Artkick: Apps in the Age of Digital Reproduction

“There’s an app for that,” said everybody. The accessibility of things and daily processes – like procuring a taxi cab or transferring funds from your savings account – has reached a hyperconvenience thanks to the dawn of the app. As much as we humans need to check the weather forecast and our inboxes on our smartphones, we also, on occasion, like to enjoy ourselves; and let me tell you, from Angry Birds to Songza there are all kinds of apps for that.

Screenshot_GreatWavePerhaps a now-antiquated recreational apparatus, the television, has been re-imagined by Silicon Valley’s Sheldon Laube and a team of art enthusiasts-cum-entrepreneurs to double as a picture frame transforming your living space into what they like to call “The Guggenhome.” Their app, Artkick, allows the user to display digital reproductions of over 100,000 images ranging from masterpieces to the Library of Congress and the Hubble Telescope in the humility of your living room.

The TV, when it isn’t turned on, is an unsightly, black void,” Stephen Khan, Artkick’s CMO, tells me, “Artkick is like the music playlist for art, enhancing you environment depending on your mood.” Traditionally, when purchasing a work of art to display at home, you had to be pretty sure you were ready to look at an ersatz version of Klee’s watercolours every time you walked by the kitchen. “It used to be a permanent commitment,” says Khan of purchasing artworks. Artkick now makes it possible for us to bounce between Cubism and the Renaissance without the accompanying midlife aesthetic crisis.

But is there no gratification left in owning – and viewing – the original work of art? Artkick gives rise to questions surrounding authenticity. What would be the point of ever traveling to the Netherlands to see Van Gogh’s decaying Café Terrace in real life when the digital reproduction (and better lit, according to Khan) is available right in the comfort of your own home?

Screenshot_SundayAfternoonKhan and I discuss this particular matter at length. Accessibility reaffirms the aura of the original – the democratization of art makes the idea of the original all the more enchanting. In fact, it frees art from its political and social constraints and elevates it to art for art’s sake, “l’art pour l’art.” Like music, being able to download and listen to Beyoncé’s new album in one night doesn’t supplant or replace our desire to see her live in concert – in fact, it intensifies this desire.

So, too, does the Artkick app deepen our appreciation for art in all its forms and mediums. Ultimately, the way we experience art is changing – just as the way we plunge into our food (not without taking a picture of it and posting it to Instagram first) is changing. As Walter Benjamin prophetically states in 1955, “[mechanical reproduction] enables the original to meet the beholder halfway, be it in the form of a photograph or a phonograph record. The cathedral leaves its locale to be received in the studio of a lover of art; the choral production, performed in an auditorium or in the open air, resounds in the drawing room.” Artkick is the 21st century manifestation of that process, on shuffle.