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Episode 17
Artist Sarah Zucker

  • 2 min read

Episode Description

01:16 - Sarah Zucker discusses her journey through the world of crypto art. Sarah, who uses the handle “thesarahshow” on social media and NFT platforms, is among the handful of digital artists that blazed the trail for crypto art before headlines and high prices. Her work, which utilizes humor and psychedelia while merging cutting edge and outmoded technologies, was part of the landmark NFT auctions "Natively Digital" at Sotheby's and "CryptOGs: The Pioneers of NFT Art" from Bonhams & SuperRare.

60:11 - The week''s top art headlines


Craig: [00:00:09] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with digital artist Sarah Zucker about her journey through the world of crypto art. Sarah, who uses the handle The Sarah show on social media and NFT platforms, is among the handful of digital artists that blazed the trail for crypto art before headlines and high prices. Her work, which utilizes humor and psychedelia while merging cutting edge and outmoded technologies, was part of the landmark NFT auctions natively digital at Sotheby's in Crypto OGs, the pioneers of NFT art from Bonhams and SuperRare. At the end of the episode, I'll be taking a look at some of the week's top art headlines. But first up, a discussion about where crypto art has come from and where it's going with Sarah Zucker.

Craig: [00:01:15] Sarah Zucker, thank you for joining me today to talk about your work and where, where you've come from and where you're headed. A lot of times with artists, I like to start with a hypothetical, which is you're at a dinner party and somebody sits down next to you that you've never met and they don't know anything about you or your work. How do you how do you describe to them what you do and what your work looks like?

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Sarah: [00:01:40] That is such a good question. And I feel like I've been in that position and it's like, you know, anxiety inducing, right? You know, what I would say to them is, I'm a video artist, right? You know, if I have to contextualize what I do for someone who is not up to date on all the lingo. And, you know, especially now with this new aspect of doing art for the Metaverse, that's the simplest way to put it. I'm a video artist. You know, I create art. I work with screen based and time based media, and I specifically work with the interplay of cutting edge and obsolete technologies, meaning that I incorporate a lot of vintage technology into my work. And I specifically like to use it in a way where I'm making it do things that it was never meant to do and making it work with very current and cutting edge techniques and technologies that it never would have interacted with in its own time. So for me, I'd say my work is about play, it's about it has a mystical spiritual aspect to it. On some level, it's really about examining, you know, where we're going by looking at where we've been. So psychedelia is definitely something that plays an aspect in my work and using these tools of mine to really create a dimension of my own making. I think the thing that I'd end up probably saying to them is you just got to see it right. You just got to see it, to know what it is. It's it's by trying to grasp it with words it almost like can't translate. It is another realm in that way. There is something ineffable about it, I would say.

Craig: [00:03:35] What do you think makes your work noticeably different from other people's work, in your words? You know, when somebody looks at your work, they're probably going to say, Oh, I know that person's work, that Sarah, what do you think that is?

Sarah: [00:03:48] Well, you know, it's it's it's an interesting question, because in many ways, why my work, why the cheese stands alone is because I'm a self-taught artist. You know that so much of what I do is from years of self derived processes. It's all to say I am. I'm an educated person, but my education is entirely in theater and, you know, specifically screenwriting and playwriting. So that that that I'm educated very much so in like narrative storytelling certainly plays a role that I have learned very much how to build stories and build characters. But then there's also this aspect of, like I said, play and I would never purport to, you know, I didn't I didn't just like emerge from an egg fully formed. You know, last year, I'm certainly someone who my body of work, it could be placed within these certain lineages, right? Like, I often get the Nam June Paik comparison and I see that I get that. I'm working with a lot of analog video and there is a long tradition of analog video art. But why? I think if I may go out on a limb to say why I think people grab onto my work and why it has become recognizable is, like I said, I sort of nothing is wholly to me.

Sarah: [00:05:17] Nothing is like I'm hearing things that maybe aren't meant to be paired and I'm sort of breaking breaking the rules a lot. And part of that really might just come down to because it's not to say I never learned the rules, but it's to say I don't have that art school background that tells me, Well, this is a yes, and that is a no. Everything is like a maybe everything is like a question mark. Let's see. Let's see what happens. And. And so again, like I fit within these other categories of of GIF art or glitch art. You know, glitch is a term that gets applied to my art a lot. And I think again, that applies. Absolutely. But I also I don't feel I have to fit within that category, and I don't I don't ever. I really am sort of out here on the edge of the cliff going like, but what do I want to say? What do I want to make you know, and how do I want it to look and yeah, especially as I've, you know, been working with NFTs over the past two and a half years.

