How technology is shaping the artworld.

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Update on the app progress: ArtGuru will now notify you with push notifications about upcoming exhibitions and news in the artworld. You can download the app here: http://artguru.me/app


Last week I have been discussing the impact of the tech industry on the arts in terms of its curatorial implications. That left me wondering how the tech industry is affecting the artist itself. If you follow us on Twitter (if you don’t than you should now), than you may have seen the article we have shared by Shutterstock. I went on to research digital art and got intrigued how artists include technology into their art making process.

As mentioned in other post before, our lives are revolving around what we can and can’t do with the help of technology. So it was only a matter of time before artists picked up on new technologies in their creating process.

Last year Conrad Bodman curated Digital Revolution at the Barbican in London. Alongside devices I remembered from my childhood, like the original Game Boy and the first Sims, the exhibition showcased new pieces by artists who are actively engaged with digital technologies. One example are The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk. Rather than putting the visitor in the role of the observer, he becomes part of the art. Here, digital technology creates a stage, turning everyone and everything into art. There is also the aspect of originality. No two artworks will ever be the same. As soon as you step from the stage, the art is gone with you.

There are other approaches in cooperating digital data into art. The artists duo Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead are using news and RSS feeds, reshape them and by doing so creating art pieces representing our modern world. In an interview with Deezen, Thomson says something that, I feel, is the most important aspect of working with digital technologies: “ […] we’re just artists that work within the contemporary art context [with] all of the kinds of concerns that we share with artists that might be working sculpturally or might be working with paint, or any kind of material.”

And we might not be aware of this, but we all do create art on a daily basis. Instagram and Snapchat for example are turning us into artists, sharing our work globally (or only for 10 seconds for that matter). A good example is this guy. You can follow him on Twitter too.

Norwegian graphic designer Geir Ove Pedersen and his Snapchat Art

 

 

And he is only one example of the artists we have to watch out for. With the introduction of social media digital artists, or artists in general, can work more independently. We don’t have to rely anymore on curators and the big names in the artworld to tell us what is good and what is bad art. If we don’t like it, we won’t share it.

And this is not only a huge advantage for us, but also for communities who are not fortunate enough to receive any kind of funding or other financial recognition. The Atlanta Blackstar has recently published an article highlighting the importance of digital technology for African Artists. With the introduction of broadband and fiber-optic in many African towns, it is now possible for artists to get their work out there. That does not only make them accessible for their local audience, but can spread their work globally. The art-market, once hugely concentrated on leading art galleries and experts, is now open to a new kind of audience and curating style.

But despite the advantages it is providing us with, there is already the feeling out there that technology will estranges us from ourselves.  If we are stuck, we are looking for an app to help us and our smartphone is entertaining us during the hours of our morning commute. But as Papermag put it: digital technology can be both, a gods end and a soul sucker. The Eyebeam’s 2015 art and technology showcase tried to put the humanized side of technology in the foreground. And if you want to reclaim your privacy, Allison Burtch has just got the right thing for you: a small box that cuts out cellphone frequency, turning every conversation quiet.

But where else can digital lead us? I have shortly mentioned in the last blog post the artist Olafur Eliasson. He has taken what technology is offering us to generate a social impact with his invention called Little Sun. Little Sun is a solar lamp in the shape of a sunflower, creating light where there is no access to other forms of electricity. Its success does heavily rely on donations and is therefore an artwork sponsored by the public.

And there is certainly more out there. Digital becomes a new material for the artists while creating new ways of how the audience can engage with art. And it is only a matter of time until the major galleries and museums will acknowledge this art form and actively support it.

 

 

Why the arts need the tech industry

woman in gallery4

 

ArtGuru has launched. Couldn’t get more exciting? Well, it certainly can. ArtGuru is now available for every iOS device owner in the UK. One click here and you can start collecting: http://artguru.me/app. There are some inspirations on what to look for in older blog posts. So have a scroll through. Use ArtGuru wherever smartphones are allowed. Don’t forget though to leave your selfie-stick in the umbrella stand.

After all the travels around the capital, I thought it was time to step back a bit. Recently I have followed several discussions about the future of the internet, the digital world as we know it. The impulse for this blog entry gave me an article on TechCrunch by Kim Gordon (@KimberlyDGordon). You can find it here: http://snip.ly/ctXn

I am sharing her opinion that the arts, when it came to digital, where always a bit behind. And that the apps, that were already out there were just an addition rather than a new input. That does not mean however that the arts have never tried.  Ever wandered around a museum and seen a rather sporadic distribution of QR-Codes? These somewhat clumsy stickers, wanting you to hover with your smartphone in front of the caption to somehow improve your experience? Or only recently the uprising of museum specific apps. Just last week the The Metropolitan Museum of Art published their first app and if you want to head over to see Magnificent Obsessions at the Barbican, you can download their specific app. Now, I love what they are doing, as I am part of this generation who has their smartphone with them all the time and want to use it as much as possible. But there limits. Internal storage limits to be precise. On the one hand I want to take something away from the museum or gallery I have visited. And by something I don’t mean the ten paged flyer that will end up on the bottom of my bag. But I also don’t want to have five screens full of apps I have only used once and possibly won’t use in the near future. Ideally I want something I can share with people that aren’t with me at the moment, something I can carry with me wherever I am.

