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Artist Jake Johns’ and the inspirations behind an artistic social media revolution utilizing Blockchain Technology, a.k.a. “Crypto Art”.
“Did you look at your phone before you peed this morning, or during midstream?…” asks the question by one of the initial Facebook venture-capital investors in the stunning new Netflix Documentary “/the social dilemma_”
This Netflix documentary is a must-watch for any facebook engaged user across the world, to understand to what extent facebook’s platform is placing hidden suggestions and slowly manipulating your inner psyche and physical actions.
If you’re like most Facebook users, you’re probably engaged with your circle of people everyday, and you think its private relationships between you and your friends, or your communities that you’re engaged in. Generally, people are posting about their days, posting pictures of themselves with family and friends, and recently very much their political views. As an Artist, I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of social media and initially thought it was a joke and have always treated it in the same fashion. I’ve also spent the great majority of the past decade of my life traveling the world and making paintings on different artistic projects and living in different countries where social media wasn’t as accessible, so I’ve never really given a large amount of time to social media until recently since entering a rather lengthy quarantine and making art in my studio, I discovered social media as a way to engage a much larger audience with my art. So I’m a late-comer with fresh eyes on Twitter, which I really just started to engage in the past year, and I the craziness is (in my opinion) very obvious to me. With that, I’m kind of a new kid on this block, untouched by the artificial intelligent algorithms (that I know of) and able to navigate these social media waters fairly untouched and unscathed. And I’m not posting things about my personal life, so I’m a new specimen of sorts, a non-engaged user who posts don’t fit the current majority of the specimens:
Now, since the world has been hit with a multitude of disasters at one time, one thing that I’ve come to realize as I was creating and engaging with the crypto-art community is that one of the major disasters within itself is social media itself. There have been important people speak out about Social Media and the problems surrounding it, yet people are still engaged with much or less the same way, and the same problems are coming through.
Facebook looks to me just the same as it did 5 years ago, unregulated, anything-goes, filled with propaganda platform. I’m very familiar with propaganda as an artist, as I’ve lived a few years working overseas for the Walt Disney company in a communist country. The writing, they say, is all over the wall, and you can begin to understand how the majority of the crowd thinks because of the images and rhetoric writings that masses of people consume, and let me tell you it’s a scary thing. You begin to understand how governments can control its people’s thinking. When I was in China, let me tell you, it’s easy to pinpoint and you understand the underlying reasoning and purpose for this propaganda: It has one goal, to uplift and motivate the communist party, that’s it, period. When I returned to America and started to digest what I was seeing on social media with fresh eyes, it becomes even more dangerous because the propaganda goes to the highest bidder, and there are multiple advertisers with a different set of goals: goals that are not always that easy to understand. The result? You slowly begin to not have a grasp on a shared reality with your peers, as it becomes increasingly difficult to pinpoint fact from fiction, truth from lies. There are countless propaganda machines running simultaneously, and Facebook is ready to serve you a big helping of whatever bullshit it knows that you are interested in. It will create any narrative for you, and sell it to the highest bidder. This, as you can imagine, is extremely dangerous and eroding our democratic societies and at a much faster rate than any state-actor could do alone. (But, keep in mind state actors are bidding on your attention too, and one of the ones spending the most money!). Enter covert communist propaganda to our democratic societies. All of this in the name of our capitalistic society: profit.
Now most people who starts to understands the true evils of social media abandon the platforms completely, I felt as an artist that a different approach could be taken. Why not use their systems against themselves? A snake in the grass so-to-say. If others are creating fake news propaganda, can’t I create truthful anti-propaganda material? Can we use social media itself to raise awareness? I think so, and the creators of the social dilemma agree with me:
…. increasing the public’s understanding of the dilemma faced by our increased reliance on technologies that have become exploitative and extractive, and providing tools and resources to realign our relationship with these platforms.Social Dilemma
Take for example the recent pro democracy Riots in Hong Kong. At the time, I was in China and (looking over my back) creating art about the movement. It was something that I was very close to.
