Village lane advent windows

This year, for the first time, our lane is doing Advent windows to raise money for extras for our local school. The way it works is that each of us – or as many as possible – in the lane ‘unveils’ a decorated window right up to December 24th and they all stay on till 12th night.

Our lane is quite dark so lights stand out really well and for inventiveness, you can’t beat a 2L milk container stuffed with LEDs for cash collections. But we’re a bit of a cashless society now so what to do? Well, we’re trying QRs that go straight to the dedicated Just Giving page. Within minutes of getting the print, people had laminated theirs against the weather, and now they’re on walls, on trees, on doors, and on windows.

My night is the 19th, a painting on an easel in a porch with LEDs all round it, and with a bit of added magic via Artivive which makes it possible for artists to embed video and 3D elements within a target image. For the technically minded, Artivive provides a bridge where an artist uploads the target image and the video to be activated. Viewers trigger the video using the Artivive app which is free from both Android and iOS app stores. Video size is limited to 100Mb.

For those making images to activate, there are several accounts. The first is free and allows for 100 activations (views) a month, and bear in mind that includes your own if, like me, you’re test-driving real world viewing. If you have several images that might be viewed, that free allowance might quickly be exceeded as I discovered when I attached a video to the Advent poster as a way of introducing the app. I’d also given a printed card of my window decoration to the organiser who racked up a good few scans showing it to friends, so I’ve upgraded the account to a paid one that gives me 1000 views a month. That costs $99 a year and unless fame suddenly comes upon me, it should suffice.

But what are you paying for? First, the whole technical infrastructure that allows you to match your target image with your video. I couldn’t make that myself and so I’m happy to pay someone who can to make it for me and keep it running. Creatives should be paid for their work, right? Second, there’s hosting. It takes money to host a service like that where the public and the artist should be able to rely on delivery in situ. Galleries aren’t in the business of amateurism, and artists won’t be happy if their viewers aren’t, so stability of service is essential.

Things to think about though include how long you let an image remain live. If your stable of images is small, maybe you can afford to keep them forever. But if you plan on attaching video to a whole herd, you might need to caveat their lifetimes. For instance, the image below is a cover screening the actual Advent image that goes live on the 19th so after that time, I can remove it from my Artivive account.

The one underneath it though is also attached to Christmas cards and so I need to think about keeping it live for much longer. What if someone gives a card to rather isolated Uncle Joe, shows him how to use the app, and he loves it – then it suddenly vanishes like Cinderella right after Christmas? At the moment, I’m planning to keep that live until after Christmas 2022 and to monitor the hits.

There’s also the possibility of attaching a ‘how it was made’ video to a book which has (when it’s published sometime next year) my commissioned painting on the cover. And there are two others attached to poems in a collection that’s out now*. How long should they stay live? At the moment I don’t really have an answer beyond considering how I would feel if, after a year for instance, I tried to show it to a friend and not only did it no longer work, I hadn’t known it had a limited life. Rule of thumb (to be revised and constantly updated!); cards maybe don’t have as long a lifetime as books; images inside books probably have a shorter lifetime than images on a cover, and paintings in a gallery may only have a lifetime matching that of the exhibition. But what if the painting is sold, or moved to another exhibition? These, I think, are questions of morality, duty of care, and service, and require some thought.

*A Christmas Canzonette. 2021. Eds Fitzpatrick, Joslin, and West. Featuring the poetry of Tom Sheehan. Publisher: The Linnet’s Wings. Available from Amazon.

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