This exhibit marks a couple of firsts for the ROM. One, this is the first exhibit to enable wi-fi, so that patrons can Tweet, Facebook, and [insert other buzzwords here] the pieces at their leisure. This exhibit is a venture brought forth by the ROM’s Institute for Contemporary Culture, and one can tell those involved in the programming are quite excited about it. The iPad/iPhone is a new medium, and this is a chance to champion it for the world to see. As well, the display itself will be changing throughout its run, as Hockney will continue to create new drawings for the exhibit and…email them to the ROM. Needless to say, this is new for a museum, as dinosaurs and ghosts are not usually computer literate.
In some ways, this new medium of legitimate are is reminiscent of when illegal music downloading began, in the sense that it would face many of the same issues. These pieces literally only exists digitally (unless one was to make a high quality print of it), and in a way every time they are seen they are a reproduction. How can one commodify them, let alone control their distribution? As well, it would seem that, technically, the original only existed once, at the moment of completion. Ever since then, each speck of dust or minute scratch on Hockney’s personal iPad screen changed—and compromised—the work. However, these are the ethical conundrums and sleepless nights for the artists and curators of the past. This is the future, man! And Hockney wants to share it with you and your followers.
To be honest, the subject matter wasn’t all that gripping; Fresh Flowers loses a bit of the fresh as the novelty wilts. That said, having the chance to see how Hockney created some of the images (a few parts of the display show short films of the artist in action) was very impressive. With all the hubbub, one is led to believe that iPhone art brings all kinds of possibilities, but only time will tell what technological advancement—and embracement—will mean for the art and history scene. One thing is for certain, it will increase the public accessibility of art. This is happily in keeping with the ROM’s policy of general admission being free Wednesdays from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm.
Given the novel nature of Fresh Flowers, it can’t help but raise more questions than it answers, not the least of which is the fate of the excess iPads/iPhones post-show. I humbly propose a lifelong performance art piece tentatively titled “Give Me 25 iPads.”