I’m sitting at the kitchen table, dreading my eventual wage slavery later today, and listening to an old Robert Anton-Wilson lecture from the early 1990s. The voice of Anton-Wilson (not even considering the CONTENT, which is wonderful) is very calming and makes me think things might be OKAY (despite my general level of anxiety.)
Lately, I’ve been contemplating crypto-blockchain art and digital connectivity—non-physical digital “assets”—and I don’t know if I actually buy into these ideas (completely) as viable, “permanent” cultural expressions. (Some exciting things come, make waves, and then GO.) I’ve been watching videos on Crypto Punks, blockchain technology, DADA.nyc, cryptocurrency, market movements, Steemit.com, and other electro-domain weirdo stuff, and I’m interested and excited by all of it.
Part of what interests me in this material is the fact that I can participate in this stuff from my HOUSE. I live in a small logging town in south-western Washington State (U.S.A.,) and this area is fairly parochial—it’s not interested in the WEIRDO stuff that I find fascinating. There have been little flare-ups of interesting stuff over the years—I’ve had friends in punk bands that were fun to listen to; I’ve been allowed to DJ electronic music at a few bars (for a little while, until the “regulars” got angry and wanted to go back to hearing AC/DC again;) there have been some cool arcades in town over the years; there used to be a couple of decent book / comic stores (but there really aren’t anymore;) my wife and I have had lots of “art parties,” where we get a bunch of people together to show art and make paintings and lunch-bag puppets and other fun projects; and I’ve even worked at a music store in town that let me sell punk / techno / new wave / industrial / goth / experimental / freaky music (for a few years—although that stuff never really sold that well around here…)
We’ve had some fun in this town—but our interests are (unfortunately) not well represented in this area, and we’ve had to look OUTSIDE of the area for inspiration and acceptance. (IF WE WERE WEALTHIER, WE MIGHT CONSIDER MOVING, but right now we couldn’t afford it, and we’d be hard pressed to want to leave the family that we have here.) We’ve done postal art; we’ve driven long distances to participate in art shows or to DJ at clubs that play music besides rock / country/ blues (in Olympia and Vancouver and Portland, Oregon;) and we’ve used the INTERNET to connect to people who might be interested in our style of art / writing / pranks / shenanigans…
Maybe you know all this. Maybe you’ve read some of my other rants / complaints / manifestos, or maybe you’ve lived in similar situations. The point is, there is a new THING on the block, with new terminology, new technology, and a new way of THINKING about ownership and “digital originals.”
I’ve been making digital art for a LONG time. A LOOOOOOONG time. (I had an Apple IIc computer back in 1981, and I used to use the BASIC programming language to create weird, little vector artworks that “moved” and shifted and seemed very impressive at the time. I eventually sold that machine to my Uncle Randy—who might still have it! There might be a 5 inch floppy disc, just sitting there, with some of those weird little vector pieces on them in a box in his closet!) And I’m fascinated with the idea that people are starting to become interested in digital art again—but to be FAIR, I’m NOT from this current generation. I’m not OF this current generation. (I don’t get most memes.) I’m from an older cohort—a group from BEFORE everything was connected. We had digital tech (I played my first Pong game in 1976—and we’ve had hand-held game machines since the late-1970s,) but it was PERSONAL before now. It was you and whoever you were in the room with, not people on a different continent. You could have a pen pal from somewhere else, but it wasn’t INSTANT. (Instant global digital connectivity is new.) I’m interested in technology (I’ve ALWAYS been interested in tech,) but I’m also an INK and PAPER guy. I write MOST of my stuff in a notebook before I type a second draft into the computer (including THIS essay, which started as notes in an 8.5 x 11 inch, paper and cardboard notebook.) Most of my ART (but not all) begins as ink on paper (or pencil on cardboard or paint on canvas,) which I photograph with my cheap “smart” phone and crop and tweak and color and modify with a freeware art program.