Sarah: [00:06:26] I think that role sort of suits me, right, because I typically look to myself and not to others as to what I want to do next or say next. It's it's allowed me to really just carve out this space for myself. And even still, as my work has gotten more and more recognition and more visibility when I'm in this space. That's about determining value. It remains this question mark because you can't really look at anything else that's in the space and say, Oh, it's what she does is that it's like, like I said, I joked, like, the cheese stands alone. And that has its upsides and its downsides, at least in terms of like, the market for art. Long term, I think it's a good thing. Long term, I think you are rewarded for being iconoclastic, but certainly short term and certainly at the beginning. There is a lot of like exactly that moment you described of sitting at the dinner party and trying to go, How do I explain to you what I do and what I am when I don't really have a lot of things that are well known that I can compare myself to?

Craig: [00:07:42] So, you know, it strikes me as I talked to more digital artists who live in this space that the volume of your work is a friend. I think of, like from a traditional art world perspective. If I'm a painter, maybe I'm turning out 12 paintings a year and there's this pressure that I need. Each one of these paintings needs to be significant and it needs to be taken seriously. But when you're able to work quickly and create this volume of work, it seems like there's a little less risk in going off script. Would you agree with that?

Sarah: [00:08:17] Yeah, you know, it's it's I've been thinking about that. This specific concept a lot around being prolific versus being scarce, and it's actually a guest you had on Jason Bailey, who and Zach Yeager. They had this great debate last year. I think you've had both of them on your show. They had this great debate last year around abundance versus scarcity for artists and, you know, friendly debate. It was all set up through super rare and it was very interesting. I think Jason was arguing for abundance and Zach was arguing for scarcity. And, you know, they came to the conclusion which, you know, we would all sort of come to, which is these two things are both important. So really, the conclusion was create abundantly and mint scarcely. And that comes down to this question around art as a commodity and art as an asset and the sort of very different endeavors between creating art and selling art. Those are two very different things, and when it comes to NFTs, it's putting artists like myself in this position. We've really not been in much in the past, which is being asked to to play both parts. You know, typically in the art market, artists have agents and gallerists and many people who handle the sales side of things for them. I've been thinking about it a lot because yes, I would say I am. I'm not the most prolific artist out there, but yes, I'm I'm fairly prolific and that has been a boon to me because I came up in sort of the Tumblr era where for a time I was, you know, my I was releasing dailies, you know, releasing new work every day, sort of this creative challenge for myself that did allow me to become very expedient, maybe expedience, not the right word, because I think that there's almost a pejorative sense to that.

Sarah: [00:10:17] But but I developed a way of creating work regularly, you know, and not every artwork is like that. Some some artworks take much longer than others. Some concepts demand much more, you know, actual labor to be involved in order to be made manifest. But why I like this idea of create abundantly and mint scarcely. Is it it? It hits on this notion that you can't flood your market, right? Like if you are as an artist entering this, this endeavor of selling your artwork, you have to recognize that any market is beholden to the laws of supply and demand. And if you are supplying more than there is demand for, then you're not going to be selling very well. It's not to say create artificial scarcity, it's just to say not every artwork wishes to be a commodity. Not every artwork is in the, you know, is in the position to be commodified like that. And yes, I would say that to that end, though, you know, in that debate, Jason made a very good point, which is that if you look at all of the artists, you know, it was like a list of maybe the top 10 or top 20 artists in the space who at that time had made who had done the best numbers just in terms of overall sales.

Sarah: [00:11:47] They were all people who had created a lot more as compared to created very little. And there are, of course, outliers always. Of course there are outliers. But overall, as a trend, at least in this realm that we are in of the NFT market, absolutely being someone who creates abundantly and has a wider range of work, at least in in my body of work, right? And I am, I think, if not unique, I'm certainly I'm not the norm in that I create in a number of different styles and I've begun to sort of tease those out and name those because they have they have developed their own collector bases like Sarah Zucker. The artist actually is like 10 different artists. There are there are many different strains within my work, and each of them appeal to different people. I have these video paintings I do that are figurative, they're cartoonish, they're humorous. That appeals to a very different group of collectors than some of my other works, like my video thoughts like text art, you know, that are more. Um, how do I want to put it there more? They just appeal to a different type of collector who is looking for something more introspective, more thoughtful.

Sarah: [00:13:08] You know, and so within my own body of work, I've I've had to work for it, but I have begun to see how. That can be a boon to me that I have multiple styles I'm working in, if I think of it almost like there are 10 different psarras and they each have a different collector base. I have found that that has been very beneficial to me, and I've seen that in other artists in the space who've done very well, even if they don't have that same scenario, even if their work is much more. I don't want to say uniform, but much more stylistically consistent that yes, they they are, they are rewarded for being more abundant, thoughtfully abundant. And and what I would say about that is is just from the creative side of things I find personally that it helps to not be so precious, right, that any individual piece and I have seen this with many artists, I know when they get overly precious about every single piece it can, it can stop up their momentum of creativity. And it can end up creating this scenario where I think their executive brain is playing too much of a role and saying, well, each piece must be more, just must be more than the last piece, and each thing I create must be more and more and more, and I must constantly be outdoing myself.

