The Art of the App

05/11/2011 4:00 AM |

Not enough art in your life? Lacking confidence in your iPhone literacy? Me too, so I did some research on art apps; here are four that will improve your life.

Magic Carpet (¢99)

Anyone else spend hours watching the iTunes visualizer when it was first released? Those who did will love Paul Slocum‘s Magic Carpet. Imagine an interactive kaleidoscope inspired by spinning quilts and integrated with music. That’s your app. Channels allow users to use it as a musical instrument (just tap the screen to make sounds), a complex, patterned visualizer for their music, or a mutable moving design set to custom tunes.

The app is designed so it can be easily hooked up to projectors without any loss of image quality. This suggests art party to me more than it does art app, but the power of this work is in the details. Slocum uses church bells and manipulated Christian music to create a spiritual experience, and has created patterns that often change in unexpected ways. It sounds almost too simple to be a moving experience, , but that’s the beauty of it. It works on a visceral level.

Finger Battle (¢99)

Ready. Set. Tap! So begins Rafaël Rozendaal‘s Finger Battle, a duel of red versus blue color fields. With the screen divided exactly in half, tap your finger on the screen faster than your opponent and increase your block of color at the expense of theirs. Whoever fills the entire screen with their color first wins. The lessons here are more visceral than they are intellectual: we all get enjoyment from seeing our color of choice fill the phone’s screen. Not surprisingly, the game is totally addictive.

3 Frames ($2.99)

This app allows users to make three-frame animated GIFs on the fly. It’s pretty fun, but naturally begs the question: Why make an animated GIF if you can just as easily shoot a video? Anyone who has visited the 3frames site knows the answer. People making funny faces are way more hilarious in animated GIF form. Of course, there’s more on the site than people acting up, and it’s a handy tool for artists with even a passing interest in the file format. Beyond the concept, the app’s real genius comes from its ease. Eyebeam artist and developer Aaron Meyers makes it very simple set the GIFs’ speed, upload and share them.

BigTime (Free)

Joe McKay‘s BigTime calculates your time based on your exact distance from the Prime Meridian. According to the app’s info page, this is meant to reestablish our personal connection to solar time. Much like the days in which we needed to use our body’s relationship to the sun to determine the hour, BigTime offers a clock that is specific to each user’s location. It personalizes our relationship to time. It’s also essentially useless, which I like as I consider it a commentary on both art and many iPhone apps.