Do electric memes dream of JPEGS?: an interview with Moxarra Gonzalez

Do electric memes dream of JPEGS?: an interview with Moxarra Gonzalez

“GM JPEGS” by @moxarrarare (2021)

Do electric memes dream of JPEGS?: an interview with Moxarra Gonzalez

The OG talks about his work, the crypto art scene, and his punk roots.
1 month ago

Moxarra Gonzalez by Dave Krugman

What counts as art?  It’s a question with no definitive answer that artists and theorists have wrestled with for centuries, yet somehow, the artistic establishment still claims to know the truth. Distinctions between art and not art, high art and low art, the valuable and the worthless, often reflect the tastes of the ruling class. Over time, as more and more artists embrace styles and subjects that the traditional artworld refuses to engage with, those styles and practices assimilate into the mainstream. Then, once something becomes too popular for the elite to ignore, the cultural canon appropriates it.

“This isn’t art,” is an accusation frequently leveled at crypto artists. And while there is a great variety of art minted as NFTs, from digitally rendered oil paintings to fine photography, Web3 has seen its share of distinct styles and movements completely unique to the digital space (some even predating Web3), from trash art to vaporwave to work that utilizes blockchain itself as part of the medium. Unsurprisingly, some of the most emblematic pieces of crypto art have traditional collectors rolling their eyes, especially those that incorporate memes or reflect the tastes of artists who’ve spent their lives online. Are memes art? Establishment art types might scoff at the idea, but I think a case is easy to make. Writing for Polygon back in 2018, Sam Greszes asserted that “Shitposting is an art, if history is any indication.” Even prior to this, I’ve heard underground artists, friends, acquaintances, myself even, voice the same take since at least 2013: memes are Dada1. Greszes makes astute comparisons, for example likening memes that rely on found imagery to Duchamp’s readymade art. The argument for the inclusion of memes and internet culture in artistic spaces is as old as internet culture itself. But most such artists are still, by all accounts, artworld outsiders.

Moxarra Gonzalez by Oveck

Mexican artist Moxarra Gonzalez studied art at The Autonomous University of Nuevo León in Monterrey, but his introduction to digital art didn’t come until he worked at a newspaper in his hometown, creating infographics and illustrations with rapid turnaround times. Through a Facebook ad in 2015, he found Dada.nyc, the now-emblematic collaborative platform where users communicate via digital drawings made in a simple interface. He quickly became involved in the community. Moxarra’s move into NFTs arrived when the platform began monetizing its digital artwork through the “Creeps and Weirdos” collection, and today he’s regarded as a crypto art OG, with work minted on SuperRare2 , MakersPlace, KnownOrgin, Foundation, and other platforms. “I come from skate MTV culture,” he told me when I spoke to him over a video call. He lit a cigarette as he settled in to speak to me. I noticed he looked like he should’ve had a lanky frame, but in fact appeared rather sturdy. His black tee, glasses, and ponytail wouldn’t be out of place at the Bushwick skate bar I head to for a beer after work when decide I need to doomscroll on a weeknight. “I like to draw a lot…I like music. I like punk. So I think that’s reflected in my work.” And those influences truly are unmistakable–much of his art references the aesthetics and touchstones of the 1980s, but uses that framework to address events of the present, be it global news, the crypto scene, or internet culture. The result is frequently anachronistic, retrofuturist, and fantastically sure of itself. 

Moxarra’s roots in punk and skate culture are evident in series like Non Fungible Tokens–ten cards stylized like Garbage Pail Kids that reference different aspects of the NFT space–and Surprise PFPoops, his take on PFPs. It’s the type of art that reminds me of when Heinz sold green and purple ketchup that my mom wouldn’t buy, no matter how much my brother and I begged3. But that’s the point. To be a little cheeky and juvenile, even gross. Nothing is so serious that there isn’t room for a swirly green piece of shit wearing weed glasses with a tab of acid on its tongue. Or even better, a joint hanging from the corner of the mouth of Hielos, specifically the bust of Hielos that’s become so familiar to fans of vaporwave via the cover of Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus. Plenty of Moxarra’s pieces have a vaporwave sensibility to them–even if they aren’t quite so overt as “Vapor Dave”–particularly in his GM series, which utilizes bright neon colors, bold lines, and flashing gifs. Characters featured in these works are mostly (but not always) pulled from 1980s pop culture, and if they’re not, they occupy the same visual niche. Moxarra told me that he usually draws a GM everyday, and likened the practice to when he needed to turn art around quickly for newspaper deadlines.

