DEPICT: WHAT IS IT?
(IT WILL CHANGE OUR CREATIVE LIVES)
BY THE DAZZLING FOUNDER OF DEPICT, KIMBERLY GORDON.
I LOVE ART… AND NOW I LOVE TECHNOLOGY
(MOST OF THE TIME)
I have always loved art. It is what flows through me in that space that we call the soul. The summer after my Freshman year of college, I lived in New York. My friend and I went to the Basquiat retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. It remains one of my favorite exhibits I have seen to date. In general, I love retrospectives – I can see the whole journey of the artist and try to understand their life through the changes in their work. In experiencing someone else’s artistic journey, I am compelled to look at my own life and decisions and ask myself if I am square with them in a way that is more gut than intellect. I have always believed that our decisions define us. In front of art, I can ask myself about regret, fear, living life on my own terms. For as long as I can remember, art has pulled out shadows and asked me to confront them, and to be honest about feelings and experiences that my words struggle to articulate but my soul somehow understands.
My relationship to technology has been more complex. I have always been fascinated by technology and -- more often than not -- repulsed by it. Some technology easily falls into the uncomplicated category of “positive”. The value of developing clean energy technologies speaks to visions of access, improvements, and moves towards equality. I don’t get lost in a grey area of questioning when I think about the benefits that the promises of a future with more clean energy presents. By contrast, the technologies I wrestle with have deep grey areas. Social media stands out amongst these technologies as most reviling, but also fascinating. Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat strike me on the one hand as psychological and cultural battlefields and on the other as highly democratizing. Take Instagram – I believe Instagram has the ability to make us feel horrible about our own lives as we look at the shiny photos of others living fantasies of carefree days filled with sunlight and ease. Through these mirages we cannot know what is true and how we fit in. We are not asked to contemplate whether it matters.
I sit in my office as I write this. It’s cold in San Francisco and I have not taken a day off in months. Yet, I can curate my feed to ignore the personal marketing element, and all I can see is art: art I know and love; art I have never seen before; artists sharing their eyes with all of us. I am delighted by this. Trying to evaluate an invention that is, on the one hand, horrifyingly shallow and, on the other hand, an incredible tool for accessing culture and much more is a difficult task. This tension technology can create is fascinating. Conflicting excitement and fear over AI and Machine Learning, robotics, and contemporary genetic augmentation is addressed daily in our news outlets. As we move towards the “better lives” technology promises, we tend to fear the dark sides of our own creations along with the pull of their inevitability. Technology can act as a microscope on our human horrors and delights. I have long asked myself how we take the best we can from technology while accepting that it will constantly push boundaries and challenge our understanding of the world and what is possible in ways that appear, and often are, both good and bad.
This relationship to technology – a deep excitement and a deep repulsion -- drove me right to it. I started my career in technology because I believed it could be a force to realize systemic change at scales previously unfathomable, and a means to speak truth to power: clean technology (always excited about this), Arab spring, #MeToo, the list goes on. As I moved in this world, my love and engagement with art always with me, I thought a great deal about the relationship between the two. I often found it conceptually difficult to fit the emotions, colors, rebellion, beauty, and deeply human nature of art with what I saw as the steely, productive, robotic world of technology. Art asks us to stop and reflect; technology asks us to accept and plow forward with the manifest destiny of tomorrow’s inventions. The way we talk about art and the way we talk about technology are so vastly different. With art we talk about feelings, aesthetics and time (past and present mostly). With technology we talk about the tech itself, intellectual property, scalability, “the future”. Art’s relationship to technology and vice versa have often seemed fraught and dichotomous: art taking up the mantle of who we are and what we feel with technology taking the mantle of human progress and the march forward. To me, neither of these make sense by itself. No one wins. We need to do both: to reflect and to move forward with purpose. However, if history has taught me anything, it is that the drive of technology is inevitable. It is what we choose to do with it that changes everything. Like any great dichotomy, art and technology have a fabulous amount in common and they need each other and always have. I will spare you a history of technical inventions enabled by the artistic drive and technology that is incredibly artful.
