The Frame

The frame held a screen flat and clear, thousands of little lights burning beneath it. People need not even push a button to change its display, just touch the face of their tiny, personal digital assistants. In an instant the frame housed a different image, anything ever created or recorded, ancient to postmodern.

When people weren’t around, the frame faded into sleep. The files of paintings for which it was initially marketed rested in waiting, all of them derived from real works locked away, never to be seen in person again.

But the frame was always there and everything was accessible: art from any culture, any year, ever. The frame had everything but in itself was worth practically nothing – a dispensable, replaceable item updated every few years.

Eventually the frame began selling with an adapter that allowed it to be used as a television. Most people used it more often as a television than for its comprehensive library of files. And when they used it as a television, they typically spent more time flipping channels than actually watching anything in particular.

Those who didn’t like to watch television, who used the frame for its primary purpose, often changed the image they kept on display. After all, with all of the world’s art pre-loaded, who would choose only one permanent piece?


  1. This could easily be labeled horror, IMHO, Richard. The possibility of this easily being real is quite scary, to me anyway. Very well told story.
    I'm reminded of a conversation with my son, 16 years old and brilliant with software design. We were at the lake and when he got out of the car he looked around, spread his arms wide and said, "This is almost as clear and crisp as Minecraft." This led to a long philosophical discussion. :)

  2. I don't know why I snorted with laughter at pushing the face of your assistant for more entertainment, but I sure did. Sort of a rotating photo holder of culture.

  3. A very good commentary on modern culture: disposable, ubiquitous and easily distracted.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  4. It made me think of how phones are used for everything but making calls. :)

  5. When I was a kid, I lived out in the country. Instead of taking us on long field trips to the nearest art gallery, the galleries came to us -- they would park a big white trailer in the school's front drive and we would visit it a class at a time. Within the confines of a trailer the "gallery" inside was rather like a real gallery -- nice walls, industrial carpeting, art hung with some thought to placement and their relation to each other.

    I didn't set foot in a real art gallery until I was nineteen.

    So I'm actually rather grateful for gadgets like that frame. There's nothing like being there, but if you can't be there, at least you can get an idea.

    I'd love to have the collection you described -- it sounds wonderful.

  6. yeah it made me think of a smart phone, and how it has everything on it.......

  7. I would buy that. And I'd probably be guilty of changing it up now and then, but I promise, I'd never use it as a TV.

  8. When everything is so accessible, doesn't it begin to lose its value?