“GM Assholes” depicts a man whose manner of dress denotes a corporate ladder-climbing yuppie. Not explicitly Patrick Bateman, but not too far off.4 Except then he’s holding a smartphone; a speech bubble blooms from it as he’s about to tilt his glasses down. The bubble contains the Microsoft logo and the phrase Little Capitalist Assholes. “It just came naturally from my collection of ideas because I tend to mix all the pop references that I have immediately in my brain,” Moxarra told me. “So when I see something popping up in crypto culture, I try to connect it with my past references. So yeah, a lot of connections of what I saw when I was young and what I can do right now. And all the eighties, baby boomer, boom of Wall Street and all that stuff. It’s like, I mean right now with the crypto boom. So yeah, a lot of connections of what I saw when I was young and what I can do right now.”

And Moxarra isn’t afraid to comment on the crypto scene, both in regard to insiders and outsiders. In “NFTEvil,” he addresses artists who hate NFTs using the format of the Old Man Yells at Cloud meme (memes really do make for effective communication in the arts), and in “HODL Please” he similarly uses the format of a meme, this time the Everything’s Fine dog, to poke fun at crypto evangelists who place a little too much faith in the coin. 

When we spoke, I asked Moxarra about the NFT space, and what he wanted to see change. He thinks that too many people are trying too hard to be seen. “All these little groups that have been like…they really want to identify with something. So that’s weird because when we started, we were anonymous. Most of the people thought that Moxarra was a girl.” In many ways, part of the point of crypto is anonymity—there’s a reason your public wallet address is a string of characters in lieu of your first and last name. Even when crypto artists have public facing identities, they frequently go by their social handles or nicknames (Moxarra is a nickname, after all). Some OGs do share their real names, and certainly some can be vocal. But on the whole, they’re still quieter than newcomers.

La Lagunilla Market by Dave Krugman

“They start in this world and they want to be famous like Picasso or, I don’t know Modigliani, or they look at the old school days of art, either the big people in crypto art like, I don’t know, XCOPY.” For Moxarra, it doesn’t matter who someone is, where they’re from, or what groups they belong to. The most important thing is the art and how he can connect to it. “Be anonymous, I think,” he said, in regards to crypto artists. He acknowledges his thoughts on the matter could be colored by the fact that when he first entered the space, no one knew who he was. No one knew who anyone was. “We didn’t really care if we got famous. I don’t really give a fuck if someone knows me or recognizes me on the street.” We discussed the positives and the negatives of the crypto art scene going mainstream; on one hand it brings legitimacy to the art and the artists; on the other hand, as when anything goes mainstream, it gets diluted into an afterimage of its former self, taken over by people who don’t understand what it meant in the first place. “Well, maybe the NFT scene will get established in a moment because we are seeing all these Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions with NFTs. So more of the outsiders, they are getting to know NFT culture.” He paused for a moment, then continued. “But as we started this stuff, I don’t want to be mainstream now. I hope it goes mainstream, but I don’t want to be mainstream, you know?” The perspective was very punk of him, I thought.

“It’s a common joke between the Mexican artists,” Moxarra said. “We are just doing silly little drawings that move5.” And the crypto art scene in Mexico is impressive, featuring not only Moxarra’s talent, but contemporaries like Ann Ahoy, Neurocolor, Criptocromo, Hola Lou, and Carlos Marcial. There is incredible community among these artists–Moxarra told me that it’s different to be around other artists, in a good way; he said that it was difficult to talk to his ex-wife about NFTs: “every time I talked to her about my funny little drawings that I was selling for magical internet money, she was like, what the fuck is that?” The thing about people who aren’t involved in the crypto art space? They don’t get it. Not all of Moxarra’s art, but a fair amount of it, requires the viewer to have the correct cultural background to understand it. The work of so many OGs and the people who followed in their wake will be dismissed by those who aren’t in the space, all because they don’t know where it came from. And that’s all too frequently the benchmark for what does and does not count as art; it has nothing to do with the merits of a piece, but the audience’s inability to understand. And it’s not as if the work is inaccessible in the way that bourgeois and aristocratic art is inaccessible to the people. In many ways, artists like Moxarra are more of the people than anyone in the mainstream. Who doesn’t know Pepe the Frog, or the Everything’s Fine Dog? Your boomer parents, maybe6. Even pieces that more specifically reference crypto or Web3 don’t take much research for a noob to understand, as long as that noob has media literacy skills7. A refusal to recognize crypto art as real and true art is, most frequently, willful. Artists like Moxarra are necessary. Artists who create with no concern for the tastes of the mainstream. He’s pushing art towards evolution. Moxarra is out here, making GMs and minting little poops, among those who continue to set a new standard. 
20

