Digital has killed the analog star! Media headlines develop a narrative of increasing virtualization in most spheres of human interaction. In part, this is a fair account of technological advancements. In part, it’s just a showmanship that harnesses our long-standing fascination with science fiction, conspiracy theories, and wacky, utopian, and dystopian ideas. A closer look at year-end results in the creative industries tells a nuanced story of how our relationship with technology has evolved. In March, Beeple’s Everyday NFT Artworks set an astonishing precedent at Christie’s, or as New York Times Said it scornfully: “JPG file sells for $ 69 million.” However, in Sotheby’s historic volume of $ 7.3 billion, the digital arts category was responsible for only “only” $ 100 million. It is important to see the milestones in their proper context. Curators and collectors always favor physical works. Another sensitive barometer of techno-social change is the music industry. As streaming continues to dominate the market, the volume of digital downloads has declined. Meanwhile, “event” albums by artists like Adele and Taylor Swift have supported CD and vinyl sales. When it comes to sentimental value, people are always emotionally motivated to invest in things.
To better understand this transition, I connected with someone who pioneered the digital-to-analog frontier. The Dutch American artist and musician based in Los Angeles 0010×0010 is one of the people at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist. You can follow him on Instagram here. From the iconic symbol of the artist formerly known as Prince to X Æ A-12, the world’s most futuristic baby, the company is adopting post-alphabetic names. His music has been on the techno charts since 2016. Pre-pandemic 0010×0010 has produced a series of genre exhibitions in Hong Kong and Bangkok, extended three times to meet audience demand. The latest projects from the Xumiiro gallery attract the attention of critics. His work Rabbit Glitch, emblematic of the NFT tidal wave, fell in Superrare and invaded Times Square during Crypto Art Fair. Its audiophile concepts for home environments in collaboration with Avantgarde Acoustic push the limits of the design of phygital interactions. How does a successful art, film and music professional, an intelligent artifact, look at the art world and the world in general today?
From the printing press to the radio waves, technology in the arts has served the people. The trend towards greater digitization appears to be fostering a human-machine divide. Is the future of art and technology friendly to people?
I think art is interesting as long as the human is the central point of control and the machine is the instrument. As soon as the machine takes over (which seems to be happening now), art becomes obsolete and too easy to produce, replicate, and mass-produce. It kills the concept of creative craftsmanship. However, when there is too much product other aspects like artistic vision or social media presence are becoming more important. I think the future of art will be business-friendly, but maybe not for artists who want to focus on perfecting their craft.
From your perspective as an artist, what are the pros and cons of working independently or within the current gallery system?
It’s great that artists can now skip the conventional industry route just like we’ve seen happen in the music and film industries. However, I still think teaming up with an independent agent, gallery, or label is the way to go as long as you maintain your artistic freedom and get a fair financial deal. They can take care of a lot of things that you don’t have the time or feel like dealing with as an artist. In this regard, my partnership with the Xumiiro gallery has been an excellent model. It helps to create new opportunities on a larger scale from a different perspective. In addition, I am now the Creative Director of Space 606, a new art, fashion and lifestyle company that merges the digital with the physical. I feel like more and more companies are hiring artists to mix art and business and to create visions that people shaped by a corporate culture cannot. It is stimulating and interesting.
How has the pandemic impacted the relationship between artists and technology?
I think the pandemic has accelerated the process of “digitization” in all possible lifestyles. For many artists, breaking away from traditional methods of finding inspiration, reaching their audiences and collaborating with other artists has become a huge challenge. For me, the hardest part was not being able to get this “living” energy by connecting and interacting with other humans in different parts of the planet. Human interaction is a major source of inspiration for my digital works.
Speaking of inspiration, what has sustained your motivation during earlier periods when audiences weren’t ready to fully engage in digital arts?
Personally, I have never been motivated or demotivated by someone’s opinion. I am driven by a pure passion for the profession. In fact, when the audience is finally ‘on’ something, I tend to pivot elsewhere to find the next obscurities. Looking at the history of art, most of the artists whose works I appreciate have acted this way. My advice is to ALWAYS do what you believe in and what you love. When fame and money become the primary motivators, art becomes boring work.
Is the NFT “craze” really democratizing access to the art industry or simply digitizing existing art power structures?
I think it’s the latter. As soon as it is commercially interesting for large companies, they hasten to regain their positions in the market. Last year no one heard of NFTs and now that’s pretty much the goal of many, including established companies like Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Inevitably, there will be oversaturation and artists will not be able to compete with the marketing power and experience of industry heavyweights.
What is your first “virtual” memory?
I remember reading books by Guillaume Gibson for the first time. His vision, his way of describing the future made a big impression on me. I immediately identified with the whole cyberpunk vibe.
As a digital artist, what is your relationship with the concept of “posterity”?
I was aware that any medium that needs another device to communicate with itself will sooner or later be obsolete. For example, I wouldn’t even be able to read a CD or DVD since I don’t have a device that can read them. I started creating art using traditional media and never stopped doing it. I rarely create 100% digital art. It is primarily a hybrid of analog boot then digitization or vice versa. I still have a physical piece and my collectors appreciate it.
To be successful in the digital arts, what is the relationship between technological know-how, business acumen and luck?
The more you integrate business and technology into your approach, the more you can ‘control’ your luck. You can do it yourself or delegate it in a trusted partnership. It always has been, but I think before social media the world was more supportive of “pure artists”. Now more than ever, you need a business plan and a marketing concept to get things done.
What is the most pressing question that comes to your mind right now?
How to get more people and artists to join the new “offline” movement. The exhibits and events are very inspiring and surreal, like being both in the past and in the future. Everyone involved, from artists and curators to collectors and the public, seem to love being a part of something that brings things back to their essence.