Crowdsourced art: The Johnny Cash Project

I’ve talked about crowdsourcing before, but I haven’t gone into much detail about crowdsourced art. A strange concept, I know, hard to grasp (isn’t art a personal expression?), but psychologically and socially very interesting. Kids get it: some favourite party games involve collaborative drawing or story-telling.

I’ll write about this at greater length soon, but meanwhile I want to share this fascinating example with you: The Johnny Cash Project.

watch the Johnny Cash Project

Anyone – you, me, the kid next door – can contribute by drawing a frame for a video to accompany the haunting song “Ain’t No Grave”. The frames are strung together to create a jerky, uncomfortable but riveting sequence of images. The resources at your disposal are limited, in that you need to do it on the online drawing/painting platform provided on the website. And your work needs to reflect the frame that you chose from the original video. But other than that, you can be as creative as you like.

the Johnny Cash Project art

And there certainly is a lot of creativity in some of the frames. Different styles, moods, effects… I could spend ages looking at the individual paintings, there are some amazing works of art in there. What I most love, though, is that the resulting video is never the same, no matter how many times you see it. The contributed art is chosen at random (or according to the highest ratings, or the director’s choice, or the number of brushstrokes…), following the frame secuence.

I don’t believe that crowdsourced art will ever be on the same plane as individual expression and interpretation. But as a collaboration of different, individual, unique styles, with a beautiful unity of purpose, I do believe that it will find its niche and develop as a completely different medium.

And with over 250,000 people from 172 countries contributing to the Johnny Cash Project, you have to admit, that’s a pretty good tribute.

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