Sarah: [00:14:39] And I think that that's it's a bit of a trap, and I think it's it's very much connected to like Puritan work ethic, very much connected to this idea that unless I am bleeding for my work, I have no value. And I think that's why for myself, what has excited me so much about NFTs and about just sort of this entire new market, this chasm that has opened up in in just like reality is it's turning the that work ethic on its head. It's not to say that the things we're valuing don't have value, it's just saying it's no longer one to one translation of, well, whoever works the hardest and and did the most labor that it's like, that's not what art is about, that it never has been what it's been about. I mean, look at Andy Warhol, look at look at some of these artists who've been very celebrated where it was never about who did the most labor for their work. Um, I don't know, it's just there's something very psychedelic about how we assign value in this space, and I think that it helps you to recognize how slippery value itself is and and you're really. It really well served to be someone who knows how to keep your wheels greased and how to keep the creativity flowing, I guess, is what I would say about that

Craig: [00:16:09] When we think about prolific artists from like the traditional art historical canon. You know, you think about somebody like Van Gogh or Picasso, both made upwards of three or four thousand pieces in their lifetime. Who's to say you don't get to The Starry Night unless you did five hundred pieces before you got there? Or two thousand pieces?

Sarah: [00:16:31] Exactly it, right? Not not every piece is a masterwork, necessarily, but you never exactly. You never reach those pinnacles without being on the journey, without climbing the mountain, you know? And I think preciousness is is sort of the enemy of progress in a certain way.

Craig: [00:16:49] So tell me about GIPHY, because, according to GIPHY, you have upwards of seven billion image views. How long have you been on that platform? And is, is that where you got your entree into showing your digital art to people? Or was the Tumblr? Where did it all start for you, Sarah?

Sarah: [00:17:07] Sure, that's a great question. Yeah. Giphy. And I have had a very symbiotic relationship. I wouldn't say it's where it started for me, but I began really moving into GIF art. And you know, these short little loops, really. The same year that GIPHY emerged like, I started really focusing on GIF art in 2012. And I think that was the same year. Giphy was founded, so I certainly was right there at the beginning with them. And and when they, you know, popped up as a company, I recognized, Oh, this, this is something that makes sense for me as a way of getting greater visibility for my work. Yeah, for me, as a digital artist, you know, it's interesting. I I would say really where it began for me is earlier I was a photographer for about 10 years. Like I would say, experimental street photography is kind of like what I worked in and starting around the age of 15 is when I really got involved in that. And why I say it begins back then is because what the way I got involved in it. You know, I grew up in suburban Ohio, and I found this photographic movement called lomography, and I'm calling it a movement because it was a movement, but it was also a company and it is still a company. And. But I found it around the age of 15. So this was right before Facebook and this this company did something very prescient in that they basically created a proto social media platform for the sharing of photos taken with these cameras that they sold and the cameras they were selling were old Soviet cameras that they had sort of, you know, repurposed and rebranded.

Sarah: [00:18:55] And I got very into this, you know, it was total happenstance. I found one of these cameras at like a big lots type store that we have in northeast Ohio called marks. Like it was like a overstock thing. It was like a single camera on a shelf and it kind of changed my life in a certain way. So I got very involved in this movement. And then at 16, 17 years old, I had like pen pals all over the world. I had people who were seeing my my photography Murphy and sharing my photography and getting excited about my photography and had that feeling, you know, in the pre social media era of like being being a little bit internet famous, at least within this niche, you know, and that culminated all the way through college and grad school. I ended up working briefly at their their flagship store in New York City. And that's that was really my first experience with disseminating my work in that way and recognizing, Oh, I have a knack for this, but for as much as I have a knack for creating this art, I really the writer side of my brain really likes naming it and presenting it in a way that people can can pick up on.

Sarah: [00:20:11] So around 2011, I shifted more towards video and time based media, you know, away from photography. And and that was right. That was really the rise of the Tumblr era. For me, that was where Tumblr, I used to call it like the engine room of my art practice, because any little experiment again, you didn't have to be precious about it. It was more, if not quantity over quality. It was more about just any. Anything goes and. It allowed me to in real time, get kind of this feedback loop of what other people responded to in my work and that I think in some ways did guide me towards, Oh, cool, that idea really landed with people. I'm going to keep diving into that. And between 2013 and 2016, I actually worked as part of a creative studio called The Currency. Mm hmm. It had nothing to do with cryptocurrency again, weirdly, just weirdly prescient. Through that, you know, we were involved in a lot of like new media art circles and did a lot of net art and new media installations. And around 2016, you know that that partnership kind of reached its natural conclusion. And that's around that time was also when twenty fifteen twenty sixteen I started getting into analog video, specifically working with VHS and working with this vintage gear. You know, that reminded me of my childhood and a lot of ways, you know, all I ever wanted as a kid was like, Give me the camcorder, please, can I play with the camcorder? And it was always like, No, that thing is expensive.

