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.