By Ben Lunato
Ryan’s work on SuperRare explores universe of artistic inconsistency, expression, textures, and computer-generated compression. In this interview, Ryan reveals that the nature of his work truly reflects an inner spirituality, metaphor, and scheme for understanding his world and his own experience within it. His different styles and choices to mint pieces from a decades long career reflects his changing passions and tools, yet continues to ask if his work will represent his emotions accurately. The unique perception of the wold I also experience from my own deafness only draws me closer to Ryan’s uncanny work.
BL – Much of your work has elements of digital replication, glitched files, and a “deep fried” aesthetic. How do NFTs influence your understanding of the momentary computer images in your work?
Ryan – I’m a big fan of the replication of my own work as well as the use of repetition as a theme and design element, not only in digital art, but in applied art as well. I love how Joseph Beuys used multiple units of many of the same objects and elements as symbolism to both share and extend the contexts of his experiences. The viewer will always apply those interpretations directly to their own lives. The “shifting resolutions, glitched files and “deep fried” aesthetic that you observe is also symbolic in my work. I’m Deaf, and that has a lot of context to my work and my identity. Being Deaf is not a “one size fits all” kind of understanding. Yet, most hearing people think that it is. A lot of my work is about communication and the ways that I can and cannot access communication. I’m co-dependent on visual forms of communication, which go far beyond what we can communicate using a screen and type. I use many types of visual effects and techniques to amplify both what I can access and what I can’t access. Glitch, pixels, degenerated imagery and over all overstimulated visual effect are displayed on purpose to show what “not hearing or not being included” looks like visually. My understanding of the “sustained instance of a NFT” in relationship to the imagery I create and mint is in flux. NFTs have already changed so much from when I began learning in this space in late 2018. I have a really vast repository of imagery that I have created over the last 25 plus years. Many of those images have expanded into much more than what they once were. Their momentary existence is easily transcendent. The animated GIF file format is a perfect metaphor for something that can also easily sustain one’s one relationship to their “now” moment as they loop on infinitely. I see a spiritual connection there.
BL – What is your relationship to the Internet?
Ryan – All I can think about when I contemplate the Internet and my relationship to it is its infinite creative potential. The web browser itself is a “window.” So far, we have contained it within a rectangle, but all of that is about to change as interfaces will soon expand into our physical and visual space. I think the next 5 years will be really explosive for the expansion of the Internet and the way in which people perceive its uses. Of course this expands beyond making, sharing, buying, and experiencing art, but I’m a bit focused on those things. I was in undergraduate college in 1994 when I got my first official assignment that would be submitted via my school e-mail address. It was all “text” related but it still occurred to me that the e-mail platform was co-dependent on the web browser as a means of transmitting and sharing the information. As an artist, I could not think any other way beyond the fact that this “new” format had all the potential to be a powerful medium for art making, sharing, collaborating, commerce and archiving. From that day forward, I always thought of anything sent through a web browser had the potential to be art.
BL – Is inconsistency a theme in your work?
Ryan – “Inconsistency” is my work is used in a few ways. First, I love to learn new things. New mediums, new software, new techniques, new ways of seeing the world, and new ways of manipulating my art and art practices. I will perpetually experiment with styles for durations of time and then move on for something new. However, I will always come back to things over periods of time to share and show a visual lineage of where I have come from and how that aspect of the past plays a role in my growth and becoming. I like feeling the discomfort of change. I like feeling the tensions involved when I abandon a style, technique of way of working on something. It is in those days and weeks of letting go that a new energy always resurfaces. We as human beings can be so predictable in many regards behaviorally, and yet we have so much inside of us that unconsciously lives and displays itself when we least expect it.
BL – There is an element of Internet primitivism in “selling GIFs.” Is this a conscious element of your practice and if so, how does this influence your association with other NFTs?
Ryan – I always saw the potential of GIFs becoming bigger commodities, not only for the art market, or the digital art market but it became painfully obvious through advertising and the accelerated rise of mobile devices, video and social media. It’s hard not to think about the business aspect of things when we are bombarded with opportunities to make a purchase in most of our online interactions. Once everyday users realized that they could make looping snippets of popular culture, it became a way to reach many shared emotions. People began to take that much more seriously and began creating with intention. A similar thing happened with photography and how smart phone cameras became most people’s everyday camera. We see this mocked and praised in both advertising and art. NFTs are no different, especially with the ability to own a unique piece of that time and culture. We love to collect things, tell stories about those things, and also brag about ownership.. There is an interesting tension now in the creating process. I don’t want to or will make all of my new work (regardless if its GIFs, animations, digital illustration, video art) NFTs, and I strangely feel compelled to let my audience know this. The fact is, this is an ever-changing non-static experience. The only guarantee is change and I love that. I’m open to what happens next and to take things at my own pace.