Is this DIGITAL ART? Yeah, I think so. The image is fundamentally changed by my sucking it into the digital domain and then manipulating it. ALSO, by SHARING the artwork through a non-physical means (posting on a blog or social media or whatever,) I am participating in a WEIRD thing—people who are NOT in the same room with me can see a DIGITAL representation of the PHYSICAL thing that I made. That connectivity still freaks me out a bit. I’m enchanted by it, but it’s not INGRAINED in my consciousness in the same way that it is for kids who grew up in a world were there has always been an internet. I used to have to put my drawings into an envelope and mail them to some person in Uruguay or Malasia or Pakistan for someone outside of my local area to look at them, and then ONLY the people that I sent them to would get to see them (maybe the people in the same rooms as them could see them too…) Even I, the creator, didn’t get to see my work anymore. BUT NOW, thanks to digital distribution, I can still have my drawings after they’re “posted,” (it used to mean taking a package to the post office—now it means publishing the piece online) and anyone else (pretty much anywhere in the world) who happens upon a “share” of one of my images can see my drawings, too. (Although the likelihood that a large number of people will see my stuff is pretty small. There is SO MUCH stuff available now, so many posts competing for the attention of viewers, that making a “splash” in the internet ocean is pretty dang tough.)
You DEFINITELY know all of this. You are online already, and you see memes and images and photos all the time, which were made who-knows-where, by who-knows-who (often who-knows-when—although if it’s a “NEW” meme, you can assume it’s pretty new.) Don’t take this stuff for granted! This instantaneous communication and sharing is amazing! In my 46 years of life, I’ve seen digital tech go from Pong played on a black and white t.v. (which had rabbit ears for reception) to a full color, smooth as silk video played on the phone in my pocket (no wires, no “lag,” no problem—and video chatting with someone across the country is now an everyday thing, but it used to be science-fiction!) And now, with blockchain tech, people will KNOW the “who” and the “when” and the original creator will have a better chance of making some money from their effort! That’s pretty cool.
Blockchain, cryptocurrency, rare digital assets, crypto-collectibles, and other ideas (which I’m just becoming familiar with) seem like fun concepts to mull over for a while, to watch and see where they go. I’m not wealthy enough to INVEST in new technology or tech companies or “futures,” but I can watch and see how they develop. I can also throw some time and energy at trying to learn about and (and maybe participate) in these crypto-collectible communities. (I’m more interested in the ART aspects of this stuff than the “investment opportunities,” anyway.) I’m enjoying my DADA.nyc experiences (which mostly involves making drawings with the simple, online tools that the site makes available for folks to draw with,) and I’ve made almost a dozen Crypto-Primitive Trading Cards, so far, which has been fun. (I haven’t SOLD any—but I’m not really too worried about making a bunch of MONEY, I’m enjoying the experience!) It’s a learning process, and when the topic is exciting, the research is mostly just fun!
But I’ve also got a healthy understanding of the inevitability of death—which means that TIME is not an unlimited resource. How much TIME should I spend on this new area, this thrilling EXPERIMENT? I also have to EAT and pay my rent and help participate in my family economy (thus my wage slavery.) Because I can’t make a living (or have yet to figure out a WAY to make a living) through the production of art or writing, I have to sell my physical labor—my BODY—to a company that is willing to give me a few bucks per hour for me to be at their store. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything particularly interesting or useful or transformative when I’m acting as a wage slave, but it helps pay for food. AND, when I’m not slaving away, I have time to draw and write and read—and I DO these things every day. I post a new drawing or two every day. I write every day. I keep a journal. And I research all the fun things that I’m interested in: art, philosophy, esoteric ideologies, cognitive studies, monsters, magic, science, and tech. That’s how I play.
So—do any of you folks have thoughts on crypto-stuff or rare digital assets or being old and trying to participate in modern, digital technology??? If so, send me a note. I’d be curious to hear what “real people” have to say about these things (as opposed to folks trying to get revenue through their online videos or upvotes / applause for their articles. Is this stuff stable? Here to stay? Another bubble destined to pop and dissolve? Let me know what you think…
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!