LOS ANGELES — Just a day after I reviewed LACMA’s In Wonderland exhibition of surrealist female artists, I came across their new app. Designed by media artist Jody Zellen, Art Swipe starts you off with 16 images from the show. The images are cut in three and arranged with others on the screen, allowing you simply to slide the images until you find a mash-up you like.

One of Jody Zellen's creations, using some of her iPhone sketches with Alice Rahon's "Orion ballet: Juglar (Orion Ballet: Juggler)".

One of Jody Zellen’s creations, using some of her iPhone sketches with Alice Rahon’s “Orion ballet: Juglar (Orion Ballet: Juggler)”.

It would be nice to be able to shake the app to create random juxtapositions, and in the spirit of the social nature of the original game, it would have been fun to create something more interactive, perhaps by allowing multiple people with iPhones to contribute a sketch or image via wifi. But the interface is quite clean and intuitive. You can also add more images, with a diverse array available from LACMA’s larger collection or even your own camera roll.

Zellen tells LACMA she draws inspiration from the exquisite corpse surrealist parlor game, which asked multiple artists contribute to a single image while unaware of each other’s contributions until the very end. It’s the right inspiration for the show, as the mash-ups are frequently unsettling and oddly beautiful.

I’m not sure exactly what the app is for, but I think that’s the point. It’s a purely artistic app, an update on an old game for the iPhone generation. But there’s more: It’s a unique way to bring the museum experience to life, especially for those not able to attend the show in person. This is particularly effective on the iPad version, which allows you to see hi-res images of the works along with basic artist information.

According to the app designer: “The way it functions mirrors the approach of the artists in the show, in many ways … It’s about play and fun and making uncanny juxtapositions out of things that already exist — taking something that is a given and reading it in a new way, putting a new twist on it.”

Art Swipe is available in the Apple App store for free on both the iPhone and iPad.

AX Mina (aka An Xiao Mina) is an author, artist and futures thinker who follows her curiosity. She co-produces Five and Nine, a podcast about magic, work and economic justice. 

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