With a cool four feet between yourself and the frame, the act of staring at a limp, static canvas on a wall is an experience that may quickly become extinct. Thanks to an influx of crazily creative digital innovations and platforms, how we make art is changing – and how we display it is too.
From cat GIFs to virtual Oculus Rift worlds, the Internet has become a flourishing center for art in all of its forms. However, most of our options for taking in and viewing these pieces are confined to the space between our screens. A computer designed to bring digital art into our homes, E01 by Electric Objects hopes to provide a new medium for digital artists by “unleashing” the art stuck in our 17” boxes. The framed screen blends in with the rest of your physical art, except that you can change the artwork as often as you want right from the accompanying app.
Similar in function to E01, FRAMED claims to be the “first canvas for the art of our generation.” FRAMED goes a step further, with built-in sensors that let artists create reactive works that evolve with motion, sound, and other inputs. There’s also a heavily social slant to FRAMED’s site, which lets users connect with artists and join discussions, as well as share their own creations. By framing digital media, these gadgets show that it’s no longer a requirement for a piece of art to physically exist in space.
And it’s not just homeowners who are taking note – the art world is joining the movement, too. Digital art adds an extra layer of interactivity that its physical counterpart does not, engaging with visitors and tourists in ways never before possible. For the Sochi Winter Olympics, designer Asif Khan invited visitors to scan their faces, and recreated them on a giant building facade – like a “Mount Rushmore of the digital age.” The XPO Gallery in Paris used wifi routers to “display” an exhibit’s art, where each piece was assigned to a wifi router and network. Visitors could only access the pieces by connecting via their mobile devices, a move that forces viewers to engage and ingrain themselves into the exhibit itself.
On the flip side, new technologies like the iBeacon are helping museums bring their existing exhibits and infrastructure into the digital age. The Rubens House in Antwerp has iBeacon sensors positioned in almost every corner. The accompanying app pushes interactions to visitors like behind-the-scenes stories for the different paintings, and also offers x-ray scans of the art, trivia questions, and a GPS map of the entire building. While iBeacons have generally been used by pharmacy chains and big-box retailers, they have the power to seriously enhance and personalize the art viewing experience.
Even auction houses have begun to support digital work, like Phillips who collaborated with Tumblr to launch the digital art exhibition and auction Paddles On! Dedicated solely to masterpieces ranging from websites to animations, the auction shows the inherent value underlying digital art – elevating it to more than just files on our hard drives. While the experience of putting pencil to paper is one that digital won’t be able to replicate, digital art opens up new creative avenues for artists and fans alike.