Sarah: [00:21:54] We're not going to let you play with it. And so finally, around 2016, I got my hands on my family. Camcorder that I was never allowed to play with and started really simple, started playing with video feedback and all these things, and over the past, what what is that five or six years I've built out what I call my video alter, which is this like custom rig of various vintage, you know, vintage editing devices. I have some custom built devices by by people who who who tweak this hardware, who modify this hardware. Bmc and Tachyons Plus are two of the makers of some of the hardware I use. And yeah, I've just really developed the style of, you know, my own approach to it. So to get back to your original question about GIPHY, it's always been for me, you know, or it was for a long time, put my work on Tumblr, put my work on GIPHY because I I wanted people to see it. And the old way of, you know, supporting yourself as a digital artist like myself is there's an artist, right? Or Rips who came up with a great graphic for this that was make good art and wait for emails. I think it was make cool shit and wait for emails, and it's just that on a repeating loop. And that's what it was for me for many years.

Sarah: [00:23:16] And I know I was probably one of the more fortunate artists in that I could sort of eke by a living on commissions, you know, and various other supplemental income. I worked as a Hollywood script script reader for many years. So, yeah, it was that. It was like, GIPHY for me was a way of, OK, well, cool. I'll put this up on GIPHY. Maybe it'll trend and, you know, 60, 60 million people will see it. And then unfortunately, with GIPHY, it's really not easy. People who've used GIPHY probably know this. It's not easy to find out who made the GIF. They don't really have a great way of like. A lot of my views came from the fact that I make GIFs stickers at work with Instagram and Tik Tok. So these pieces of mine are like, again, like I said, I mean, hundreds of millions of views like people know my work from Instagram, they know it because they put these stickers on their stories, but they don't know that I created it. There's not really a great way they're not ever displayed. Oh yeah, by the way, that sticker you love, this is the artist who made it. And so, you know, GIPHY has been GIPHY has a great team. I've worked with them on projects. I think they're fantastic. But I also could recognize, especially as I started getting involved with enough tees in 2019, that it was like, Yeah, this is sort of the pinnacle of the web to era, the era where Facebook and Instagram and all these these social media companies, they're making a lot of money on the fact that my content, as they call it, you know, my art.

Sarah: [00:24:57] But content in this context that my content and the content of all these quote unquote content creators, this sort of dystopian term for artists. That it was making them all this money, because it's why people like Instagram, we like Instagram because it has cool art on it. I mean, it has a lot of other stuff that is not so cool on it. But for someone like myself, that's why that's why I keep opening up. Instagram is like, Oh, what cool art am I going to see today? Meanwhile, for all this enjoyment I'm getting, these companies are making ad dollars. But the artists who are making the product worthwhile aren't seeing anything and very often aren't even getting credited like in the case of my gift stickers. So it's that it's all to say that I have done my best to spin off what I can, as I think so many, so many of us who have sort of made our name on social media. You recognize it for what it is. You have to be pragmatic and go, Well, this is just the lay of the land right now. And as we have now entered this sort of web three scenario with, I almost don't even want to say cryptocurrency technology because I think that term is what scares people off that they don't recognize that it's like we're actually just building the next version of the internet.

Sarah: [00:26:20] And this is the early this is sort of the primordial soup stage where, yes, it's around things like Ethereum and Bitcoin, but it's more about decentralization than anything. But it's all to say as as I've made that transition as a as an online creator recognizing, right? Well, that's why I put my GIPHY views in my bio is because I want people to realize you've probably seen my work. There are what, seven billion people on the planet and six point seven billion people have seen my work. So you've probably seen my work. You just didn't know what was mine. So I'm going to do the best I can to help draw that line for you and go right, like what I create. I have been creating this because I'm compelled to create. I'm called to be an artist. I did this for many, many years because it is just it is an unspeakable urge to express oneself, and I think a lot of artists can probably relate to that. You don't. Choose to become an artist because you think it's a get rich quick scheme, you maybe don't even choose to become an artist at all. It's it's baby. I was born this way, you know, like, that's what it is. So, so yeah, it's been a fascinating transition.

Craig: [00:27:40] Yeah, I think for a lot of artists, it's it's a compulsion, right?

Sarah: [00:27:44] Mm hmm. Absolutely.

Speaker1: [00:27:46] In my mind, even if GIPHY wasn't monetizing for you the way that you deserved or thought it would, it feels like there was probably a benefit there from like a market research perspective in terms of providing you feedback on what images resonated with people. Because I imagine you would you could see what volumes were being viewed on on which images, right?

