Nov 28, 2011

TREND | Are Apps Art?

Jo Dunford, Untitled, Instagram, 2011

Technology is what drives the world today. Everywhere you look someone is on their Smartphone texting, emailing, surfing the internet, or taking pictures. In this aspect many of the Smartphone applications cover all areas of the spectrum. Some most popular today would be photo sharing apps that let you take pictures or make pictures and share them with your followers. The question is, “Is this art?” The images taken with these apps, for instance Instagram, Hipstamatic, and Mixel, create beautiful creations. But are they made through a machine to be art or since the human has made their own composition, does it reflect being an art piece?
Steph Thomson, Beverly Hills, US: Coffee, Hipstamatic, 2011
Instagram , the runner-up for “Best Mobile App” at the 2010 TechCrunch Crunchies, was introduced publicly in Apple’s App Store on October 6th, 2010. The App was a hit that many Smartphone owners adapted to quickly. Instagram allows you to choose an existing photo or take a photo and manipulate it with 16 different filters. The images produced can sometimes be breath-taking. MyWorldShared is a gallery show that opened October 22nd in London. The gallery exhibits pictures from various Instagram users that have taken stunning photos to be exhibited. Tom Lawton, product designer and inventor explains, "My World Shared captures the concept of Instagram to record in images our world around us, our lives, our outlook, our views, and share that view with the rest of the world. It is an individual view, but one that others can relate to, like postcards from a friend." Is this some kind of symbol of today's celebration of mediocre, hasty, frivolously amateur art? Not if it's curated well. Many people love looking at these images to see what their friends have created and to be honest I wouldn’t mind viewing a gallery full of Instagram inspired works. The people who have created these works believe they are great compositions and live up to the bar, “Is this art?” In comparison, the Orange Dot Gallery in London is exhibiting works by Hipstamatic, which is also an app that allows you to enhance a photo and share it with your friends. The showcase is exhibiting 157 prints. The number of prints is symbolic because it’s the same as the number of original analog Hipstamatic cameras produced. According to the Orange Dot blog it is, “A homage to both the history and future of Hipstamatics, the exhibition will showcase some of the best works featured on the site to date, from both submitted snaps from around the globe and their own specially sourced and exclusive work.”

Khol Vinh, Untitled, Mixel, 2011 
Khoi Vinh created Mixel an App that allows you to make, share, and remix collages in a whole new way. The designer can work with images taken or existing and produce a collage to then share with their friends and in return they can remix your collage. Khoi Vinh says,
We started out thinking of painting and drawing, and what we found was that drawing a line is very personal and people find it very personally risky, they feel like, I’m being judged on whether or not I can draw a circle, and nobody can draw a circle, right? So everyone feels insecure about it. We had to create a way for them to express themselves visually without making them undertake the scary task of rendering something, so that’s why there’s no painting or drawing tools in here…We also have no text tool. A lot of designers ask for that. But what we saw was that when you’re able to communicate with typing in text, then people stop thinking in a visual mode and they start thinking in a captioning mode. Like, they get a picture and they come up with something funny to enhance that picture. We want to ignite the circuits in your brain that center-around visual creativity and visual communication, so we left out text tools.
This App is only to evoke the visual aspect of looking at an artwork. It would, I believe, broaden the spectrum of artistic in originally non-artistic people. People would find that deep down they too could create art.

There is a thin line between what is art and what is not. We have always heard the famous phrase, “Art is in the eye of the beholder.” And to an extent I believe this is true. What we create and share with others is our own work of art, maybe with the help of technology, but it is still our own creation. On the other hand, if Smartphone applications make you an artist with their many Apps, then everyone can become an artist without understanding the making and creation of art. The Mattress Factory Art Museum has teamed up with Deeplocal to create a tongue-in-cheek iPhone App where you can submit a photo and in good humor they share whether or not your image is art called, "Is This Art?" The boundaries of art are being prodded everywhere.

-Jennifer Perry


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  2. I must say, I never imagined iPhone photos from instagram to be gallery worthy, but your post was very interesting. Looking at some of the images people create with these apps, the products can be very breath taking, but it's hard to classify them as art...mostly because it is so available and effortless to anyone. However, I think it still requires some sense of artistic insight to make those images really catch someone's eye.
    As a communication design major, the conversation came up that pretty much anyone can learn to use Photoshop today, so does that make them designers? I think not, because it's all a matter of how you use the product. Just like with smartphones, if you have absolutely no idea about composition, light, etc, then it will definitely show in your snapshot.

    -Julie Jakubek

  3. I find it to be interesting that people can find and use everyday item such as the iphone to create works of art. It never cease to amuse me that those who create art can choose whatever they want as a medium.

    -Eddie Richmond

  4. This is a great post to read after our lecture today on "The Everyday", considering pictures taken by Apps like Instagram are usually of people's everyday life, sharing with the world their typically ordinary scenes.
    Singling out The Everyday, such as the image of the coffee cup, simply for the reason that it is Everyday, can be an intentional tactic that the artist uses - and I believe as is the case with some App users. The person that took the picture of the coffee cup did not think that it was in itself remarkable enough to share with their facebook friends, but saw in the moment the potential for an interesting snapshot. Art? I think so.
    The first image, I find quite stunning. The quality of the image, simply because it is taken on a phone, is not up to standards of what most consider "gallery worthy", but if I saw it in the pages of Robert Frank's, "The Americans", I think it would fit right in.
    (And that App, Is it Art?, is about to be on my iPhone.)

    -Brandon Hill

  5. The statement by Khoi Vinh is quite frightening...and so is the notion that there are "non art" people. This is not true: art is a part of the human is as needed as breathing or eating is.
    There are no "non artistic" people...just people who are scared to do art. Vinh seems like one of those types.
    ---Jonathan Peters

  6. This is a good article, because it makes me think of Garry Winogrand. As a photographer he just walked around and took pictures of everyday objects and people. Most people these days have access to a camera somewhere and it really leaves it open to the eye of the beholder as to whether or not the photos taken today are art. What is funny is that most pictures taken on cell phones look bad, and these apps help people to in a way fix them up and make them look better. Although, I still think that too many people take way too many pictures and post them up and expect us to think that they are art when they just suck.

    -James Perkins