Oliver Scialdone

Oliver Scialdone is a queer writer and artist based in Brooklyn, NY. They earned a dual-MFA from The New School, and their work can be found in Peach Mag, ImageOut Write, and elsewhere. They host the reading series Satellite Lit and they're the Associate Editor at SuperRare.

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Lykke Li on Loops, Eyeye, and Her Genesis NFT Drop

Lykke Li on Loops, Eyeye, and Her Genesis NFT Drop

Above: From “CAROUSEL” by Lykke Li on SuperRare

Lykke Li on Loops, Eyeye, and Her Genesis NFT Drop

Lykke Li brings an atmospheric audiovisual experience to the blockchain.
1 month ago

Swedish singer Lykke Li sees the world through loops and repetition. Lykke is known for pushing the boundaries with her projects. Thus, the case with her latest release Eyeye – which is not just an album, but an audiovisual experience.

And how does SuperRare tie into this?

Lykke is releasing a 7-video collection, as an NFT drop, to coincide with Eyeye, on SuperRare. Think of it more as a digital art series/exhibition. The imagery packs an emotional punch; blending the music with the visuals – to create a hypnotic sense of repetition that parallels how we now consume media.

SuperRare had a chance to throw interview questions at Lykke – to talk about everything from the upcoming NFT drop, her creative process, as well as collaborating with the legendary director, David Lynch.

GENESIS by Lykke Li on SuperRare

SR: For Eyeye – what made you feel it should be an immersive audio/visual experience? How would you describe the exhibition which will be on SuperRare?  

LL: For me, creativity and writing in itself is a very immersive experience. I’m always imagining and kind of seeing these images when I write that I then try to translate with production into something that you can feel. And especially with this project I was carrying all these landscapes and soundscapes and really closing my eyes and envisioning with my third eye. I wanted to make something very 5 dimensional that you can feel with all of your senses; not confining my art to one form, but allowing it to be free. I’m most interested in creating a world that you can step into and get lost in.

SR: What’s the process of blending music with visuals? Does the music come first or the imagery? What was the intention?

LL: Always when I make music, I see visuals and I know when something is done when I can experience this certain feeling that goes along with it. The music came first and then I felt like it was becoming a very textured, cinematic world that I had stepped into and I really wanted to finally go there. I’ve been so interested in making something like this for a very long time, and I knew that it was time to really imagine what it could be alongside with Theo.

SR: The visuals for the project are stunning. What was the collaboration like with director Theo Lindquist?

LL: It was a true kind of friendship between me and Theo. We spent hours and hours and hours talking about what was happening in real life to me. And as we were developing the album he would say things like “damn, your life is like a movie” and it’s true! I started out wanting to make a real movie with him, and something really interesting in our relationship is that we’re always battling with ideas and pushing each other to find the best creative ideas, and we’re both quite open to having the best idea win. And then Theo came up with the concept that instead of making a movie, what if we tried to tell the story of the movie in seven scenes that loop.

OVER by LYKKE LI on SuperRare

SR: What was the process in putting it together? How long did it take to complete?

LL: We wanted to use the creative norms of today, which essentially are that people always see things on a constant loop becayse of Tik Tok or Instagram, and we wanted to take the limitations that we see with the modernity of the world to make something lush and heartbreaking and very deep. We wanted to take the concept of moviemaking and make it fill into something modern and more relevant to the way most of us consume art today, almost a cut and paste solution while making art that we still cared about.

SR: What formulated the ideas? Why this project now? 