Sarah: [00:28:10] To a degree. But also, I mean, I'd be the first to point out that everything is a hall of mirrors. I mean, GIPHY is now owned by Facebook, right? And Facebook. I don't know if people are aware that there was this joke. You know, I'm friends with a lot of journalists and a lot of people who who create media in that realm. And there was the joke about the pivot to video. You know, this happened around maybe twenty fifth seen that all these journalism outlets laid off staffers because they all said, Well, we're going to pivot to video, we're going to pivot to video. And that was all based on numbers that Facebook put out showing nobody's reading your articles. Nobody wants to read an article. People only want to watch a video. So it caused this like massive shift in the media industry towards video. And then years later, it was revealed that they had sort of fluffed those numbers, like it's not that they had made them up, it's just that those numbers were entirely self derived from within an ecosystem they completely controlled. The reason I bring that up is it's it's it's not lost on me that my numbers on GIPHY or GIPHY is completely controlling the reins on those numbers. And no, we're not offered super robust analytics on those numbers. And a lot of the reasons why some of my gifts have so many views is because there's a human being who works at GIPHY, who decided to feature one of my gifts or make it trend or whatever it is. It's like. There's so much about numbers like that that I think people want to believe that it is consensus reality, and they're not recognizing just how it's realized that it might be one person who works at Facebook.

Sarah: [00:30:00] That is why a certain video got a million views versus another video that got one hundred that that there are human beings making those decisions. Sometimes not always. Sometimes it is algorithms. I guess what I'm trying to say there is that I also I'm not heartbroken, I guess as my point, I'm not I'm not going, Hey, GIPHY, you owe me something I don't think they do. Like I said, I have worked with them. I think they're great people who work there. I just think they're also very much of their era. And it will be very interesting to me. I would I would go out on a limb to say GIPHY more than perhaps any of the other web two outlets. They're the ones who could, who could. If they decided to engage with Web3 technology, they could end up changing the whole game. You know, they have the most robust sort of resources for that of they have every incredible digital artist on their platform like, you know that they could they could make moves in that regard. You know, they're part of Facebook now. I don't know that they will. I don't know that they're able to move that quickly in that way anymore. But I hope I hope that just helps shine a light on things for people, but. Don't don't. Nothing is real. Something is real numbers. Numbers on videos aren't real. Numbers on gifts aren't real. And especially if they're if it's numbers on your own thing, then you really know you feel how not real it is. You feel how it both is. Something worth pointing out to people, but I'm also not taking it that seriously as something that means anything.

Craig: [00:31:41] Yeah. Well, leave it to an artist to offer an existential quandary about, you know? You know, it's none of it's real, but just kind of in broader terms, where do you think this space, crypto art NFTs? Where where do you think we're headed? What's on the horizon?

Sarah: [00:32:00] Yeah, predictions are hard. As much as I love to play the role of Oracle. I have been in the space longer than than most. You know, my my wizened two and a half years weirdly does give me more perspective, I think, than a lot of the people who are making this like their life's work got involved like a month ago. So there is inevitably and it's it's what I think the media really seizes on when they take this very critical or almost mocking tone about NFTs. It's because they're grasping on what they see. That is the loudest thing right now, which is that there's a lot of speculation that happens. There's an almost casino like element, especially related to the collectible side of NFTs. But of course, it happens with the art side, too. And I mean, the first thing to point out to that when people, you know, have a very sneering tone about the speculation that happens is you want to go? Have you ever have you ever paid attention to what happens in the traditional art market? Because it's it's the exact same thing. I mean, it's just because this is more artists being successful. That's a good thing that more people are being let in here than are typically let in to the traditional art market. But it's all the same principles.

Sarah: [00:33:22] It's all, you know, it's all the same stuff. So this this critique that oh, and if t's are so bad because people are speculating, it's like, Well, that's what people are doing in the traditional art market as well. But it's all to say that I have already seen the ebbs and flows of sometimes numbers are up. Sometimes numbers are down, and right now we have euphoria. There's the euphoria of how well everything is going, how numbers are up. And I always try to sort of counsel artists. It's they're in this truly because they see how revolutionary this is for their art practice long term to. Engage thoughtfully and engaged, thinking about the long term. It's very easy to create what's called like a glass floor for your work, where if you keep raising your prices up, up, up, up, up when that inevitable downturn happens, whether it's prices of cryptocurrencies shifting in a huge way, whether it's the economy taking a downturn, you then end up in this scenario where you've priced your work too high for what anyone's willing to pay anymore and then your only option if you want to keep selling work is lower your prices and then that can cause panic sell offs of your work. I'm saying all this. I am not. I am not someone with any background in finance.

Sarah: [00:34:47] I have only I have discovered I have a natural knack for thinking about these things as I've engaged with this over the past two and a half years. I'm always learning, too, but that's something I would offer to people really just from what I have already seen of. Like, don't get so caught up in the euphoria of the present moment is like, you have to be thoughtful about what this looks like long term. I've already seen people who got really excited and swept up in all of this back in March have already left because there was a big downturn in May, and it was so traumatic for them that they went, I'm not messing with that anymore. It's too much. And it's it's also something I counsel to people because I get asked every single day by artists I know should I? Should I make NFTs? And my answer is always like, maybe I mean, you got to know that it's it's there's no tech support here, for starters. That's why I say maybe as I go, I'm happy to give you a little bit of advice, but I cannot be your tech support service person like I can't. I don't. I literally don't have the bandwidth to help everyone because their wallet is doing something weird is like, we have a saying, do your own research and you're really only well suited to this at this moment.

