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Alibabaum Sortium & Buyers' Desires




In the press

Installation for Van Abbe Museum during Geo-Design

photos by Mathilde Lemaire

The Alibaba and Aliexpress search bars are the doors to the thousands items sold, by factories and resellers, to a worldwide customer network. Algorithms control when, how many times and in which order the searched products — i.e. dress, belt, suitcase, hat — appear on a visitor’s screen. By looking at Alibaba and Aliexpress like naturalists, Arvid&Marie approached the two digital platforms like ecosystems. They analysed several algorithms, narrowing in on the sorting algorithm and renaming it: Alibabaum Sortium.

photos by Mathilde Lemaire

In the process of exploring the power of the Alibaba recommendation algorithm, Arvid&Marie were drawn to specific products whose physical existence is a source of doubt: it is unclear whether they occur as purchasable items or if their role is to entertain customers and keep them browsing through Alibaba’s interface. Buyer’s Desires are a collection of object simulations, in paper, of what Alibaba claims are its most desired products. While looking at this collection of Alibaba artefacts, the algorithm impersonated narrates its way of life. The other side of the reconstructed objects is printed with the metadata that writes their existence into the digital world, teaching us about Alibaba’s understanding of objects.

Read more about Alibabaum Sortium and Buyers' Desires in the press:


2018 The Design Writer, “Review: GEO-DESIGN – Alibaba exhibition”
2018 DAMN° November/December 2018 n°71


This project has been made possible by Geo-Design, Peter van Ede and Océ/Canon, voice actor Vincent Thornhill and Mathilde Lemaire.

© 2015-2019 Arvid Jense and Marie Caye

, Peter van Ede and Océ/Canon, voice actor Vincent Thornhill and Mathilde Lemaire.