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How Many Trees Does It Take to Fill a Mexican Art Space With Printed Websites?

Kenneth Goldsmith, the Museum of Modern Art's poet laureate, wants to print out the entire internet and put it on display in Mexico City's LABOR space. How many trees will have to die for this art? By my count, 56,000.
Ben Richmond
Κείμενο Ben Richmond

Everyone’s always saying, “follow your dreams,” even though lots of people dream of terrible things. In a way, then, it’s encouraging to see people come out to plead with Kenneth Goldsmith not to follow his latest dream. Citing the environmental impact of such an endeavor, there’s a petition going around titled, politely enough, “Please don’t print the internet.”

See, if you haven’t already heard, Goldsmith, the Museum of Modern Art’s first poet laureate, wants to print out the entire internet and put it on display in a warehouse/gallery space in Mexico City, as a piece in homage to Aaron Swartz.


Rather than printing it all on his own, Goldsmith wants everyone to print some internet—news articles, personal blogs, emails, whatever—and mail it down to Mexico City’s LABOR space, where it will be on display from July 26 until the end of August.

If your first thought was, “That sounds like a huge waste of paper and ink; there’s no way this is a good idea,” you’re not alone. Even fellow avant-garde poets and artists are saying this is a bad idea on Twitter, so you can imagine what they’re saying over at the Huffington Post.

Tech Hive calculated what it would take to print the internet’s 4.6 billion pages, based on the shaky assumption that each webpage fits on one page of regular A4 paper, and concluded that a paper copy of the Internet would take up 29,374 cubic meters. In 2009, Cartridge Saver estimated that the Internet in book-form would weigh 1.2 billion pounds and be over 10,000 feet tall.

Goldsmith’s space at LABOR is only a tenth of the room needed to house a copy of every webpage, and that’s before you add in the 144 billion emails sent every day, which are also invited. It’s easy to understand why he doesn’t have any illusions that the whole internet will be in the warehouse, telling Yahoo that even a small portion of the printed Web would “overwhelm any space.”

Read the rest over at