Spreadsheet Art Revisited

One of my recurring fascinations is people creating works of art using common productivity software. Office Tools of Expression as a review of this medium that I wrote last year, and Excel Pile offered an overview back in 2004.

Today, the idea of using office software as a means of expression is popping up more and more frequently. Danielle Aubert released 16 Months Worth of Drawing Exercises in Microsoft Excel about two years ago, as a fifty-dollar coffee table book offering exactly what the title suggests. Writer Response Theory presented a terrific overview of the work at the time, as well as an interview with Aubert:

I started making Excel drawings, never spending more than 30-40 minutes on each one, and I tried not to get hung up on whether I was making non-representational versus representational versus abstract versus systems versus typographic drawings. I just made drawings about anything that I thought might be pleasing in some general way. After a while I started to copy one day’s drawing into a spreadsheet for the next day’s drawing because I found that that way the drawings could build on themselves and maybe become a bit more complex. But really my main objective when I began making them was to experiment with making ’small art’ – or the equivalent of my friend’s small poems – in Excel.

And then, for the holidays this year, the Google Docs team has gotten into the game. They’ve released “Collaborative Spreadsheet Art”, a winter-themed piece created by four artists working simultaneously in the web-based spreadsheet app. The introductory movie is only a minute long.

The Google Docs holiday site offers more insights into the creation of the work, including a look behind the scenes. Now I’m just waiting for the various web-based art programs to make performance videos of people using their tools to do calculations and analyze data.

If you’re really taken with this stuff, my earlier post gathers up a list of interesting links about office app art.