Platform is becoming the buzzword of this time. If you live in Plymouth or have followed the arttech news in recent days, you might have come along Artory. Instead of concentrating on one particular museum, they are incorporating the whole town. You can collect artmiles, which you can exchange for other products, for example a free coffee in the café gallery. You’ll be more likely to visit again, and if it is just for that free coffee. In the end, we are all voucher-queens deep inside. Addtitionally museums make some revenue and maybe even attract a crowd that would have not gone there in the first place.  The app also recommends exhibitions and reviews them. One app, all you need. For Plymouth, that is.

But if you don’t live in Plymouth, than you can wave now from the far and swipe through your screens of one-time-used apps. Maybe we shall start the next part a bit more exciting.

Augmented reality! Woo. Or, in easy words: seeing something that isn’t there. (If that happens to you without any technological device though, we can’t help here). I don’t know how often you have been in that situation but have you ever experienced that piercing question in your head while walking through the galleries of London: How would that painting/print look on my wall? Is there an app for that? Yes, there is. Curioos App is the digital insurance that that oversized print actually fits on your wall. And let’s be honest, where else do we need such an app more than in the poky apartments of London? Curioos still relies on QR-codes you have to print out and stick wherever you want the painting. Then scan the code with your smartphone and you can check how it would look like.

We are getting there.

If you are not already distracted by these apps, let’s go on. Another reason why I think the arts need the tech industry: We breathe digital. We do everything online. From dating, to shopping, even our next generation might be a product of dating apps. So why not the arts? An industry that attracts nearly 50 Million visitors each year, half of them from overseas. That is a big audience and probably just as important to address. And there is something else. I have mentioned a generation produced by dating apps. Remember this noise? Then you are probably part of the generation that shares “If you are from 90s you will know this” Buzzfeed lists on your Twitter or Facebook timeline. Admit it. But, many don’t know this sound anymore.Quite frankly, they won’t know what it is like anymore to wait at home in front of the telephone until someone calls you to come out. And they would not know what’s going on in the world without platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and all the other social media outlets. And they are the future museum audience. So how do you want to reach them if you don’t know how to use tech?

We are expecting a technological advanced surrounding, so why don’t we demand it? We have televisions, that react to our voice (or record it 1984 style), our fingers are becoming remote controls. Left and right swipe has never been so powerful. And art shouldn’t be left out. We are already seeing an improvement in the digital art movement itself. Olaf Eliasson recently said in an article on TechCrunch: “I think the next big thing will be an innovation that represents the limitless aspects of digital technologies, something that brings about a seamless, sensorial and spatial interface that still invites participation.”  I know he speaks about artforms themselves, but why not expect the same from the institutions which are connecting us with the arts, the galleries and museums out there?

Art is not boring. A Rembrandt can be as exciting as the new IPhone. (maybe less queing on the opening day) If we want it to be. But the artworld has to react. We might not like every direction digital is taking, but we could turn it into our advantage.

Selfie-Stick or no Selfie-Stick – that is apparently a big question.

I recently came across a commentary by Jonathan Jones on the Guardian website about the banning of selfie sticks in museums in the US. Now, if you follow Jones, you know he is not holding back about his opinion as an art critic, but this time he has touched a pretty sensitive topic: how should one experience art? And more crucial: with what?

lady with selfie

His commentary comes at a time when discussions are reaching boiling point about one device that got suddenly popular after last Christmas: The selfie-stick.

The selfie-stick has divided the nation, like no other invention during the last years. It became the Marmite of our digital world: you either love it or hate it. If you live in London and walked through central in the last couple of weeks, you have seen them: individuals or groups taking selfies in front of London’s attraction with selfie sticks. You can argue that the selfie stick is just another physical add-on to photography enthusiast, just like the extra lenses and tiny tripods. But never have I seen such a discussion on- and offline about a simple plastic stick.

The selfie-stick started out as a novelty. One of these presents you rather hide at home but are still kind of intrigued to use. Sales went rocket high during last Christmas, and out of a sudden, the once so embarrassing selfie sticks are popping up everywhere. And with them the restrictions of using them.

During the last week, leading museums in the USA have banned visitors from using selfie sticks, three weeks after the very successful #Museumselfie day in January. But the digital officer of the Met Museums in New York assured in an interview with Mashable that they are not against selfies, just against selfie sticks. Using your arm is still allowed. And along comes the question: How do we experience art in an age of such fast paced technological developments? And what is right and what is wrong?

