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The work of art in the age of platformization

September 6, 2014


The most exciting innovation in digital art isn’t the art itself—it’s the platformization of that art.

This is Jason Salavon’s Kids With Santa, created by averaging dozens of photos of children sitting on Santa’s lap:


And this is the platform inspired by it that allows anyone to create their own Salavon-esque “average art”, based on any set of photos:

This is a major contemporary trend of the remix era: a digital artwork pioneers an innovating and striking new technique, and a short time later, a platform arrives that allows anyone to imitate it (sometimes created by others, other times offered by artists themselves).

It’s a bit like Brunelleschi putting the finishing touches on the Duomo — only to discover that every middle class family in Florence had designed and built their own private domed cathedral that was every bit as good as his.


So what’s the result of platformization for the artwork the platform is based on?

As Walter Benjamin observed in his famous essay, in the age of mechanical reproduction of art, the “aura” of the original artwork tends to “wither”.

What happens to that aura in the age of platformization? I think the destruction of the aura is even more violent.

While mechanical reproduction tended to occlude or mystify the process of artistic creation—a postcard of the Eiffel Tower makes it even more dreamlike and symbolic than the real thing, makes it even more difficult to discern how it was ever designed and built—platformization demystifies artistic creation by showing audiences how to make art that is exactly as good as the original.

Thus what Benjamin prophesied would happen to art in the age of mechanical reproduction, but never (in my opinion) really did happen, now actually is happening in the age of platformization.


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  1. psychomime #
    September 6, 2014

    This is great.

    It made me think about this: platform — in the sense of copying a tool, technique or style — has always been transferable and has transferred — more slowly, of course. An original concept or technique becomes a common tool or style or genre, and then it becomes a question of who can execute that style best or add something to it.

    Someone invented the penny whistle, say, but then it became a question of who could do the most interesting things with it.

    I agree that this process has accelerated, but I think there might be something at work in the categories here — anything a sufficient number of people can do becomes “play” rather than “art” maybe?

  2. September 6, 2014

    I think that’s true and really fascinating, psychomime.

    So when platformization – which, as you point out, is essentially the copying of a tool or technique, but in a way that makes it achievable for non-experts – becomes successful enough, it’s not just the aura of the artwork that is destroyed.

    As you say: Art itself is destroyed, and becomes Play.

    • May 11, 2017

      Shame on me je n’ai jamais essayé, et pourtant j’adore, et je pense que je serai du genre à pouvoir sortir dans la rue avec (sauf si jressemble à un clown qui a perdu sa troupe).Mes lèvres sont déjà très rouges alors pour l’instant (laisse moi le temps de faire un essai 😉 ) je préfère les rouges à lèvres marrons/beige ou d’un rouge Chanel quasi identique à celui de mes lèvres juste histoire d&o#n17;harm82iser.Et puis sur toi Capu, je veux voir ça de mes yeux, jsuis sure que ça te va bien.Bisous

  3. June 22, 2017

    Why was Jason Salavon’s Kids With Santa considered Art in the first place? Which boxes did it tick that my Kids With Santa, when using AverageExplorer does not?

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