LL: When we first thought of using the loop as a narrative form, I became completely obsessed with noticing loops even in the art I had always loved, and I started to see it everywhere. Like, when I saw Pina Bausch’s Cafe Müller piece and he drops the woman like 10 times in a row, and when Marina Abromovic she runs into Udo over and over again; there’s something very hypnotic and transcendent about a perfect loop and the circle as a form is something I became obsessed with. The cycles are everywhere around us – the lunar cycle, the menstrual cycle, the cycle of life and death, and this cycle of neural response in love. The idea of trying to perfect the circle became really inspiring and challenging to me, and I realized that it’s something that I’ve been trying to do ever since I was a child. I went to Rudolf Steiner school as a child and one of the exercises that we did was to try to draw a perfect circle by hand. And I feel like that’s very much what making art is all about. It’s about honing in on the subject and trying to come closer and closer to some sort of truth, harmony and balance.

SR: Why are you drawn to the use of repetition?

LL: It’s just hypnotic for me. I was completely obsessed, I would stare at these YouTube compilations of somebody just like falling down and there’s something so interesting in continuous repetition, and as someone else has said, we don’t live life, we repeat patterns. So I’ve been in this state of mind of analyzing my own patterns.

SR: You’ve said repetitive bursts are parallel to how we now consume media. Do you think that is the future of music videos in our short attention span culture?

LL: For sure. I think we’re already there. We’re so used to only watching the small clips of something, like the trailer of a film, or there’s a whole trial and we only watch the highlights. So I think we’re sadly already there.

SR: What is the larger story in the seven visual loops?

LL: I’m trying to really dissect the characteristics of love, of addiction, obsession, rejection, attraction – like the loop that we all get stuck in. Also questioning what is real and what is not and the extent of the returning cycles of love. So it’s a meta film, it’s the movie, within a movie, where we’re trying to dissect the different phases of love but it’s also looking at the different characters and state of minds within myself, in a Jungian way you could say that it’s all my subconscious and happening on the inside.

5D by Lykke Li on SuperRare

SR: What emotional connections do you make to conjure the imagery?

LL: I guess when you are making art, you’re always trying to find the heightened peak of any emotion so you can show all the different shades of life in colors and feelings. The carousel of love.

SR: You mentioned in an interview that Michael Mann’s film Heat was a key inspiration. Could you go a little into that?    

LL: It’s more that I was watching it like a hundred million times in the pandemic and I just realized that it’s such a perfect movie, from the opening shot, the sound, to the acting to the plot line. it’s like watching a Greek drama with all its archetypes. I get inspired by everything that has such strength and perfection but I was not using Heat as an actual reference.

SR: What did you learn from collaborating with David Lynch that you brought to this project? 

LL: David really taught me to meditate and that there’s this level of creativity inside of us that flows if we are willing to close our eyes and tap into it. So that patience has been very transcendent for me. Also something that I learned from him is that he is very much guided by his emotions. Things don’t always have to make sense, they just have to feel right. So I very much work like that, too. I work based on my emotional intuition.

SR: Will these visuals be part of your live concerts on your fall tour? You have mentioned that the tour will be equally experimental and immersive  – could you explain a little further? 

LL: I’m putting together an immersive video installation with Theo, where I would be working and rearranging the album stems and mixing it for spatial audio. So I will definitely put together an experience with the videos, but the live tour will be something else. I’m really interested in the circle within the circle within the circle, so it will be quite a meta show; like the movie within the movie, within the show.

SR: What do you love most about the new album and the visuals?

LL: I made this album for myself, like a re gift for what I started when I was about 18. Theres been a lot of trials and missteps and wrong turns. It’s like I have been practicing this whole life to make the album and visuals of EYEYE – I finally was able to translate what I have been carrying within me for all this time. It’s my own Magnum Opus and how I would like to be remembered.

20

Harmon Leon

Harmon Leon is the the author of eight books—the latest is: 'Tribespotting: Undercover (Cult)ure Stories.' Harmon's stories have appeared in VICE, Esquire, The Nation, National Geographic, Salon, Ozy, Huffington Post, NPR’s 'This American Life' and Wired. He's produced video content for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Timeline, Out, FX, Daily Mail, Yahoo Sports, National Lampoon and VH1. Harmon has appeared on This American Life, The Howard Stern Show, Last Call With Carson Daly, Penn & Teller’s Bullshit, MSNBC, Spike TV, VH1, FX, as well as the BBC—and he's performed comedy around the world, including the Edinburgh, Melbourne, Dublin, Vancouver and Montreal Comedy Festivals. Follow Harmon on Twitter @harmonleon.