Sarah: [00:36:06] If you are someone who is really self-starting, really self-reliant and really just on some level, technically capable, but to speak to the future, that is what will shift what will shift over the next few years, is that this thing that right now is only for extremely online people like myself in the coming years? I mean, we're already seeing it happen. This week, Coinbase announced that they're launching an NFT platform, and that's going to probably onboard millions of people to this concept of NFTs. We're going to see this touch every single arena that we call intellectual property because it's frankly better. It's the better mousetrap. As they'd say in terms of handling ownership of intangible assets, of which intellectual property is probably the biggest one that we all deal with. You know, anyone who's an artist, anyone who's a writer, screenwriters, music, you know, songwriters, musicians, et cetera. Right now, it's something that's seen as esoteric and seen as like something those weird people are doing online, online and like the weird. I mean, the the. The assumptions that are made about the people engaged in this, I find, are very off. I often hear this, this lament from from people who I am maybe aligned with and thinking in many ways.

Sarah: [00:37:41] Well, there are no women in crypto. This is all tech. It's just all tech pros and myself and the many like women, queer people, people of color, I mean, it's a very diverse space and you just kind of want to raise your hand and go up. Hi, thanks for erasing us. It might be convenient to your narrative because you're scared of what this is. You're scared of this new thing. So, I mean, it's a tale as old as time is, people go, OK. Our present system is lacks diversity and is not inclusive enough. Well, there's this new system people are coming up with that also struggles with inclusion and diversity at the same levels, if not even slightly less than our current system, but because it also has that problem. They go shut it down. It's not inclusive enough. It's not diverse enough. And and it's it's a bad faith argument because my experience in this space has been that there's a great deal of diversity and that people who in that older model, like in traditional art, at least like I said, would not have an in would not have a way of participating because it's very codified. And it is very there are all these sort of unspoken rules about who's in and who's out. And here it's it's the Wild West. It's open for the taking and that.

Sarah: [00:39:06] Just like the Wild West, it doesn't mean there's not a lot of crazy shit that goes down there it is, but it also means there is there's room to breathe and there's room to define in a new way. And so I guess that's my biggest long term oracular statement is the very people who today go NFTs are crazy and weird and bad and evil, and we hate them. In 10 years, they're going to be engaging with an NFT in some way or another. They might just not realize that's what they're doing because this is where the internet is evolving to, you know, people said the same thing about dial up internet in nineteen ninety four. It was clunky. It was it took forever. It was backwards and only, you know, people with a great deal of technical know how and specialized interest were involved in the internet back then. And then you look at today and you go every almost every single person on Earth engages with the internet in some way or another. So that's what this is. And I and I would just I would recommend to people just for the sake of not ending up being hypocrites to just if you don't understand it, just just say, I don't understand it. You don't have to get the pitchforks out.

Craig: [00:40:26] All right. Let me ask you one other question kind of related to that. And that is what hurdles do you think stand in the way of of this space becoming all it's meant to be?

Sarah: [00:40:36] Yeah. Well, there are the actual technical hurdles. And then there are the hurdles of public relations. The technical hurdles, of course, is just that. What we're doing here is we're building the tools of tomorrow with the tools we have today. And just like the dial up internet of nineteen ninety four, it's clunky. It's inelegant right now. There's with Ethereum, there are a lot of actual technical hurdles to mass adoption, one of the primary ones being gas fees that, you know, when I started doing NFTs in 2019, you know, we'd pay you'd pay maybe three dollars to mint an NFT. And that was and at that point you go, that was so oh my god, gas is so expensive today. It costs me three whole dollars. Now to mint an NFT, you can pay like $400. I mean, it's gas fees. It's correlates, obviously, to the fact that back then, Ethereum was worth about one hundred and eighty dollars and now it's worth thirty eight hundred dollars. So it's not that the in terms of ETH, you're paying the same amount of E, you just, you know, it has a higher dollar value now, and that is going to be a huge hurdle to people adopting this. Those of us in the space, we it's funny how you're thinking. You adapt to it, you know, and you get used to it, and you don't have that, that price tag shock the way maybe you would if you weren't doing it all the time, but that's a huge hurdle. And it's correlated to the big, the big, both technical and public relations hurdle, which is the environmental aspect, right? And there's a lot about the backlash and the anger about the environmental aspects of Etherium that are really just based on rumors.

