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Serendipity Searcher / Builder Atlas

The Art of Associative Searching

Serendipity Searcher / Builder Atlas

The Art of Associative Searching


2021 – ongoing


Thomas Hügin (DE)
Maja Kolar (HR)
Yuxi Liu (CN)
Boris Smeenk (NL)
Jon Stam (NL)


Design Research
Critical Practice
Culture and Communication
Art and Curating
Media and Communications
Library Science
Teaching and Education


Serendipity Searcher (Video on Vimeo)
nn app (Video on YouTube)


The project explores experimental algorithmic ways to produce and display image clusters in order to inspire new human interpretation within digital collections. The inspiration comes from Aby Warburg’s Bilderatlas Mnemosyne, a historical attempt to map and gain insights of the “afterlife of antiquity” through the juxtaposition and spatial order of symbolic images.

The Lab project, Builder Atlas, tackles the topic of searching (digital) collections by reflecting search processes and creatively experimenting with the tools, experience, and materiality through which archival databases can be queried and displayed. Our interest lies in examining the potential of visual research, performed by both humans and machines, as a means to challenge the logic of categorization and the dominance of semantic-driven methods of searching. The goal is to test, reflect, and tweak the peculiar ways humans and machines can collaboratively compose spatial arrangements of collection items in the form of visual atlases, and how these new juxtapositions can inform new meanings. 

BIO26  26th Biennial of Design „Common Knowledge – Design in Times of the Information Crisis” 14.11.2019.–9.2.2020., Slovenia
BIO26 Challenge, BIO26 Video

The Kupferstich-Kabinett Dresden in dialogue with the Kunstgewerbemuseum 19.8.–2.11.2020, Germany

Ars Electronica, Ars Electronica .ART Gallery, 9.9.–1.10.2020.

19th Dutch Design Week 2020, online festival, 17.–25.10.2020, The New Intimacy