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Ingo Günther, "Worldprocessor," 1988 -

Ingo Günther studied ethnology and cultural anthropology before moving to fine arts in 1978. During his studies Günther travelled through Northern Africa, North and Central America and Asia and has been a correspondent for the United Nations inspecting refugee camps in Cambodia. In 1984 he founded the "Ocean Earth Construction and Development Corporation" which bought raw data from commercial satellite companies and resold the analysed and visualised data to the media. Günther recognised that the information they passed on to the media often reached the public distorted, truncated and unrecognisable from its original meaning. It was this experience that made him realise the potential power and responsibility lying in the process of visualising statistical data which then finally also influenced the development of his art.

Areas: global consciousness, global awareness, transformation/visualisation

Ingo Günther's Worldprocessor: Life Expectancy, Mountains of Debt.


Since 1988 Ingo Günther is working an a collection of modified individual globes that augment statistical data in a variety of ways. He has created more than 300 between 1988 and 2005 each depicting one statistic "truth" interpreted in Günther's way. These globes display statistical data such as "distribution of wealth" or "life expectancy" for different countries, creating a staggering awareness of the different conditions of life all over the globe.

Each of the globes bears its own distinct design and physical appearance, each visualising one selected statistical “truth” for all countries of the world. For example, one of these globes, “Distribution of Wealth,” informs us that the 120 million inhabitants of Japan have as much personal income as the 3.2 billion inhabitants of the 62 poorest nations of the world.

The collection of statistics Günther visualised in his globes include the following: energy consumption, life expectancy, toxic imports and exports, holes in the Ozone layer of the atmosphere, military budgets, political prisoners, population distribution, UN peacekeeping missions, production and distribution of land mines, depleted fishing grounds, balance of trade, US industrial waste streams, nuclear explosions, time zones, ocean pollution, ocean polluters, a relief globe with mountains of debt, money geography, airplane disasters, company wealth vs. country wealth, Moody's1 rating, historical diasporas, car populations, world average temperature, Terrorism, DNA traces, water sheds, prison population.

The mostly brightly coloured and translucent globes are exhibited in a darkened space and are illuminated from inside. As visitors wander from globe to globe they become immersed in the numerical data that has been augmented into suggestive visualisations. The work gathers its strength through its contrasting nature that places completely innocuous data such as watersheds besides disastrous ones such as nuclear explosions. Visitors make their individual discoveries and create meaning from the information they experience on their journey through the installation.
Experiencing the information in this way creates a staggering awareness of different conditions of life all over the world.

As visitors wander from globe to globe they create their own connections and meanings from the information, and become aware of the different relationships such as between Educational Spending and Life Expectancy become apparent.

His globes are a manifestation of visualised knowledge showing the fundamental difference between just knowing - and experiencing; Triggered by the transformation of dry facts from one medium to another into a comprehensive format. An example for the power of visualisation.

Günther describes this continuous work as, “navigational aids for the intellectual and emotional comprehension of our world.” 2 He defines the role of an artist as an “informant” and avoids emotions in this work by presenting the data as cold as possible.3 He combines artistic, journalistic and scientific methods and uses globes as presentation mediums for social, political, economic and military information. Through this application he presents a variety of facts and brings them into a powerful visual format. This format allows the individual visitor to make their own associations on their individual journey from globe to globe, creating potentially subversive connections from the accumulated information provided.

Ingo Günther became internationally known through his participation in several exhibitions at the documenta 8 (1987) and for his project "the refugee republic."

An excellent example of their approach is documented in the "Whole Earth Review" from Spring 1986, p. 62-64, "What have you got to hide?" by Peter Fend and Ingo Günther
A 2002 interview with Ingo Günther by Eriko Nakagawa from SHIFT/Japan:
Fascinating MP3 audio of a presentation of Ingo Günther during Poptech (scroll down)

1 Moody’s rating is a service for investors performing financial research and analysis of the performance of commercial and governmental entities.
2 Neues Museum Weserberg, Bremen (German only), excellent info and interview with the artist.
3 (ibid.) "I want my work to be as cold as possible, trying to avoid emotionality at all costs."

last update: 1/7/02008 0:53

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