An Interview with Judy and Eleonora

DADA.art
8 min readMay 8, 2023

The DADA cofounder and the crypto art curator speak to MEET Digital Culture Center on occasion of the DADA retrospective opening May 10.

By Stefano Lazzari. Translated by AI with the help of Judy Mam.

This interview was originally published in Italian by MEET Digital Culture Center.

Stefano:

The art scene has had a very strong stimulus with the NFT revolution, the likes of which have not been seen for a long time, shuffling the cards on the table and upsetting established balances both in the art market and in the way of enjoying it.

What was the impact of the NFT revolution on aesthetics? Now that digital has made all possible styles contemporary, is it still possible to see something aesthetically new? Should we expect something else?

Judy:

Certainly, an emphasis on digital aesthetics. I don’t know how much impact this will ultimately have on the art world or the culture at large but because it is digital, its influence can quickly spread into different areas of mainstream visual culture like music videos, entertainment, etc. A great example are the Cryptopunks, whose pixelated style was widely copied at the dawn of the rise in PFP collectibles. The crypto art world has several digitally native genres like trash art, glitch art, dank art (Rare Pepes), memes, which are deliberately rough and raw, and on the other side of the spectrum, hyperrealistic, futuristic computer generated art and animation. Generative art is another genre. DADA has its own digital aesthetics which stem from the fact that artists who draw on DADA use a very simple drawing tool, and although they have different ranges of styles, our visual conversations have a texture of their own.

Soul in the Machine. Visual conversation by DADA.

Eleonora:

This question is very close to my heart. This is why I asked it as a “bonus question” to the 50 artists I interviewed for the book I edited, Crypto Art Begins published by Rizzoli, an idea of ​​NFT Magazine. I asked specifically whether Crypto Art and art NFTs had their own aesthetic. And I can say that the general feedback from the community, including me, has been that the crypto art movement and all the art commercialized through NFTs (albeit in a lesser form), are united by values ​​rather than an aesthetic: by rupture, research, experimentation, breaking new ground, new paradigms, without even mentioning decentralization or peer-to-peer marketing. Digital art, crypto art, and NFTs have legitimized genres that the traditional art world has always excluded. How can we speak of a common aesthetic? Perhaps, in 2023 we should no longer refer to an artistic movement as a current characterized by a certain aesthetic, but rather a current characterized by certain shared values, especially when it comes to the web and the use of technologies, and therefore, innovation.

Of course, it is also interesting to analyze how although this aesthetic, for example in crypto art, is not characteristic of the movement, and has changed over time. For instance? Through the tastes “imposed” by the collectors. Not because many different styles already existed, but because the works that have found success in the market were collected — if we think of 2018 — by cryptocurrency investors, who have a certain distinctive taste. If we analyze the market today, with the entrance of the art world on the scene, collectors have also changed and so have mainstream aesthetics. But we must be careful never to confuse artistic production with its market.

Stefano:

I wonder if art today is the creation of the artist himself, succeeding — perhaps — in that synthesis of art and life that every artist desires. What do you think?

Judy:

The reality of being digital artists in the Web 3 world has made artists primarily their own marketers, since it’s a peer-to-peer culture and it takes place mostly digitally, in platforms like Twitter, Discord and Telegram. Hence, artists need to spend a lot of time marketing themselves to their followers, community, and potential collectors. A few artists have blended themselves with the art they create (Sarah Meyohas’ Bitchcoin, or ROBNESS to give two examples), but I think most artists are just struggling to be seen in a highly competitive, extremely fast and fickle environment. They don’t have time to become the art themselves.

Eleonora:

I believe that already with the use of social media by artists, and therefore of the web, even without talking about Web3, we can consider the rise of the phenomenon where precisely the artist himself is the art. I worked for 4 years in Ai Weiwei’s studio in Beijing, where the artist and his art are inseparable. He is a dissident; his art is a function of his life and vice versa. Weiwei is one of the first artists who created his “empire” on Twitter and did it even earlier through a blog.

But it’s different for Web3 artists. It’s one thing when the creator and the creation can not exist without each other, and another when the artists become their own PR, they take care of their own communications, their own market strategies, become slaves of likes on Twitter because otherwise they would not be successful among collectors, and they barely have the energy to devote themselves to their art.

Stefano:

We have seen how the transition to web 3.0 is a real challenge for society, a strong and disruptive paradigm shift that introduces a completely different historical context from the one that first welcomed the web, and then Web 2.0.

Considering the three pillars of the web of value: first the blockchain, then the Metaverse, and now artificial intelligence, only the latter seems to garner almost unanimous popular success and understanding, when compared to the challenges that the first two face (a very high entry level for digital literacy).

