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© 2000 ISAST LEONARDO, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 111–114, 2000 111 ARTISTS’ STATEMENTS THE VIEW FROM THE PIXEL FACTORY: ETHOS AND LUCRE Ira Altschiller, 1384 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94109-1935, U.S.A. Email : . Received 22 June 1999. Accepted for publication by Roger F. Malina. Introduction I have been selling “Desktop Pictures” [1] for the Macintosh platform since September 1997, and more recently for PCs. For a nominal fee I sell these images over the Internet as compressed files available for download from my web site (Color Plate A No. 1). I also have the files available for download on Mac-related shareware sites and on info-Mac ftp servers. In addition, these files are available on many CDs accompanying computer-related books and magazines [2]. Originally I offered my pictures only at 832 × 624 monitor resolution, but after many E-mail requests, I began to release the files in five different monitor resolutions. I retain the copyright, restricting use to displaying the images solely on the desktop. I require also that the images be for personal, not commercial, use. Using the images as commercial prints or on Web sites would violate my intellectual property rights as stated in the “Read Me” file accompanying the tryout download. The tryout download has between five and 10 images for the user to sample. I do not set a time restriction, but simply ask that people register if they wish to continue using these pictures [3]. Registration fees are nominal and available for single users as well as for site and world-wide users. Philosophy Methods of showing and selling art have remained the same since the late nineteenth century. The Internet can change how artworks are seen and sold, how the public experiences art and what art might mean in this new context. The fine arts will never be truly populist . It takes years to hone taste—looking , thinking, going back and looking some more. Some may think of this process as elite, but this is an elitism of hard-won knowledge and internal growth, not snobbery. The fundamental relationship between the viewer and the artwork cannot be changed. The original work must be experienced as a physical presence . That relationship cannot be violated without a loss of the power of the image. Digital work may not have the breadth and the soul of painting but it is not a reproduction either. If done as original work, digital images can create their own aesthetic. Background When I started using a computer in 1994 I had been painting for 30 years. At first I thought I would use my trusty Macintosh only for text—writing and record keeping. Natural inclinations soon took over, and I found myself exploring the electronic labyrinths of PhotoShop and Painter. All the while, the Internet was leaping forward, becoming a huge presence, so I taught myself to put up Web pages. Publishing directly to an audience excited me, but it also concerned me. Those traditional filters—galleries, museums , consultants, curators and critics —can feel like a barrier of protection . (Of course they are really less of a protection and more of a barrier. Careerist curators and resumé-obsessed dealers are well known to any artist.) Where would the context come from? My instincts tell me that the Internet is a perfect way for artists to explore a new medium and at the same time introduce themselves to an enormous new public. Consider this E-mail message I received from someone who had visited one of my sites: “I just know I would not go to a gallery or museum, but going to your site let me learn what you were doing.” I like the Internet’s ability to allow people to see my work without being subjected to gallery “attitude” or having a museum grabbing all the choices and interpretations . The art-world bureaucracy plays a scarcity game, but the Internet is a cornucopia. Aesthetic and Commercial Riddles The first thing I look for in a painting is a perceived joy in the material, in the sensual and mysteriously suggestive power of paint. With digital images I have come to feel that the ranges of...


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