Jones writes in his commentary that “There is nothing wrong with the traditional idea of the museum as a place of hushed severity” and that “museums should ban, one by one, all the contemporary intrusions that disrupt the authority of great art, from photography to loudmouthed tour guides.”

But can museums do that? And should they? Taking pictures in museums goes along strict policies. In central Europe, Germany for example, taking pictures in museums is still forbidden. So by allowing visitors to take pictures, have museums over here already opened up to the new developments of our time?

Paintings have become celebrities in their own right. Every major museum is having at least one Blockbuster exhibition every year, trying to draw in the masses with names they are familiar with: Warhol, Rubens, Picasso, Polke. Artists, they feel, everyone needs to see at least once in their life. (Something we could discuss in length all over again).  But how much can we take home with us? The feeling, the emotions, we felt when looking at a print of the Campbell Soup? Or something more tangible? Maybe a photo we took, with or without ourselves on it. Something we can share once we are at home, on social media platforms, with our relatives all over the world: We were here.

And that is when ArtGuru came along. We encourage everyone to take pictures in museums wherever they can and wherever they are allowed to do so. And we understand the social aspect of visiting a museums. Unlike Jones, we feel art is active, alive and does not need ultimate silence to be enjoyed. If the artist listened to Jazz, then why don’t we? If we feel touched by a painting, why not share it? (with or without your own face on it). ArtGuru can make just that possible, while still recognising the artist and title of the picture. And for that you don’t need a selfie-stick. That still works ‘manual’.

We won’t change that.

 

We go online offline

It has been an exciting and interesting past week. But also cold. Mostly cold. We are grateful that art pop-ups are a thing of the summer and that the exhibitions we have visited are inside. In the warmth. Mostly.

So what did happen this week? First of all: The guys from Create-Hub, and mainly Samuel Fry, gave us the opportunity to publish our journey on their online platform. That gave us not only the chance to re-cap on our journey so far but to also explain in detail how ArtGuru actually works. Everything that does not fit into the 140 characters on Twitter. You can find the article here: http://bit.ly/1K322p2 .

Make sure that you have a flick through their other articles as it gives you a pretty good insight in what is happening currently in terms of digital technology in the art world. We will be reflecting on this during the next couple of weeks, showing you what is going on in our art and technology bubble.

If you have read our article you might have had a read-through through our challenges that we had to overcome in order to be where we are now. And I can assure you: we are nearly there. There are some more changes to come in the following weeks. If you are one of our beta-testers you might have noticed the latest update: the offline version. There is no longer the need to hold up your device in front of the painting, risking a numb arm in the process (or successful work-out, we are still in the new-year’s resolution mood). Just point ArtGuru on the picture you like, wait until the red ArtMinions are all over the painting, tap on the screen and the app will take a picture for you. If you are online, the image will be send to our servers, analysed and in a matter of seconds you will have the results, without waiting in front of the picture. We still do encourage you however to take a closer look of the painting anyway. It gives you the chance to discover things you didn’t see before.

If you, for example, are at any point at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, have a look at this painting, called Netherlandish Proverbs from Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559 – Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559 – Pieter Bruegel the Elder

 

Quiet an innocent scene you might think. Well, if you have a minute, start counting the *ahem* backsides you will see in this painting and let us know your answer.* Every painting is worth a closer look.

But back to topic.

If you are in a museum that doesn’t have WiFi and you don’t have any data plan with your phone, ArtGuru now also works offline. Just take a snap of the painting you want to have in your personal gallery and ArtGuru will detect when you are online again. It will send the images to our servers and you will get notified with a little icon on the top of the page that the artist and the title has been recognised. Easy as chips, as they might say here.

If you have an iPod like me, running iOS7 or higher and you were worried until now that you might not be able to use it in galleries, I can assure you the newest update changed it totally. I can now tour museums like the Courtauld Gallery, which doesn’t have Wifi, take pictures of the paintings I like and want to share, and later, in one of the famous green coffee houses with Wifi, I can have a flick through my newest collection.

The whole process is shown below, using van Gogh as an example, as the art world does so often. And even better. Once you took a snapshot it does not mean you will have to live forever with that slightly blurred “this other person pushed me” picture. You can take it again, even after ArtGuru already recognised the painting, and it will automatically replace it if you push the like button. No more share embarrassment. (Though we can’t guarantee that for any other pictures you take).

van gogh

 

 

We will keep you updated on when and where the final version of ArtGuru will be available for everyone. Until then, if you want to have a play around, here is the usual drill: email info@artguru.me and go exploring.

 

 

* We don’t have an answer. We are still counting ourselves. But we were assured by experts that there are more than 100.