Going beyond the easy enthusiasm for the hype, what do you think about the adoption without questioning that AI is getting among artists?

Judy:

I don’t think that there is adoption without questioning. Artists are grappling with the implications of AI art, in many cases by experimenting with it and proving that it is the artist who programs the machine and that the machine cannot create art without the artist’s unique input. Artists are trying to understand if and how they can benefit from AI. I think some artists are very concerned about AI, about its problems with intellectual property rights and about what every human worries about, which is machines potentially taking over.

Eleonora:

The discussion on AI is very long and complex and we probably do not yet have the right means to judge it. I don’t want to be trivial, but what is AI without the artist? Yet I also believe we live in very exciting times! And I personally can’t wait to participate and enjoy the paths the collaboration between creativity and AI will take. AI and algorithms are like life: there is a part you can control, but the rest is the result of “randomization”.

An AI-generated portrait by DADAGAN, 2019.

Stefano:

Do you think there is a “healthy” position to take in approaching this technology or can we still spend time on spontaneous and playful, but also wild experimentation?

Judy:

The healthy position is to experiment and create, to gain insights and learn, to understand its multiple implications and to use it ethically and responsibly.

Eleonora:

There is still a lot of “noise” around Artificial Intelligence productions. Many experiments will still have to be carried out to arrive at the distillation of the serum of beauty, of the essential. Probably the only sane approach is to open up and keep experimenting.

Stefano:

How much do you think a “balance of sensitivity” between artists, collectors, curators and administrators of cultural heritage is necessary to have an approach to these technologies that is serious and free from prejudices?

Judy:

It’s not a question of sensitivity. In the case of Web3, it’s a question of ignorance and fear. Because of its decentralized nature, NFTs and blockchain are not an easy technology to understand. They require a change of mindset because they change the way we do things. They change our preconceived notions on how to make, sell, collect, and experience art. People are afraid of innovation and of what they can’t understand, so there is a backlash in the legacy art world and in the media because they do not know how to approach this revolution; their first instinct is to reject it. I can understand why legacy art curators and institutions are dismissive of some aspects of NFT culture, but they completely miss its potential if they only focus on their own aesthetic prejudices or if they are too afraid or too lazy to investigate the technology seriously. They could be discovering hundreds of spectacularly talented artists, they could be bringing more art to more people, and bringing their own minds and institutions into the 21st century, but it takes effort.

Of course, in the legacy art world some well-known artists have seen the financial potential and have jumped in for what seems an opportunity to make money. Most actors in the NFT space are just replicating the dynamics of the legacy art world, but on steroids. However, there are very few projects that use the technology as a springboard for collaboration, creative freedom, and experimentation. DADA uses the technology to create an economically viable and collaborative alternative for artists.

Eleonora:

Novelty and innovation are often blocked and delayed not only for fear of the unknown, but also because of pre-imposed social schemes that would otherwise collapse. Who favors decentralization when we live in a world where we toil to support banking bubbles? We do it through mortgages, through installment payments. Who is in favor of the expansion and use of more “free” algorithms when we are constantly controlled by very rigid and pre-set algorithms which learn who we are and are a huge source of revenue for big companies and big tech? Thank goodness we have art, and art, in fact, is freedom. For this reason, art is always at the forefront of innovation.

Stefano:

Finally, a question about the Metaverse.

Have you ever thought about taking your art into the Metaverse, where all the reality you are immersed in is, in fact, a creative representation?

Judy:

We did it as soon as we could! When you use digital tools to create art, it is not a farfetched notion. We have had several exhibitions and gatherings. We have a DADA House in the Metaverse! Artist Angie Taylor created a beautiful exhibition space for the Creeps & Weirdos. We had a rotating exhibition of our virtual conversations in a virtual gallery last year. And we recreated an exhibition of early historic NFTs that Eleonora curated last year.

Inside the virtual exhibition The Past of The Future: Historic NFTs 2011–2019

Eleonora:

I see the Metaverse as a paradise. I am a curator: in the Metaverse I can decide the size of the works based on what I want to highlight narratively. I can exhibit art in places that aren’t boring and white. I can create eternal exhibitions, I can do anything I’ve ever dreamed of without the limitations of the physical world. The Metaverse is like the extension of known dimensions, better perceived: I leave you to count them. In the Metaverse you can be who you are, but above all who you want to be. The one thing I’m still waiting for impatiently is a truly solid implementation of Web3 in the Metaverse, one that respects the supreme law of interoperability.

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