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Bodymades: the essence and anatomy of David Cronenberg’s latest NFT

Bodymades: the essence and anatomy of David Cronenberg’s latest NFT

Above: “Inner Beauty”

Bodymades: the essence and anatomy of David Cronenberg’s latest NFT

The acclaimed director shines light on the unseen parts of the human experience.
Oliver Scialdone
3 months ago

Clustered atop a matte aluminum table, eighteen stones of varied sizes and textures form a constellation ranging in hue from pale cream to rich hickory. One may imagine that this group of objects is an arrangement of souvenir sedimentary rocks gathered during a sand-strewn getaway, visualizing the delighted collector pocketing the jagged orbs, each with its own unique structure and grain, like gypsum rose scattered about the path of a desert stroll. If only their acquisition were so idyllic. These tightly bunched, beige-toned relics are actually kidney stones personally collected over the course of a two-year period by acclaimed film director David Cronenberg, and the photograph depicting them is the primary element of his second NFT, titled “Inner Beauty.”

Cronenberg, widely known for his seminal contributions to the body horror film genre, returns to SuperRare with a new work that makes reference to his cinematic exploration of the grotesque, while also aiming to highlight the natural artistry of the human body. The piece was conceived on a whim as the Toronto-based director was engaged in conversation with a friend regarding their shared affliction with kidney stones. His friend was anxious about the inevitability of their passing, but Cronenberg had already endured the ordeal many times over. Having collected them in a pill bottle, an act that unconsciously mimicked the creation of the Brundle Museum of Natural History from his film, “The Fly,” Cronenberg poured the tiny mineral deposits, the largest measuring 5mm in diameter, onto a table and snapped a photo to send to his friend. In doing so, he was struck by their natural allure. “When I looked at the photo I thought, ‘this is oddly beautiful.’ It’s strange. It looks like sea creatures.” In that moment, an intentionality was sparked and he began looking at the arrangement with new eyes, testing multiple camera lenses to find the best one for magnifying and capturing the tiny stones.

“The Fly” (1986) dir. David Cronenberg

Cronenberg recognizes that he often returns to previously explored concepts as new technologies and awareness develop, a practice that he linked back to the New York underground filmmakers of the 1950’s and ‘60s. In that light, it comes as no surprise that the title of this NFT directly references a line from his 1988 film, “Dead Ringers,” in which one of Jeremy Irons’ twin characters laments the fact that there are no beauty contests for the inner landscape of the human body. The director paraphrased the character’s statement with a pertinent question: “Why don’t we have an aesthetic for the inside of our bodies? Because that is of our essence as well.” 

With “Inner Beauty,” Cronenberg shifts the conception of kidney stones away from their being indicators of some dysfunction within the body, instead finding wonder and excitement in the body expressing itself as a result of what one has ingested. In fact, marveling at the mysterious feats of the human body was something potentially in his subconscious when the photograph was taken. He’d recently wrapped filming his upcoming movie, “Crimes of the Future,” which features a performance artist who performs surgery on himself, publicly extracting new organs with no known function. While he was reluctant to reveal too much about the new film, it is apparent that the keenly creative director is very much interested in the duality of the grotesque as simultaneously macabre and beautiful, always allowing for abundant breadth within that spectrum.

“Discussions of the human body in my filmmaking have nothing to do with genre. It doesn’t have to do with horror film or not horror film, gangster film, whatever. It has to do with my constant exploration of what it is to be a human being. What is the human condition? And for me it’s always body-centric.”

DAVID CRONENBERG

“Dead Ringers” (1988) dir. David Cronenberg

With “Inner Beauty,” Cronenberg offers a new kind of story, one that is decidedly more personal than any other of his offerings. In the Artist’s Statement, titled “Kidney Stones and Inner Beauty,” which accompanies the primary image of the NFT, he writes, “I see in these kidney stones a luminous narrative generated by a group of my inner organs, a narrative as intimate as a person could imagine.” Indeed, it doesn’t get much more intimate than objects formed by and within one’s own body, and in fact, the artist offers to take it a step further, having expressed his willingness to provide the owner of the NFT with the collection of physical kidney stones. “I mean, it’s got my DNA in it. That’s certainly true. So that’s an issue in this case—I guess any art object, a sculpture that a sculptor has done, you’d think it would have their DNA on it, just physically.”

