Intelligent Machines

Japanese Artists Solve The Problem of How To Sell Multiple Copies of Interactive Artworks

If you’re a modern art fan, you may have bought a copy of a Picasso or a Pollock. But chances are, you’ve never been able to buy a copy of an interactive art installation…until now.

Back in July, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in Japan displayed a giant canvas showing four snowmen in a wintry scene. People approaching the canvas found their faces superimposed onto the heads of the four snowmen, so that their facial expressions determined the mood of the scene.

The installation, called Yukinko, proved popular and ran until the end of August with an estimated 100,000 visitors.

This installation was unusual because, unlike other interactive artworks, anybody could by a copy to run at home. That’s a potentially significant money spinner for the museum and the artists Mayuko Kanazawa and a couple of pals from Osaka University.

While it is common for museums to sell prints and posters of conventional works of art, this has never been possible with interactive art because of the unique technology it often relies on.

Kanazawa and co get around this with a simple approach. The technology that powers their installation is an iPhone 5c mounted behind the canvas with its camera peering through a pinhole. It uses conventional face recognition software to pick out the faces of anybody nearby and then sends the pictures to a projector. This beams the faces onto the canvas.

Kanazawa and co have made all this available as an iPhone app costing 99c. So anybody can run a similar installation in their living room. The paper referenced below provides some technical pointers about how best to set it up.

What Kanazawa and co don’t say is how many of these apps they’ve sold and how much they’ve made for themselves and the museum.

Nevertheless, that’s an interesting idea that has the potential to change the “business model” behind modern art and modern art museums.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1411.2190 : Interactive Art To Go