Sarah: [00:42:32] I mean, it's based on stuff that got spread just like it's misinformation. Essentially, it's in misunderstandings. And this is also new. Like I said, people who aren't part of it, I think, can get very, very triggered for lack of a better word by this new thing. Changing things for a lot of people. And and then if you feel left out, it's very natural to go. I hate it. I don't understand it and I hate it. And we all care about climate. I mean, climate change is one of the great unifiers of like, yeah, I don't want I want the Earth to be, well, I don't want. None of us are like, you know, ignorant to the facts of climate change. I would say, I maybe I can't say none of us, but I think at large there is this degree of we all want to do better. But like I said, we're building the tools of tomorrow with the tools we have today. And carbon extractive technology is the tool of today that everything runs on. All server farms use electricity. So, you know, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, this is what I mean by misinformation is. I think a lot of the information about cryptocurrency and its electrical usage. It was presented without a sense of scale, without a sense of comparison of other things that use more electricity. And it's not to say that that it's that we shouldn't try to do better. It's just to say there was a lot of there was a lot of anger and there was a lot of demonstrable people intending harm to those of us that are engaging with cryptocurrency technology.

Sarah: [00:44:14] And I think that that was it's a very unhelpful and and dangerous and. It's all to say that there is law has long been talk about Etherium moving to proof of stake technology, which some other blockchains like Tezos already used that are way, way less, you know, energy. They're not energy hogs in the same way. They still use electricity. I think computers use electricity, everybody like that's that's how it goes. And it's that's not a problem with computers. That's a problem with how we derive energy from the Earth at this present moment that, you know, energy innovation needs to happen that is correlated to this. So, you know, I'm sure you can feel me dancing around it a little bit because I I like a lot of people in the space. I had a lot of anger directed at me for engaging with NFTs earlier this year. And it's it's it's traumatic, right? And artists are very sensitive or sensitive people. We we care about the world. Like I would say, there is a lot of philanthropic intent behind. This technology that's being developed, you know, of course, people are aiming to make a better life for themselves, but the aim of decentralization and the aim of innovation that's happening here. I every day I'm having conversations with people where you recognize this is not just someone looking to fill their own pockets. These are these are all of us share this sort of goal of making the internet better for everybody and making the future less dystopian, giving people more agency over.

Sarah: [00:46:05] How they can move and how they can operate online so that they're not being siloed into these echo chambers where they are able to be politically manipulated. And I guess it's that I just offer that up as a way to point out, especially if if to people who find themselves having anger come up over it, that it's it's just the anger of of about things changing and any of us, any of us is prone to that anger if it correlates to making us feel obsolete, making us feel out of touch. It's a reminder of mortality. It's the most natural thing in the world. It's a reminder that you are getting older and one day won't be here anymore. And so that makes you feel a lot of feelings. But but you should check in with yourself about that before or you start screaming at an artist on Twitter. That's that's my public service announcement of the day. But it's yeah, it's that just it's going to be. It's it's already Pandora's box is already opened. It's never going to be closed. This is already happening. So you have two choices. You can fight it tooth and nail and go down shaking your fist in the air. Or you can take a moment to reflect. You can take a moment. People in this space are incredibly friendly, so you can even, you know, don't hate us, join us. You can even just learn what's going on and see that that this is happening.

Craig: [00:47:44] So one last question, Sarah, I would hate for you to disenfranchize any of your friends by leaving them off off of a list. But if you were going to kind of highlight two or three NFT or, you know, crypto artists that you are a real fanboy of, that you really admire their work and you think they're really doing something, you know who who would you point to as as being someone that should be on my radar or someone who's new to the space?

Sarah: [00:48:18] Sure. Oh, what a great question. And I do every time I answer it, I after the fact, I get that let's free the Scalia and I'm like, Oh, I forgot to mention like 50 awesome people. The first person who comes to mind is, is my pal Matt Kane, who just this week he's actually releasing the first series for collection through Super Rare, which is for those of us on Super Rare and who collect on SuperRare. It's a big deal. Superior has always been one of ones, and now they are adding the ability for artists to have their own smart contracts to sell collections of work collections of one of ones, one of one of X.. As you might call it now, to be sold through the superior platform, it's like a huge evolution for super rare. I'm personally very excited about it. Very proud to be a part of the SuperRare ecosystem from the early days. And Matt is Matt is one of those singular artists that, you know, he works with a software he developed himself over many years, and he just has such a unique approach to. Visual construction, like his work is, you might define it as generative art because it is there is a code based element to it, but he also has such a recognizable way of constructing images with with color and patterns. Again, this is this is like the start of this episode where I feel like when I try to, like, explain something as singular and awesome as Matt Kane's artwork in words, I feel like my words are failing me right now, so it's really just go check him out, look at what he does.

Sarah: [00:50:09] I mean, he is also, I mean, he is the person. Basically, him and a group of artists banded together to get artist royalties to be standard in the space. And artist royalties, I think are one of the biggest feathers in our cap in the NFT art or crypto art community. Because for many, many years, people fought for artists standards in the traditional art market. And it was just it was David versus Goliath, right? Like, the artist could never get that to happen. There was just no way to make that happen because the traditional art market is is handled. So much of it is handled behind closed doors that there was it was just unenforceable. And now, with smart contracts and what we do with the blockchain, everything is transparent, everything is visible. So even though there are ways to do private sales, you can still find out who sold what to who and still chase down your royalty, even if it doesn't happen automatically. So we have Matt Cain and this merry band of artists really to thank for that, because that is it starts small, right royalties or these little percentages, but they are something that long term, especially for artists.