But the existence of the physical objects begs a question: why choose to mint this photo as an NFT, as opposed to offering the physical kidney stones on a traditional marketplace? The answer comes down to presentation. While he could easily hand the stones to a buyer, he views the photo as the primary element of the piece. It captures and highlights the beauty of the stones as art objects and is supported by his accompanying statement; the resulting combination of these elements can be best packaged and presented as an NFT. He asserts that it is the context in which the work is presented that makes it art. 

“It really opens up again the question of, and it’s very fascinating, where is the value in a work of art? Is it in its physicality? In its meaning? Is it in its ownership?” 

DAVID CRONENBERG

“Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp

“Robness Urinal” by Max Osiris

While Cronenberg recognizes that kidney stones may not fit the normal concept of art, he maintains that by intentionally removing them from their original context and providing a new one, they are elevated to this status, making a conscious nod to Duchamp’s readymades and perhaps, though inadvertently, the more recent Trash Art movement, where artists appropriate found digital imagery in a manner Duchamp would approve of. Calling attention to the exciting and unimaginable prospects that new innovations like blockchains and VR can afford the art world, Cronenberg largely embraces the possibilities of the future while keeping an eye on the fundamental questions that have always existed within artistic exploration. “For me,” he stated, “the whole NFT thing induces a wonderful philosophical investigation of what the reality of art is.”

20

Collin Frazier

Collin Frazier is a Brooklyn-based writer, podcaster, and mixologist. He obtained his MFA from The New School and his work can be found in Epiphany Magazine.

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Vexx’s SuperRare drop has eyes on crypto culture

Vexx’s SuperRare drop has eyes on crypto culture

Above: “data privacy” by stockcatalog licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Vexx’s SuperRare drop has eyes on crypto culture

The artist's newest NFT builds bridges between physical and digital art while commenting on the state of crypto.
4 months ago

Vexx and “MOON”

Vexx’s first drop on SuperRare is a dynamic NFT merging the physical and digital mediums to create a hybrid work that will continue to evolve over time. Since starting out as a Youtuber six years ago, the 23-year old artist has accumulated 3 million Youtube followers and 825K Instagram followers. In his videos he provides viewers with access to his work process and unique worldview. He has a massive community supporting his work, and for good reason. People may wonder what the hype about Vexx is, until they watch one of his videos and realize his talent and individuality are undeniable. Never taking the obvious route, Vexx is constantly challenging his audiences to look at the world in a more creative light–he is a storyteller both on paper and on screen. He explains how before NFTs existed, artworks used to have a beginning and an endpoint. That’s all changing now as dynamic NFTs can be programmed to evolve long after they leave the artist’s studio. 

“My first collection was an introduction for me to see what’s possible. More of animating my works on paper. The second drop, ‘METADRAGON,’ was a big one because it’s the first time I paired the digital with the physical. It was an eye-opening moment, seeing how art can come to life in so many different ways because of NFTs and the possibilities of smart contracts.” 

VEXX

The NFT medium reinvigorated Vexx’s artistic practice, opening up new channels of experimentation and expression. Though he’s only been officially active in the NFT scene since April of 2021, his past drops have made headlines. His first 1/1, “METADRAGON,” sold for $41,000 and was paired with an accompanying sculpture. 

“MOON” by Vexx

Having stayed true to the physical format, Vexx is finding new ways to bridge the physical and digital works in his second 1/1 NFT, “MOON.” The NFT will feature original music from Belgium producer Chuki Beats. Like in his previous drop, the auction winner will receive a physical sculpture in addition to the digital artwork. A product of a months-long, labor-intensive process, the final digital statue is a colorful skull-like face, hand-painted with acrylics and sculptured with a laser cutting technique. In the place of the eyes are two paper-thin, 17-inch screens. Vexx has written his own smart contract that uses WiFi to communicate with the screens to show the real-time changing price of Ethereum and Bitcoin. Similar to a game, each animated eye of the sculpture represents a different coin, and when Bitcoin hits $100,000 and Ethereum hits $10,000 the lucky collector is programmed to get air-dropped two additional 1/1 NFTs. He has hinted at other future surprises that will be released alongside important crypto milestones. 

