New York City's Museum of Modern Art showcases one of the world's finest collections of modern art from across the spectrum of creation -- painting, sculpture, creative installations, and now iPad apps. MoMA has officially added added the first iPad app to its permanent collection of fine art.
The app is called Biophilia and was developed by the Icelandic pop star Björk. Part music exploration and part game, players are presented with a series of mini games based around various songs Björk has written. Depending on how players manipulate the world in each mini game, the song playing chang. For example, in the game for the song "Virus" players are shown a cell being slowly attacked by a virus. Players can choose to stop the virus, but upon doing so discover that saving the cell causes the music to end. Only by allowing the virus to destroy the cell can players hear the full song, and see the end of the level.
Developed with the help of several masters of interactive design, the app is challenging musically, aesthetically, and conceptually. In an article about the app, which you should certainly read, MoMA explains exactly why even an iPad app can be considered art.
You can download the app yourself here on the iTunes store for $12.99.
Biophilia is the first downloadable app in MoMA's collection. Apps-short for applications-are packaged, portable programs that are designed as products one can purchase from digital shelves. We have in the past acquired several digital artifacts, from dynamic visualizations to fonts and video games. For all of our digital acquisitions, we have established a protocol that speaks to the modalities of acquisition-code, files, videos-conservation, and display. The first apps added to the collection were John Maeda's 1994 Reactive Books, distributed on floppy disks inside old-school physical books. Even more than video games, apps are highly "collectible" because of their finite or semi-finite nature-they might be connected to live feeds and to the Web, but their infrastructure design is stable and defined, unlike that of websites. Indeed, in the case of an app like Biophilia, the only variable left open is the exquisite interaction that the artwork welcomes and invites, a testament to the equally exquisite experimental nature of the artist that conceived it.
Collaboration, creativity, open-mindedness, curiosity, and endless talent are the basic ingredients of most great examples of art and design. True innovation-technological, social, performative-supported by great art is a mesmerizing gift to the world.