AMITIAE - Friday 23 November 2012

[S]edition Art on the iPhone and in the Classroom

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I arrived early for a class this week. The students were presenting project progress information and in the previous session, there had been a couple of problems with the settings of the projector. A technician who was called in had fixed the problem right away: their hardware, not ours.

As most students in the group use Macs (MacBook Air, MacBook Pro) or iOS devices it was easy for me to connect my own devices and check the displays. When I was satisfied with the setup this week, I was left with a few minutes to spare. I connected the iPhone and started the [S]edition app. I had seen the art on the iOS devices and on an iMac, but I wanted to use a larger display.

The [S]edition website is just a year old and has the unique concept of selling digital art in limited (although sometimes large) numbers. Artists represented include Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin and Wim Wenders (the director) who also creates some unusual still images. There are currently some 29 artists (and groups) with works ranging in price currently from $8 up to $1600. Some of those in the low to mid price ranges have issues of 1,000 to 10,000 while the top priced item has only 100 versions.

Many of the works on offer are movie files, although action is generally slow: evolving, changing the display subtly over time. A user who buys a work may access the file in a vault and use it for certain display purposes. In a similar way buying a piece of digital music does not give us ownership of it, but allows it to be played for personal use -- say to a group of friends -- but not for a public performance. Each issue sold to a user has a downloadable certificate of authenticity, although these, like the video files are perhaps best kept in the user's vault.

A video work can be downloaded as a still image, or viewed in its moving form using a browser or an iOS app. Also supported is the Samsung Smart TV. Other devices (computers, smartphones) allow access via a browser, so at work I can access my vault at the [S]edition site and view the items I have, via Safari. They were nicely displayed using the fullscreen browser on the 20" iMac in my office, although the screen saver interrupted the display initially.

In my empty classroom, once I had logged in using the iPhone, I accessed one of my recent acquistitions and sat back. I could log in using Facebook, but there are some parts of my life that I want to exclude from this over-inquisitive service.

The specific work I wanted to see using this display is called After Closer and it is by Peter Saville who was a founder of Factory Records. I like this because I find it relaxing. A black rectangle within a square within a square. All is displayed on a white background.

[s]edition [s]edition

As we watch, the outer squares change colour slowly from red to yellow, to green to blue and back to red. The inner square is a slightly different colour. That gentle rotation of colours is soothing. I had connected the iPhone via a VGA cable to an Epson projector. These are used for in-class teaching and over time, the screens lose some of their effect through mishandling. Nonetheless the effect on the larger display was impressive enough and would have made a useful backdrop in some locations.

[s]edition [s]edition

After the colours had cycled a few times the first student arrived and was inquisitive. I explained the concept and showed him some other examples. While he liked the first, he was dubious about a couple of the others, but was enthusiastic about a graphic display of a statue: Powerless Structures, Fig.101 by Elmgreen & Dragset.


The site tells us,

The sculpture, a commentary on traditional sculptures and war monuments, was originally cast in bronze for the Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square. Placed on the plinth, the child is elevated to the status of a Roman hero, yet he has no history to commemorate only a future to hope for.

Later in the day, I also tried these works, using the iPhone and an HDMI connection to an LCD TV. The images were sharper. Like the student, the friend whose TV I used also prefers Powerless Structures, Fig.101: Art is subjective.

As well as the iOS apps and the Samsung TV, [S]edition have been working with Aurasama, an augmented reality platform that lets users "discover, create and share . . . virtual content". There are apps for iOS and for Android (2.2 and above) devices. I downloaded Aurasama Lite for the iPhone.

Once installed, I was able to subscribe to a [S]edition channel, but it was unclear in my first, quick run-through how I would use this. Other "Auras" on the developer website were activated.

[S]edition is an unusual experiment in a largely uncharted territory: a marketplace for virtual art. After a year, the number of subscribers is not massive. It will need a fairly large customer base as well as a solid group of artists able to produce fresh works for the potential collectors. Whether it will also succeed in its secondary aim to allow trade in the works, depends on each item being fully subscribed: sold out. To achieve the wider public awareness that is needed, [S]edition will not be able to rely on word of mouth recommendations.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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