Vexx describes the airdrops as another way the artwork continues to evolve past its point of purchase. By gamifying NFTs–part of a trend that’s paving new ways for creators to interact with their collectors and audiences–Vexx is exploring the possibilities that smart contracts offer. Blockchain, and specifically smart contracts, have the ability to radically change the way we experience art. Games, like movies, novels, and paintings, are often made up of stories, and when the gaming world and the artworld intersect, we are bound to soon encounter new methods of interactive storytelling and art experiences.

Vexx unveils “MOON,” the sculpture.

“‘MOON’ is a commentary on the whole culture of Crypto, where everyone is saying ‘oh we need to hit this price target, we need to hit that price target.’ I think there is a bit too much of that in the space, it’s more interesting to focus on the technology and what people are building instead of these numbers we are giving. I’m leaning into it and celebrating crypto culture, but also questioning it.” 

VEXX

Vexx’s edge in the space is his ability to synergize physical and digital art practices. Every single person who bids on “MOON” will receive a signed print from the artist. For some creators, it’s either digital or physical, but Vexx insists the magic happens in the collision. His first NFT series is titled “Blending Realities,” and that’s exactly what his artworks achieve. By not giving up his physical practice like other digital artists, he is utilizing smart contacts in order to pioneer new modes of hybridity between the two realms. While becoming a prominent player in the NFT medium, he continues to make works on paper, on city walls, and his works have even appeared on a billboard in Times Square. He doesn’t limit himself as he continues to document his projects on his Youtube channel. His channel, therefore, has become a kind of timeline that captures how art is expanding both conceptually and technically with the introduction of blockchain technology. 

“I was interested in the dynamic that the artwork can change. Before NFTs, it was hard for artwork to change once it was finished. But now, being able to program your artwork means it can have it’s own lifespan. It’s always changing, and the future airdrops make it more of a whole story rather than one finished picture.” 

— VEXX

Vexx and “MOON”

There is a famous quote attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci: “A work of art is never finished, merely abandoned.” With artworks coming alive on the blockchain, innovative artists like Vexx can utilize dynamic NFTs to make their works remain in a mode of creation forever. Back in the late 1950’s, the Minimalist movement was making headlines. Many people were quite upset with the presentation of large industrial objects that showed no trace of the artist’s hand displayed in galleries and sold for enormous amounts of money. Artists like Donlad Judd would simply send instructions to fabricators that would then deliver the works straight to the galleries. In turn, galleries had to expand physically to hold these massive sculptures, similar to the way screen technology has been evolving in the past two years. Minimalism, much like the NFT movement, was a turning point in the narrative of art history, as it raised questions about what art is and what it is not. The movement challenged the boundaries between the mediums and transformed the art market into how we know it today. But instead of the artist providing instructions to the fabricator, NFT artists are providing instructions to the computer. Dynamic NFTs are opening up a completely new understanding of the relationship between art, space, and us viewers. 

Behind the eyes of “MOON”

37

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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Negative Space

In Ryan Koopmans’ “Tunnel Vision,” the power of nature compels you

In Ryan Koopmans’ “Tunnel Vision,” the power of nature compels you

“Rush Hour”

In Ryan Koopmans’ “Tunnel Vision,” the power of nature compels you

5 months ago

Devotion” from The Wild Within

Have you ever had those dreams where you’re in a familiar place that’s just off somehow? Like you’re in the hallway of your high school and the lockers are made of wet floral foam. Or you’re in your own house and there’s a neon green monitor lizard hanging out on the La-Z-Boy and you only think it’s weird because you don’t remember buying the La-Z-Boy. Or you’re in your local subway station and instead of the usual platform floor made from concrete and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, you’re standing on grass and feeling wildflowers brush against your ankles.

Ryan Koopmans, the artist behind “The Wild Within,” is a master of this liminality, and he’s back with another dreamy NFT art series that depicts human-made environments taken over by natural plant life. While “The Wild Within” focused on abandoned Soviet-era buildings in Georgia, “Tunnel Vision” takes place in the underground metro stations in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Transcendence”

It’s taking some of the same ideas and themes from “The Wild Within,” but applying it to a more contemporary and slightly different—but still human-made—environment. It looks at the relationship between the natural worlds and the artificial worlds and the nuances, the paradoxes, and sometimes the dynamic relationship between the two and how they interact.

