now-extinct species. They can be organized and arranged in creative and idiosyncratic ways to create juxtapositions and new connections revealing what I like to think of as the shock of history.

I especially like the 365 days project. As it is written on there: “Some words to describe the material featured would be… Celebrity, Children, Demonstration, Indigenous, Industrial, Outsider, Song-Poem, Spoken, Ventriloquism, and on and on and on. The best thing to do is to simply listen.”


Geoffrey Farmer’s first major mid-career survey, “How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth?,” continues at the Vancouver Art Gallery to September 7. An expanded version of his critically acclaimed Life magazine photo-collage installation, Leaves of Grass, is at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa to October 4. His upcoming exhibitions include the group show “A Brief History of the Future,” which opens at the Louvre Museum, Paris, on September 24, and “Broom Museum,” opening at Steirischer Herbst, Graz, on September 25.