Enter Depict – a labor of love and pragmatism and of art and technology. My work on Depict has allowed me to fall more in love with technology (and art) every day. Depict exists to fill every empty wall in every space with endless art experiences. It exists to open the world of art to people, inspire them and connect them to artists that create. It also exists to give artists a platform for their work to reach more people, which can be incredibly difficult for even the most talented of artists. Today, we make the most gorgeous digital art display imaginable, designed and engineered specifically to showcase digital art with incredible fidelity while looking natural. We allow people to use our app to discover and display a huge range of highly curated, ultra-high definition digital artwork on said display (the Depict Frame). Artwork ranges from the past to the present: the archives of major museums and estates to cutting-edge work from contemporary and emerging artists. We do this with technology. The technology is what makes this type of access, scale and visibility possible in a way that has never before been possible. The purpose of this is not just the practicalities of the market – connecting artists and viewers at scale and creating monetary value simply because technology lets us do that (though I do think that is cool in its own right). It is about more than that. It is delivering the ability to see and experience art every day in our own four walls that allows us to connect to ourselves and give ourselves space to think and feel. We aim to bring this to everyone’s day to day lives, making the everyday not so every day.
At first, our mission scared me. Could technology - with its paradoxes, its appearance of being cold and inhuman - possibly be used to create a product for art? Ultimately, I decided that there was no reason it could not. Da Vinci’s theories and work are perhaps the most well-known examples of the complimentary nature between art and technology. He wrote a great deal about using technique to deliver a vision, and the necessity for one’s vision to be rooted in purpose, begotten by reflection. For Depict it turns out that the same balance of reflection and forward drive were required to get going and build something we could be proud of. It required a range of perspectives and a team of people and their inputs: artists, curators, designers, engineers, investors, business people, operations professionals, and more. It took making decisions that made our path harder, not easier, for the sake of building something we could stand behind. Most importantly, to make all of this work, the artists we worked with needed to feel that the product did something for them. The artists needed to believe in its power to not only display their art in a way they were proud of, but also to inspire the viewers on the other side. Their art is the lifeblood of the machine we built to disseminate and display it. Without their approval, that the art did what they intended on what we built, we wouldn’t accomplish the purpose. It was this push and pull of art and technology, the conversations we had about it, and the art and science behind this, that fascinated me the whole way through and continues to do so. It is also what I believe gives the product its capacity to deliver art. I find myself asking more and more: what is possible and are the possibilities greater than what I had initially imagined?
I started this company for reasons of passion and practicality. The passion is my love of art; the practicality was the significant opportunity in solving the lack of access for both artists and consumers. I love art because I learned to see the world through it from when I was very young. It began my understanding of self, my relationship to the world, and it let me see, from the world I knew in a small city in Massachusetts, so many other worlds: ancient, new, global, feminist, Apollonian, violent, peaceful, and beautiful. I remain stilled by art. I go to the museum to see and feel when I cannot do it on my own. It has served as a powerful antidote to our modern ills, purging me of anxieties and letting me see beyond today into yesterday and tomorrow. When I think about how art bends time and connects one period in humanity to another, I am reminded of William Faulkner’s statement: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”. I am very fortunate - my mother collects art. I grew up going to museums, galleries and auctions with her. I grew up thinking it was very important to not only walk in beauty, but to be immersed by it -- moved by it. She handed me the keys to all of this when I was very young. What we hope to do at Depict is to hand these keys to as many people as possible, and to open as many doors for artists as possible. It is technology that makes this dream possible. With technology and a commitment to use it in ways everyone involved in this effort can be proud of, we will continue to see the possibilities of a world whereby art and its benefits can someday soon be not just for the rarified few, but truly for everyone.