Today, I released 1024 Lemons, a small, citrusy generative art project bound for the public domain. Here, I'll detail how it's being sold and explain why I'm giving it away.
What is this?
1024 Lemons is a generative art project that works like this:
- I wrote a piece of code that generated 1024 small, unique lemon illustrations
- 1024 art prints, comprised of those illustrations, are available for purchase
- Each time a print is sold, one lemon illustration is released into public domain
The first eight lemons look like this. The next 1016 lemons look quite similar, but no two are alike.
The shape of each lemon is unique and was generated by an algorithm written for the project. Each illustration was constructed within certain constraints to guarantee that it was unique, lemony enough, and felt a part of the larger set.
There are exactly 1024 art prints for sale. The lemons within the print are all unique and the prints are all identical. They all look like this.
How are the prints being sold?
The prints are available for $44 and ship free anywhere in the U.S.
Each time a print is sold, one of the 1024 lemon illustrations will be released into the public domain. Eventually, all of the illustrations will be re-licensed into the commons. Anyone will be able to download, print, or adapt the art in whatever way they might.
Why give away the art?
This piece of art and this project were designed as an experiment with alternative methods of funding for creative work. Can we find better ways to do art within capitalism?
Unlocking the Commons
A few years ago, I read this article by Tim Carmody, in which he describes an emerging funding model for creative work. Tim called this "unlocking the commons" and I'll over-simplify it as: make something, then sell it, in order to give it away.
Tim detailed the wonderful Kottke.org's membership program, which was giving away access to its website content. But, couldn't this be our model for all kinds of creative work? Doesn't it feel better to create abundance rather than artificial, digital scarcity?
An integral piece of the idea is that the supporters insist on giving away the work. It's part of the deal. Folks are buying access for themselves, and in doing so, financing open access for everyone.
Let's take this idea further: in addition to giving away access to a creative work, could we give away the use of a creative work?
1024 Lemons is an experiment in unlocking common use. A small community of contributors can unlock these illustrations for everyone to use, for anything, forever.
Maybe this is how we build things? Artists can make art and get paid for it, while the wider culture can benefit. 1024 Lemons sets out six goals for itself.
- Produce beautiful, physical art prints
- Release itself into the public domain
- Offer contributors public acknowledgement, thanking them for their support
- Raise money to help mitigate climate change
- Raise money for NSC, a local immigrant and refugee aid organization
- Find enough profit to fund future projects
Contributors to the Commons
Each person who buys a print is helping contribute a small piece of art to the commons (the public domain). These contributors are publicly thanked (anonymously by default, by name if they wish).
There is a list of publicly available lemons illustrations. It notes the moment that each was released into public domain and thanks the person who made that possible.
How are the illustrations being released into the public domain?
The illustrations will be released into the public domain using the Creative Commons CC0 license. After re-licensing the illustration, it will be available to anyone in the world to use in any way.
Have any been released yet?
Yes! You can view and download all of the public illustrations here.
What if folks don't want a print?
Maybe some people have no interest in acquiring a physical print, but would still like to support the project?
Use the discount code
NOPRINT at checkout and you will not receive a physical print. The cost of
NOPRINT support is $25 (the production and shipping cost of each print is removed).
How about folks that can't afford $25?
Anyone who can't afford to support the project (because of a financial hardship or any other reason) can use the discount code
This code will remove the print cost and my artist revenue, dropping the cost to $7. This will still cover contributing a lemon to the public domain, the two donations, and the payment processing costs.
Can we just do it for free?
Sure! If you'd like to support the project, but don't want to spend any money, send me an email and we'll do it for free.
Are there any non-financial ways to support this?
Yes! Sharing the project page (reasonable.work/1024-lemons) or this post (matthewhowell.net/notes/2022/selling-lemons) with others who might want to support it is always appreciated.
Another great way to support the project is to make something with the public illustrations!
The Three Common Benefits
I think there are probably 3 ways to apply the idea of unlocking creative work: unlocking common access, unlocking common copies, and unlocking common use. Let's call these the three Common Benefits.
These models will only make sense when the unlocked benefits are cheap to replicate and scale. The creator's cost for these benefits must approach zero.
Unlocking common access
Supporters pay for access to the work and unlock access for everyone. Example: a website that has a membership program, but has no paywall to read.
Unlocking common copies
Supporters pay for a copy of the work and unlock copies for everyone. Example: a book that sells copies (physical and digital), but also offers a free digital copy.
Unlocking common use
Supporters pay for a use of the work and unlock use for everyone. Example: a piece of art that sells physical prints, but is released into the public domain.
Maybe I missed one? Or several? Please reach out with ideas or questions: @matthewhowell or email