Arcade Machine Dreams

Exploring the aesthetics of form and code, Brendan Dawes’ SuperRare debut will make you look up

Welcome to the world of Brendan Dawes. Populated by code, data, and the human experience, Dawes' work gets at the heart of exploration.

Oct 18, 2021 Artist Profiles

8 months ago

Acclaimed UK-based artist and designer Brendan Dawes utilizes cutting-edge generative processes involving data, pixel-generating techniques, machine learning, and algorithms to create unique NFTs that bend the boundaries between time, space, and our very human senses. A Lumen Prize Alumni, his works have been exhibited worldwide, including at the Big Bang Data show. He participated in three shows in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his groundbreaking work “Cinema Redux,” which creates a single visual distillation of an entire film, like a cinematic fingerprint, was acquired into the MoMa’s main collection in 2008. 

Oblivious #1 (Your Nearest Exit May Be Behind You), Dawes genesis piece on SuperRare

Dawes describes Cinema Reduxas a turning point in his career. Though he has never attended art school, it is undeniable that he is an artist in the truest sense of the word. His practice involves constant experimentation and improvisation, pushing the boundaries of visual language to draw out aspects of the human experience that pulse beneath our everyday lives. Throughout his career, Dawes has kept true to his own pace, and with this NFT drop, the world is now starting to catch up. More recently, his series “The Art of Cybersecurity” was featured in Art Futura 2020 and “The Pandora Variations,” a collaboration with composer Logan Nelson and choreographer, actor, and filmmaker, Charlotte Edmonds, was auctioned at Sotheby’s this past June.

Arcade Machine Dreams

Dawes’ SuperRare genesis piece reveals a new series of works titled “Oblivion #1 (Your Nearest Exit May Be Behind You).” The series is inspired by a chapter in a 1961 children’s novel The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster where the main character discovers a city where the buildings start to disappear because the people don’t look up anymore. Dawes raises questions about our busying perception in the digital age. The distracting nature of consumer culture, with its endless notifications, can often leave us blind to the beauty that surrounds us when we allow ourselves to forget the simple gesture of looking up. This might sound strange from an NFT artist, but he assures me he loves screens; it’s a matter of striking a balance.

Commissioned by McMillan for Trend Micro, “The Art of Cybersecurity” is a series of images, together with a 4K animation born from cybersecurity threat data.

During quarantine we all experienced a slowing down, a reduction of our day-to-day life. We were forced to encounter the sudden vulnerability of the human body and found ourselves feeling gratitude for many things which we often overlooked. In this series, Dawes reminds us that our gaze has the power to alter our reality of time and space, how the things we oversee when we are distracted can literally disappear. 

With code and data it’s easy to get lost in the technical possibilities and lose sight of what the work is about.

— Brendan Dawes

A fun fact about Dawes is that he had a short-lived record contract during the rave scene in Manchester back in the 1990s. Though not a lucrative business, his track made it to the New York club chart. Not being a trained musician, he was, however, able to program the computer to entrance people on the dance floor. To this day his works draw from his deep love for film and music, as well as nature with its mysterious and complex forms. Dawes’ NFTs raise questions about beauty, memory, and the human experience. His works carve out fantastic spaces where visuals react to music in real time, and where data can dance with the emotive expression of a trained performer. Like dropping in on a dream or a scene from a film, Dawes’ works operate like a raft in the midst of powerful digital currents. 

“Moments” by Brendan Dawes: visualizing moments in history captured on film, television or video

Though deeply embedded in digital processing, something about the systems Dawes creates always connect back to the human experience. He explains, “With code and data it’s easy to get lost in the technical possibilities and lose sight of what the work is about,” but with Dawes’ works, no matter how much the physical human form is processed, with visuals standing in, like metaphors, the sensation of human experience always emerges through the inherent coolness of the machine processes. Though data and code are not the obvious tools for creative expression, Dawes is a master of the coding language, using rhythm, texture, and imagery, much like a poet would. He explains that working as a designer is about providing answers, while being an artist allows him to open up avenues of questioning for the viewer and to give form and texture to those human experiences that are often inexpressible, existing between the boundaries of the logical structures of the ones and zeros. He explains, “Art is a lens through which we can ask questions about the world” and his works do just that, they open an unlikely meditative digital space for the viewer to meet oneself and explore new ways of experiencing the world. 


Mika Bar On Nesher

Mika is a writer and filmmaker from Jerusalem currently based in New York City. She is SuperRare's Associate Curator.

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