Lab

Pxflux

Dec 4, 2017

AN ONLINE PLATFORM AND TOOLSET FOR
THE EXHIBITION, PROMOTION, DISTRIBUTION
AND COLLECTION OF TIME BASED,
COMPUTATIONAL, DIGITAL ART
Maxim Tyminko, Aleksander Komarov, Vladimir Minakov

October, 2017

Abstract
The nature of computational and time-based art — often referred to as “new media art” — is
very different from other traditional art forms. By definition it is variable and unstable. It has no
fixed form, but is rather flexible and adjustable. It is not an object as such.
While this project began as a way of solving some practical issues that we as artists face
within our own practice, we see the potential for the wider application of the pxflux
platform among other artists, collectors, and institutions.
It is clear that the long-established system of evaluation and distribution of art objects is
insufficient for dealing with emerging forms of artistic processes. We therefore need a far more
versatile and adaptable pattern of rules and tools that effectively address the very important
issues associated with new media art outlined below.

1. Presentation
New media artworks are already difficult to display due to the enormous variation in equipment
compatibilities and the technical hassle of installation. To complicate this further, each time a
work is shown, it must also adjust to new conditions, such as the equipment available for use
and the size of a given exhibition space. Thus, each time a work is shown, it is subject to
differing interpretations. This is less of an issue if the author of the work is present, but the real
trouble arises when the artist is not able to oversee a work’s exhibition. Who makes the
decisions and on what basis? How can the destruction of the work of art be prevented?
Currently, we do not have a standard and sufficient notation system to accurately describe and
communicate all the aspects and possibilities of a new media artwork.

2. Preservation
One problem with video/multimedia/digital artworks is their short lifespan, due to the rapid
obsolescence of the hardware and software on which they depend in order to be exhibited. As
a result, many works, even if they are well preserved in the original medium, are unable to be
presented on newer equipment. Different strategies such as ‘storage’, ‘emulation’, and
‘migration’ have attempted to approach this issue. However, most of these strategies are very
costly and often impractical.

3. Distribution
The main issue with the distribution of media art is the tendency of the art market to treat
everything as an exclusive product, limiting editions and controlling the circulation of their
“numbered” copies. This is the completely wrong model for the art of our time. It artificially
raises prices, confuses all parties involved, and slows down the distribution process in general.
It is clear that, because all of these issues are deeply connected and interdependent, it is not
possible to solve each one separately without solving all the others.
The Platform
Our main objective is to build an online platform and software infrastructures that will address
the issues outlined above and provide an easy way to distribute, promote, share, and collect
digital art content.
Initially, the platform will concentrate on screen-based art, that is, art whose primary medium
of visual output is the screen, be it monitors, projections, handheld devices, or the like. This
includes (but is not limited to) video, web art, interactive and generative art, VR, and games.
The platform will consist of several components:
• Archive/database
• Depository and distribution tools
• Presentation tools
Preservation
The ‘archival strategy’ of pxflux will incorporate the methodology of one of the most
advanced approaches to the preservation of new media art: the Variable Media Initiative of the
Guggenheim Museum. This approach replaces “the traditional notion of the ‘original’ [with] the
notion of the ‘identity of the artwork,’ the integrity of which has to be preserved.” Instead of
trying to conserve ‘physical’ components of the work, the Variable Media Initiative, in
conjunction with another Guggenheim project, the Media Art Documentation Iteration Report,
outlines and protects work-defining properties, preserving the work’s conceptual
dependencies, aesthetics, and behavior.
While we support this methodology, our platform will move beyond the notion of preservation
as the simple, safe storage of an artwork in an archive.
We believe that it is critical for any artwork to be available to the public, to be in live circulation,
and to be a part of cultural processes. This is the best ‘preservation’ strategy for new media
and time-based art.
Richard Rinehart draws a comparison between new media art and music in order to support
his Media Art Notation System. He maintains that establishing a system of notation for media
art is as crucial as written notation is for music. But we argue that even music does not
necessarily need any kind of fixation or recording in order to survive across time. The most
powerful survival strategy for music is its ability to virally spread, independent of any ‘original’
instrumentation or methods of interpretation.
It is this kind of active preservation that we would like to achieve for new media artworks. Our
goal is to create an infrastructure that will allow active circulation of the artworks, prolonging
their lifespans.

Database
Our data structure will be compatible with the format used in the Guggenheim Museum’s
Media Art Documentation Iteration Report. Along with the standard technical specifications
and conceptual description, we will also collect information on exhibition history, possible
variations and modifications to the work, reinterpretations of the work, and so on. pxflux
also records statistical data on the artwork, as well as data on the interactive behavior of the
users. There will also be an interface that allows artists to easily outline all controls and
aspects of interaction needed for the work to be fully operational.
Because the data structure is quite complex, we focus on simplifying the user experience.
The system will attempt to collect information as much as possible fully automatically. Also we
encapsulate the entire data into smaller chunks, presenting them to the user only when necessary.
Our database is also a dispatch for real-time communication between an artwork and the user.

Distribution
The main idea for the distribution model is not to deal with files, but with licenses. We have
built a mechanism into the core of the platform for authorisation, ownership, certification, and
time-based licenses that will allow full control of the circulation of an artwork.
For example, if an artist sends a work to an exhibition, the artist will be able to ensure that their
work is shown only for their intended purpose and desired period of time.
Our platform also supports different types of licenses.
Presentation Tools
Our presentation toolset consists of two main applications: the pxPlayer and the pxRemote.
The pxPlayer is a cross-platform desktop/stationery computer application whose main task is
the playback of pre-recorded content as well as the real-time rendering of code-based art
works.
Visually, the most remarkable feature of the pxPlayer application is the absence of any user
interface. The player has no buttons, no timelines, and no controls whatsoever. This is
intended to remove all the destructive elements from the screen in order to give its entire
space to the artwork itself. All the controls and navigational capabilities are delegated to the
pxRemote app.
The pxRemote is a mobile app that allows for user interaction and control of artwork. It is also
a browser for our library of works, as well as a communication tool for comments, reviews, and
sharing across social media networks. It is designed to work on any modern smartphone or
tablet.
The goal of separating the remote control and player is to give the viewer the possibility to
perceive an artwork from a distance while giving the work an autonomous place no matter
where it is shown: in a public space, a gallery or in a living room.
At the same time, a user can gain full control of the interactive artwork on their smartphone
without directly interfering with what is displayed on the screen.
This also enables artists to utilize all the available sensors and controlling methods of a
modern mobile device, thereby turning the remote control into a powerful instrument.
Among the traditional video formats, we currently fully support the rendering of Javascript,
WebGL, WebVR, and HTML5. Further on in the development will be support for Java
applications and frameworks like Processing and rendering of Pure-Data patches. We also
support the basic use of HTTP Live Streaming.
Our remote control and the player will provide various permission levels for the access and
control of the content. This will enable many different uses, from an exhibition visitor using
their phone to get information on the work being shown, to possibility of multiuser control of
the interactive artwork, to an owner of the player using their ‘remote control’ to get full access
to the player and the screen settings.

Contacts:
pxflux@gmail.com
Maxim Tyminko:
maximtyminko.com
maximtyminko@gmail.com
Aleksander Komarov:
www.aleksanderkomarov.com
mail@aleksanderkomarov.com
pxflux