— Ryan Koopmans

Born in the Netherlands and raised in British Columbia, Canada, Koopmans moved to New York after completing university at the Vancouver campus of University of British Columbia. He went to grad school at The School of Visual Arts where he earned his Masters of Fine Art in Photography, Video & Related Media in 2012. Two years later, he packed up and traveled the world as a professional photographer before settling in Stockholm, where his creative collaborator, Swedish artist Alice Wexell, also lives.

“Rush Hour” on SuperRare

The two of us combined forces to create “The Wild Within,” which combined photographic documentary content with 3D elements and brought everything together into a new multimedia form of presentation. It took several years of going back and forth to this town in Georgia and learning about the social and cultural history and the political history, and building contacts and giving back to the local people and local society and building a long-term relationship with them.

— Ryan Koopmans

Koopmans collaborated with Wexell on “Tunnel Vision,” too. The first work in the series, “Rush Hour,” depicts a pair of escalators leading in and out of a metro station. The station’s floor is an overgrowth of greenery; moss climbs the staircase between the escalators and ivy drapes over the hanging signs.

The fiery red “ceiling” of the station isn’t really a ceiling at all; it looks more like an opening into another realm. Despite the wall-to-wall plants, the red opening gives the entire piece an ominous feeling. Almost like a descent into the Inferno, only in reverse.

“A hundred percent,” Koopmans laughs. “I was speaking to someone the other day, a collector, and that was their exact reading as well: an <em>ascent</em> into hell. With this project, we’re creating uncanny environments. They may be meditative or relaxing, but there’s an uncertainty about what the mood is.”

It’s worth noting that the station in “Rush Hour” is based upon an actual metro station in Stockholm—all of the works in “Tunnel Vision” are based on real metro stations. “Rush Hour” is a manipulated photo of the famous Solna Centrum station. The plant life is not really there; the ceiling, however, is.

The Stockholm metro system is built into the bedrock. It’s like a cave. The red, the yellow, the blue, the orange…it’s all natural stone that’s been manipulated a bit. Smoothed out. The reason we went for such a strong, saturated color was to further emphasize this relationship between the natural and the artificial. This project is really about the paradoxes and the opposites: typically when you go up from underground, the foliage would be on the ground on the upper level. Everything [in “Tunnel Vision”] is flipped.

— Ryan Koopmans

“And it’s a constant cycle of ascending and descending to reference the cyclical nature of the public transportation system,” he continues, referring to the animation aspects of the works in the series. “The trains are constantly going on this endless loop and the escalators are also going on this constant up and down cycle.”

“Horizon”

There’s another paradox in the series that Koopmans points out: the industrial setting that humans carved into the natural earth combined with the plant life that has been digitally added.

Koopmans explained that each work in “Tunnel Vision” (and also in “The Wild Within”) began as a regular 2D photograph. He and Wexell also shot video footage of each space. Then, they combined them to make a 3D environment using a special 3D software. The entire innovative process for each work would eventually yield a video that was 2D but with 3D rendered elements. Each work is also set to music created specifically for this series by Swedish composers Tobias Hellkvist and Erik Thomé.

“It’s like a multimedia collage,” Koopmans says.

“Everlasting”

Three other works in “Tunnel Vision”—“Habitat,” “Horizon,” and “Machine”—feature escalators. The only one that doesn’t depict a floor overtaken with foliage is “Horizon;” instead, the floor is flooded with rippling, pulsing water. “Everlasting” and “Transcendence” show us the actual trains. The train in “Everlasting” even stops and opens the doors before going back in the same direction from which it came. In each work in “Tunnel Vision,” the plants—grass, flowers, and saplings—move and flutter, as if there was a natural breeze, a constant flow of air in the underground metro.

The series is both trippy and relaxing, whimsical and jarring. The environments presented are simultaneously alluring and foreboding. It’s folklore encased in science fiction…or the opposite. Maybe even both at the same time. Koopmans aimed to play with contradictions—each installment in the series draws the viewer in and traps them there.

The first work of the series, “Rush Hour,” is now available to view on SuperRare.

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Chloé Harper Gold

Chloé Harper Gold is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work has been published in 71 Magazine, Honeysuckle Magazine, Nightmarish Conjurings, Horror Film Central, High Times, Dread Central, Crystal Lake Publishing's Shallow Waters Volume IV, and 100-Word Zombie Bites. Chloé received her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School.

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