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iPhone Art

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I've been researching different kinds of storytelling using various "screens," and stumbled across Erik Loyer's new project Ruben & Lullaby for the iPhone. Erik is an LA-based artist who works with interactive multimedia; he collaborates with scholars to create dynamic, interactive projects for the online journal Vectors, published by USC, for example. He's also the creator of Chroma, described as "a serialized exploration of the nature of racial identity in digital space," and The Lair of the Marrow Monkey, a wonderfully elliptical story that unites movement, music and text. With Ruben & Lullaby, Erik has created a very unusual iPhone app, one that's all about gesture and story, something Erik has been exploring through the Wii as an interface. The story centers on two people in a new relationship having their first argument....

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After downloading the app, the user holds the phone and can gently tilt it back and forth, moving the story from character to character. Music accompanies the drawings, which were made by Ezra Claytan Daniels. Stroking the screen seems to bring more sadness to the couple; shaking the phone more vigorously causes increased emotional intensity. What makes the project intriguing isn't necessarily the story itself. Instead, it's the curious intimacy of holding the story in your hand. We don't usually interact with technology in this way; here, though, we're encouraged to rub and shake, and in the process, inspire a response.

I asked Erik to describe his main considerations in thinking about storytelling for the iPhone: "Since the concept for Ruben & Lullaby was originally intended for the Wii, my initial concern was how the idea would translate to the iPhone," he says. "I pretty quickly became convinced that the basic mechanic of tilting left and right to advance the story would still make sense, and then started thinking about more iPhone-specific ideas, like stroking the screen to make characters sad. As the project progressed, most concerns folded into a single task: memory optimization."

I also asked Erik if there are other projects that inspired his work on Ruben & Lullaby. "There was an early app calledShadows Never Sleep by Aya Karpinska that was billed as a 'zoom narrative' and told a story through stroke and pinch gestures - that one really confirmed for me what I had suspected, that the iPhone had the potential to be a significant platform for artists."

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