Kapsul: A new way to organise art online? Resource alert


Technology and social media is on the rise, and its potential has not gone unnoticed within the art fraternity. Kapsul, an art world-specific image and video searching and sharing site, was launched in February 2012. Does it deliver what it promises to art professionals?

Screenshot of Kapsul Home Page

Screenshot of Kapsul Home Page

Kapsul, a platform for collaboratively creating collections of images, videos and tests online, is a project of the Kadist Art Foundation, a nonprofit organisation based in San Francisco and Paris, which “participates in the development of society through contemporary art, collecting and producing the work of artists and conducting various programs to promote their role as cultural agents.” The site is free and includes no advertisements.

Kapsul aims to help contemporary art curators, artists, educators and enthusiasts find, organise and share elements of visual culture in collaborative units called ‘kapsuls’. These Kapsuls can be used for planning exhibitions, organising research, making presentations or publishing soft exhibitions online. While San Jose-based ZERO1, a nonprofit focusing on art and technology, has already started tapping Kapsul to aid the curation of its 2012 biennial, many are simply using it to explore and discover contemporary art.

Creating kapsuls

The creation of a kapsul is aided by a search functionality which structures Google search results in eleven categories – Museums and Art Centres, Art Databases, Blogs, Galleries, Magazines, Artists, Fairs & Biennials, Foundations and Collections, Art Schools, Publishing, Libraries & Bookshops – and provides the option to add the highlighted picture or video to a new or already existing kapsul.

Screenshot of search for Ai Weiwei

The ‘advanced search’ mechanism allows users to search by colour, face, photo, or lines within the categories and the interface enables users to rearrange, title, and describe the images selected with relative ease.

Users can also upload their own images or videos from their computer or a URL to create a private kapsul. There is an option to turn it public or share with people with restricted or full access, and images can be selected from public kapsuls. The public kapsul page has five tabs – recently active, most visited, most works, alphabetical and newest – for a more optimised experience.

Screenshot of a Public Kapsul Page

Restriction, copyright issues

While the only restriction for private images is that they should not violate any laws, the public kapsuls do have to be “about or related to contemporary art”. Brett Lockspeiser from Kapsul.org clarifies,

Generally, this means images or videos documenting works of contemporary art, but there is also space for other related content such as portraits, images of related objects or places, or counterpoints from popular culture, for example. This line can be tricky to pin down, but our community largely understands together what this means. We’ve had only one instance in total where we removed works on the grounds that they were not relevant to contemporary art specifically.

Kapsul.org does not control the quality of the kapsuls, and allows works of emerging artists to be uploaded along side that of established or master artists. The organisation is happy to allow members to “judge the quality of a kapsul themselves by quantitative aspects like voting results, viewing, number of followers, amount and diversity of activity. This allows better kapsuls to surface more readily without needing to restrict what can be submitted”. When asked about issues of image copyright, Lockspeiser explained,

Kapsul finds itself in the same situation as a growing number of other new online curating tools like Pinterest, and there can certainly be issues. In short, we follow US law (our service is based in the US) which requires us to take down any works upon request from a copyright holder, but doesn’t require us to check in advance of every post whether the user has cleared the rights. Kapsul is a not for profit project, and the curating done on our site tends to be transformative, which gives Kapsul greater (though not complete) protection as a practice of fair use. The majority of images in Kapsul are private or visible only to private groups, but kapsuls can run the full range from private to public, depending on the creator’s choice.

Just another image sharing site?

While Kapsul shares some features with other picture sharing websites like Flickr and, in particular, the new kid on the block, Pinterest, Lockspeiser explained to Art Radar how Kapsul stands out.

Three main things currently differentiate Kapsul: Kapsul is specifically for and about contemporary art; Kapsul allows for private use and private collaboration; not everything is shared with the world; Kapsul includes a custom contemporary art search experience which allows for kapsuls to be created directly from search.

The search functionality, in particular, provides a great snapshot of publicly available information on any given subject, and can be helpful to those who do not know where to start.

However, while the website is fast and intuitive, it behaves a bit awkwardly when any particular image in a public kapsul is clicked. This happens because on clicking the image expands and moves to the left hand corner, displacing the surrounding images.

From private to public

While an official figure has not been released, Kapsul.org claims to have “thousands of kapsuls including hundreds of public [kapsuls]” on the website. It explained that “the initial release of Kapsul focused only on private collaboration, and hence someone new arriving at the site would have little to see unless he or she created something or was invited by others to collaborate”. Since the initial model proved slow to progress, the public aspect was created leading to a much faster uptake.

“Having public Kapsuls has been a big driver of growth for the private usage of Kapsul”, Kapsul.org noted. Lockspeiser explains the usage pattern, stating that Kapsul is currently being used by

Curators and small groups for exhibition planning (like ZERO1 and the For Site Foundation’s upcoming International Orange show for the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge); educators for organising and sharing materials with students or as a platform for students presenting work (Jens Hoffman recently taught a class at CCA where each student’s final project was presented as a kapsul); artist portfolio submissions (for example, the Marin Headlands Centre for the Arts has been using Kapsul to receive applications for grants and artist in residencies); individuals for building visual collections of their research or simply art of interest.

Kapsul has so far received favourable reviews from the industry, with reviewers like KQED Arts and Art in America Magazine encouraging their readers to try out the platform.

If you do head to the site yourself after reading this article, we encourage you to share your experience and feedback with us. Did you enjoy creating or viewing any specific kapsul? Is the site easy to use and navigate? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.


Related Topics: art and the Internet , art and the community, curatorial practice

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on contemporary art online

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.