Take a minute and go on a quick tour of the massive online art collaboration Web Canvas. It’s like a bar bathroom wall as its own planet, complete with its own coordinate system. It’s all so much barf and scribble—but the project is fun to experience. You can travel around to different regions like you’re crossing borders into other countries. There are hints at coherency here and there, but mostly it’s just a big quilt of disparate ideas, marks, and doodles, and sometimes even things a viewer might pause and take in. It’s uncontrolled and endless: the project has been live since 2008 and people still seem to be contributing. It has no interest in being an end-product or really any one thing.
Web Canvas might be somewhat unique in that it’s intended to be consumed. Most whiteboard/paint-chat sites are meant more for the social experience of drawing with others, visual trolling, and, well, doing work. None of these things are concerned at all with the market—save for maybe the online ad market? Nor should most of them be. But what if you were to attach a market to online art collaboration? How would that change the products? A site like this has existed since June of this year: Paintshop, the creation of art thinker/new media artist Jonas Lund.
Paintshop is an open collaboration until the point in which someone chooses to sign a work and become its author. Then the painting is over and it enters the Paintshop marketplace, where works are valued according to an algorithm designed by Lund. So far, there have been three sales for real-life money (the buyer gets the work on canvas). I talked to Lund in the midst of his move from the Netherlands to New York.
Motherboard: Can you talk a bit about where this idea came from? Also: is something like this difficult to implement?
Jonas Lund:As I was looking into different forms of co-creation, collaborative platforms, and the market aspects of art, the idea of making a self-sustaining, monetizing factory for artistic production came to life.
Technically, the challenge was to make it work smoothly without relying on third-party plugins such as Flash for the painting part. It’s build with Nodejs for handling the realtime streaming between each user and Paperjs for the drawing tool. The plan is to open-source the whole codebase in a little while.
It would seem like this would be fairly dependent on a large number of users to succeed. What kind of traffic has the project gotten? Has it been a lot of the same people contributing/signing paintings?
Since the launch in late June 2012, there have been around 2,200 paintings signed and titled, roughly 35 per day with around 900 unique owners. So there’s some repetition of the user-base. I was really surprised by the response by the community, and the production has been a lot higher than I anticipated.
Read the rest of the interview over at our sister site Motherboard.