My husband went and bought me an iPad. All I wanted was to start reading digital books. My research led me to believe that the Kindle was best for this single use, so when I ended up with the shiny, jingle-filled iPad I was a little intimidated. I warmed to it slowly, but am now working out the books I want to read in paper, the ones I want to listen to and the ones that suit my digital reading. Other things are crowding in too, not just Twitter and Facebook, but games and reference apps, useless but fun apps like Gravilux, and Poem Flow, necessary in its simple delivery of a new poem every day.
I have downloaded lots of commix apps (each one with their own store and reader – can we fix that somehow? I need one comic book viewer and a library to pull from, just as I would like to keep all my e-books in one library).
My almost-nineteen month-old granddaughter caused me to download GiggleTouch, (exactly what it sounds like –touch the screen to generate simple graphics and an infectious giggling audio) and coloring book apps, as well as number counting and storybook apps. Yes! There is fun to be had in smearing up the glossy screen.
I want to talk about three apps that I recently bought. All three grew out of the author’s need or personal obsession, and all are artful. From the simplest to the sublime:
This is a simple but elegant writing/sketch prompt generator. Its sepia toned graphics and barnstorming logo invite the user to swipe three wheels, roulette fashion. Situations, settings and characters line up for the prompt. You can tap to roll the dice and let the prompt be generated automatically, customize your own terms and post or email your prompt to share. The author created the original Brainstormer for his own projects in list form and wanted to create an easily accessed tool for others to use. A personal need arose out of the studio, was work-shopped and then cleverly created in an accessible form that allows for customizing.
Carol Bolt created the original Book of Answers as a sculptural piece during a time in her life when she was looking for her own answers. When she exhibited the book in her gallery she received numerous commissions for similar books, eventually got an agent and published the first of a series that has since sold over 1 million copies.
The book and the app draw on the ancient discipline of bibliomancy, the use of a book to divine meaning, and the app brilliantly recreates the experience of holding the book, asking a question, riffling through the pages and choosing an answer. A clever bit of adaptation. Are there awards for adapting books to media works? There should be. This app is a lovely example of how the creative impulse arises in the soul, is manifested in the studio and, as in all good tales, becomes the hero of its own story, making its way in the world on its own merits.
Theodore Gray’s deep and delicious app is the current version of what is possible in a media piece for hand-held technology today. Well thought out, driven by passion and a desire to express the fascination and mystery of the Periodic Table of Elements, the application came about through a natural progression of what I recognize as an artistic instinct. All the hallmarks are there: a personal obsession with the Elements led to research, collection (all of the objects that represent the elements were collected by Gray), construction of a sculptural object (do you hear an echo of Carol’s story?), an actual table divided into a grid that held an object for every element, and then the development into a body of work. Placemats, posters and other ephemera were created prior to the media work.
Does Gray have post-show letdown I wonder, for surely this is the end of the line for his idea, its full realization. Each element can be chosen from the animated table, explored by spinning to see all of its sides (Gray worked on the photography alongside a collaborator), doubled with a tap for the option of viewing in 3-D (!), and is accompanied by a wealth of information that invites interaction. It’s genius. You can watch a video of Theodore Gray talking about his creation here.
Something about these three apps made me stop and think about the deep pleasure to be had from a work of art, science or culture that springs from a feeling of necessity within the maker. Informed by the creative impulse rather than an intellectual calculation, these apps carry their tasks in a golden basket, inspiring as they fulfill their function. And Mr. Gray? Thanks for the Tom Lehrer song. It made me really happy.