Is the Hong Kong footage in the film suggesting that the protests were a result of misinformation being spread? ….Some have asked about a news clip reporting that social media “accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong” (sources included below). According to reports from Twitter, Facebook, and Google in August of 2019, fake social media accounts were created in The People’s Republic of China to deliberately undermine the legitimacy of the Hong Kong protests, a pro-democracy movement. While we acknowledge the positive role technology has played in social movements, including the ongoing Hong Kong protests, we decided that including the Hong Kong protests in The Social Dilemma was an important example of how social media can also be weaponized, especially by those with power or resources, to propagate alternative agendas, thus undermining and threatening legitimate movements like the Hong Kong protests and others across the world.Social Dilemma
I had already begun to share my images of the conflict on social media, as I was seeing a lot of strange comments through social media (twitter), I felt the absurdity of it was grand, so I took a traditional approach, making art about it (I also wrote about it here: https://medium.com/@BigComicArt/art-world-crypto-style-f6c847fadd2c)
Now, in order to understand how Crypto Art can work here (because cryptoart can work in many many different ways!), lets start with a brief beginning:
I was first invited to create artwork for an innovative new platform called SuperRare (SuperRare Team) almost two years ago. At first, like all, I was skeptical. Who on earth would buy a digital image that is in essence free? I mean, there’s tons of philosophical questions and different opinions that have now formed on NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) since the explosion of their conception (read more DADA.art, dada.art), one of the most prominent is of course: “Why can’t I just screen-shot it?” My answer to this is, well: digital art has been around for a long time…. and it’s here to stay with a much different sense of ownership. We can now very clearly see that value with the first Crypto-Art piece selling for 100,000 USD by Chicago artist Matt Kane, and a digital piece representing Bitcoin going up for sale at Christies NYC in conjunction with Async Art (https://async.art/) this month. (Update this piece sold for 130,000+ USD https://twitter.com/ChristiesInc/status/1313950974134956048?s=20)
So I created my journey on Superrare creating comics, and it was an initial blast. There were only a handful of artists at first and we simply promoted on social media, and if one person tells two, word grows really fast! (I also ran advertisements and hosted one of the first physical block-chain and art shows in existence, see www.CryptoArts.org) Since then I’ve seen many major players take note, especially with an classical comic artist Jose Delbo taking to the scene and issuing genuine original work on the blockchain at MakersPlace.
As a few weeks turned into a few months, things started to progress really quickly. We went from this very abstract idea, (which is still very difficult for most to understand) of giving value to a digital image, to find several important blockchain companies were flat-out copying our artist-lead community, and even celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton were trolling and recreating mine and other’s artworks (remixing artwork is not a crime, of course LOL, read about Robness Cyberpop and the Trash Art movement). The day I received (I also collect art!) a very unique piece from Sarah Zucker (www.thesarahshow.com) about a digital portrait of her cat, and the very next day we witnessed Paris Hilton publishing on Twitter her very own collectible NFT of digital-kitty kat! Talk about a copy-cat! No joke!
But, putting initial bad feelings aside it’s all good, this is decentralized technology, and it’s progressive and open to all. And in my mind, it makes our community and the original artists who created this scene even more important, because they (we) are in fact the luminaries that helped create a new art movement! Wow and it’s been a wild ride! And of course a little bit of celebrity love can go a long way, because apparently Paris donated her funds to feeding the needy in Los Angeles via the @LAFoodBank , and it’s also helped to raise the awareness of collectible digital art which is still fresh and new on the horizon.
I was initially so enthusiastic about the Paris Hilton piece, that I created my own work of art in response, and I of course trolled Ashton Kutcher on my own accord on Instagram (his post has since been taken down after my complaints on his thread for not giving any credit to me (because he did in fact copy-cat me (and other artists who have done the same!) in a video he made where he was burning physical artwork and leaving only the NFT behind, giving sort of an authenticity to the artwork only existing now on the blockchain.
So moving onward, as our world has been as of late been thrown into a mess, with large crowds of protestors gathering throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, a conversation is starting to happen here with digital art that takes our attention away from disinformation and fake news on social media and more centered onto the truth. I’ve been working on this project for several months…. Stay tuned for part 2.