This week we’re exploring the Digital Arts Market (or lack thereof). We’re asking the tough questions: What will it take for a sustainable digital arts market to form? Is that even a possibility? Can the digital arts make money? And will they ever be incorporated into the contemporary arts dialogue? We invite you to participate in the discussion in the comments section, on your own blog (send us the link!), and on Facebook and Twitter (#DIGART). Let’s get the conversation started!
Last May we told you about a revolutionary new digital arts marketplace and display being developed in Japan. Called FRAMED, this iPhone app-controlled HD LED display seemed like it could be the long-awaited salvation of the digital arts market. It’s finally available for purchase (only in Japan so far, but they’re looking to expand to new markets) and it’s just as beautiful as we imagined.
We’ve long speculated about the potential of apps and the iTunes store as a sustainable means for distributing digital artworks. We’ve been following Rafael Rozendaal’s sales of single-serving art websites with great enthusiasm. But the iTunes store doesn’t make finding quality art very easy for the buyer, and even once you do own it, displaying the works on your phone, iPad or even laptop doesn’t seem to do them justice.
FRAMED hopes to help integrate digital art into our daily lives.
Few people have a dedicated screen in their homes for displaying art, but perhaps this model, steeped as it is in the tradition of the age-old picture frame, is exactly what the digital arts market needs to give it the shot in the arm that it so sorely needs and, most importantly, cultivate a culture of art collectors. That’s exactly what artist and interaction designer Yugo Nakamura and his colleagues at tha ltd. are hoping to do.
Since we’re so used to living with screens now, FRAMED hopes to help integrate digital art into our daily lives. The slim device houses a 55-inch vertical LED display, a high-spec PC (powered by Intel) with a high-performance web camera, microphone, and a Wi-Fi module to provide a rich interactive experience without all the messy cords and cables. Users purchase their art works via a dedicated free iPhone app and the works are displayed and controlled on the screen wirelessly. The types of works can vary from video/animation pieces, generative art or interactive works that utilize the camera, microphone or app.
FRAMED users purchase artworks via a free dedicated iPhone app and can use the app to interact with works.
The device doesn’t come cheap though—currently it’ll set you back around 1.2 million yen, which is just over $14,000, and the art itself can go for up to $300. But seeing as this is the first prototype, the cost of the hardware will hopefully come down, and $300 for a work of art is actually pretty reasonable when you compare it to the close to $120 million someone just dropped on The Scream last week.
We spoke with the man who conceived of the project to find out more about where this device is headed.
The Creators Project: What was the inspiration behind the FRAMED display and app? Can you tell us a bit about the concept/design process?
Yugo Nakamura: This quote effectively summarizes the basic idea behind FRAMED: “Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame.” —G.K. Chesterton
Digital art has been around for the past 40 years or so. Why do you think a dedicated and sustainable marketplace for this kind of work has failed to emerge in that time?
The primary reason, I believe, is that digital art itself is a fluid medium and its format is constantly changing. While its fast-paced energy is inherently attractive, this field is also destined to lose the technologies and environments that can play archived works.
Also, digital devices are expected to be ‘multi-players’ with multiple functions. It’s hard for a single-task device, with the sole-purpose of being an ‘art frame,’ to be developed. On the other hand, traditional paintings have always had a fixed framework on which they’ve developed their history—the canvas and the art frame. The original idea of FRAMED is that this framework might also work for digital art as well.
Do you feel like we’re at a critical time in regards to digital art and its ability to reach a mainstream market? Why or why not?
Works categorized as ‘digital art’ and ‘interactive art’ are now past flourished, and we regard them as daily matter. The ‘screen’ is also everywhere you look, and it is not a fresh medium anymore. I’m not sure if our experiment will ‘rule the future’ so to speak, but the timing seems to be ready and matured.
Can you tell us a bit about the FRAMED display? What is the technology behind it? How is it optimized to be a high-quality digital art display?
The FRAMED device uses the latest technology for display/monitor, but we keep the device fairly neutral and it is not necessarily specifically optimized for ‘digital art.’ What makes the FRAMED device special, is that it packages the usual details necessary for interactive art (camera/mic sensors, high-end PC unit). Also, we searched for the ‘best balance’ where device is aesthetically slender and minimal, and blends into the background as a real ‘frame’ for the artworks it is made to display.
Why do you think the iTunes store has failed to become a viable marketplace for digital art?
Of course, the iTunes store does function as a marketplace for digital art. However, because the iPhone/iPad are all-inclusive devices made with multiple functions, they may not be the best candidates when measured for the singular task of ‘dedicated artwork display.’
Who is FRAMED designed for? What kind of person do you envision installing this in their homes?
Basically, we imagine FRAMED to replace the position that has traditionally been filled with ‘paintings in the room.’ Personally, I also feel FRAMED can be like a fire in the fireplace. If you want, you can gaze into the fire for a long time, but you can also ignore it at other times. I imagine FRAMED to be this type of ambient, ‘new fire’ in the room.
A sampling of artworks currently available on FRAMED.
How was the first batch of artists included in FRAMED curated? What was the selection process like? What will curation be like in the future?
We are working on this as we speak. The lineup will include artists from various fields—those working in video art/animation, interactive art, and generative art. We’re also interested in modifying works from the past, and re-mixing or re-editing paintings and sculptures under the FRAMED context.
Because we’re still working with a small number, we will be doing our own curation. However, in the near future, we hope to grow this into a wider market where anyone who is interested can upload their works to FRAMED, and sell them on our marketplace.
If anyone is interested in showcasing their artwork on FRAMED, please let us know!
What are the opportunities for interaction with FRAMED digital works? Can you maybe give us an example of a specific piece and how it takes advantage of the user interaction?
Because the device has an internal camera and mic, an artist can utilize these features to create a reactive artwork that plays with the surrounding environment. Also, as the device will always be connected to the internet, information can be pulled from the web to be used as part of the art as well. This is an example of an artwork that uses the mic:
Hello World: Kannon by Kazumasa Teshigawara
What were the biggest challenges you ran into during the development of FRAMED?
Because we’re on the content side of making things, it was a challenge to make actual hardware. In the beginning, we literally didn’t know where to start. This project was achieved with the help and support of many people.
Do you have any plans to bring the prototype to the international market?
Yes, of course. We’re actually looking for partners who would be interested in distributing FRAMED in countries abroad. In fact, if anyone reading this article is interested, we’d love to get in touch.
What do you think the digital art community needs to do to evolve, become self-sustaining, and become better integrated into contemporary art culture?
It’s not a matter of integrating with the inner art community, but of making a fruitful relationship with the outside. This is why FRAMED aims for a sort of cliché, typical position of the ‘painting in the room,’ and calls itself an ‘Interior Device.’ Instead of a contextual approach, it’s faster if we keep refining the product and the platform so that we can approach and connect with the users directly.