The Vanity of Small Differences

Pete Hindle

iPhone app iPad app
Features: Tie-in with Perry’s tapestry exhibition at the Festival of the North East
Production credits: Aimer Media, The British Council
Launch date: 27th June

Firstly, let’s get one thing out of the way; this app is good.

But what is it?

For those who don’t follow the contemporary art scene, Grayson Perry is the flamboyant cross-dressing artist who won the Turner prize a few years ago. He’s made a series of tapestries depicting contemporary life, which were accompanied by a three-part TV show, a touring exhibition, and this app.

Inside the app Perry tours you around the individual tapestries. You have the option to click on various parts of a tapestry to see what they mean as part of a narrative that Perry has nicked from Hogarth’s 18th century work, Rake’s Progess.

Hogarth was another artist at the peak of his commercial and critical success when he created the eight-panel Rake’s Progress, commenting on the society of the time. His previous folio of prints, A Harlot’s Progress, had been so widely copied that parliament had to create a special set of laws to stop pirate editions – a set of laws which would grow to become what we call ‘copyright’. His second set of prints, the Rake’s Progress, were published on the day that those
copyright laws were introduced.

But, where Hogarth spins a neat tale, Grayson Perry’s work is a bit confusing. Luckily, we have the TV show, the app and the book of the exhibition to guide us through what Perry is trying to tell us. In fact, it’s only because of Perry’s popularity that we get such a clear picture of his intentions, which are usually disguised behind “ironic” posturing.

Despite this, the app itself stands as a good introduction to the work, and is a solidly-made bit of code with multiple ways to interact with it, and enough content to keep you coming back. Those who are already a bit knowledgeable about Grayson Perry, art history, and these tapestries might be better off buying the book, but anybody just casually interested will be happy using this app.

Grayson Perry might also be interested to know that Hogarth’s follow-up to The Rake’s Progress was a commercial and critical flop. This follow-up attacked the upper-classes for their moral laxity, which might have been the reason the paintings failed to sell for the large chunk of cash that Hogarth was looking forward to. Perhaps Grayson can avoid this fate by not making his next piece of work about the sort of people who commission multi-media event programming.

£1.99

Aimer Media

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