Sarah: [00:51:23] You know, that age old story of artists who die penniless, like speaking of Van Gogh and then after their death, their work becomes this like industry worldwide industry that they or their heirs never really benefit from in any way. Well, artist royalties will make sure that within our lifetimes and after our lifetimes, our heirs will benefit from our efforts here that they won't be cut out of what could potentially be industries built around our our work. So that's huge. And that's from from just a worker's rights perspective. Forget artists, just workers rights. That's I mean, that's like, that's really big. So thank you, Matt. He's also just he's just someone I have always looked up to in the space because he's very principled and very thoughtful. He has a great sense of humor, but he's someone who always is pointed in the right direction, I find. And so I can't speak highly enough of Matt Kane. I also think, you know, I'll take a moment to say that there is a lot in crypto art that is nascent and there are a lot of practices that I think. Have yet to blow up, and yet they are so perfectly poised to be to be revolutionized through NFTs as a as a technology and one of those. We just have seen this with photography, right? When I first got involved, NFT photography was not a thing.

Sarah: [00:52:56] And this year, like with Justin Aversano's "Twin Flames" being sold at Christie's. I believe like NFT, photography has just blown up. And now I'm seeing some of the most successful people in the space are still photographers. And as someone who is, I won't want to say, formerly a photographer, I still am a photographer as someone who has a background in photography myself, even though that's not my current focus. It's like it thrills me to no end. I think it's fantastic that this appreciation for photography in this new way is now is now emerging. And so that's that's the now. What I think is coming is performance art. It just performance art and video art, and there are there are people working in these modes that are part of our space and they, you know, they're seeing they're visible. But I would say that there is definitely room for their work to reach greater and greater heights. A friend of mine, Edgar Fabian Frias, is this incredible contemporary artist whose work is multidisciplinary kind of like myself in that way, where I said, where it can be hard sometimes for people to quickly grasp it because it's so multidisciplinary. But Edgar is someone who does really fascinating performance art as part of their practice, who has been working with NFTs since last summer. And I mean, full disclosure, I'm a collector of theirs, and I just think what they do is so different than what else we have in the space.

Sarah: [00:54:30] And SamJ is another artist in that same vein who does these fascinating like worlds for each piece is like its own dimension, and they're bringing in its performance, its costume, its drag. It's its 3D world building. I mean, that's who gets me excited is is the people who I think even though their work esthetically is maybe very different than mine. I think we share the DNA of being. These multidimensional fragiles who create worlds of our own definition, you know what I mean, and like that thing where when people because that's at the beginning for me, people didn't know what to make of me either. I had a few people. I had collectors like Matt Kane and Colby were some of my very first collectors, these fellow artists of mine who because they're artists, they got it right. They could see it and go, Whoa, Sarah is doing something deep here. It's beyond design. It's it's it sits on fine art endeavor, and they from the get go were huge cheerleaders of mine. But in those early days, those people were few and far between for me. And then it was actually in January of 2020, Jason Bailey got turned on to my work, collected a few of my pieces, and you know, he's such a great arts writer that he, he sort of like, announced my work to his Twitter following, and I sold every single piece I had that day that week.

Sarah: [00:56:03] And and from that moment on, I have been in that rarefied position of I no longer have to fight so hard to define myself for people that now there is this sort of cult of personality of mine that that people are. It's much more liquid. People are much more able to, like, introduce themselves and initiate themselves into it because they because it's as simple as that as there is more of a mass appreciation for what I do. So they don't put their guards up in the same way they maybe did back when nobody knew really what to make of me. And so I'd love to see artists like Edgar Fabian Frias and Sam Jay and so many of the other fascinating performance art iconoclasts that we have in this space. I'm very excited for that moment when that will happen for them, you know, and that we have more people entering the space who work in those kind of mediums. Because right now again, what one of the big critiques against what we do is, you know, I think Jerry Saltz said something about it all being sci fi illustration crap, something like that. Yeah. And on the one hand, you know, part of me was like, Excuse me, I take umbrage and another part of me was like, Oh, I totally know what he's talking about.

Sarah: [00:57:36] Like, I understand why it's easy to take a really zoomed out view and see things that are being sold for really, really inflated numbers and and being really put out there in this way that it's not. I'm not critiquing the art at all. You know, all of these things have value, all different modes of expression of value, but there's a lot that gets lifted up and elevated, and it's more of what you might call design or illustration. Design and illustration are great, but they are different from fine art, so it's very easy for people who have that fine art background to pooh pooh everything in this space and say, Well, it's all that. It's all sci fi illustration crap. And I'm often urging people to go, No. Nfts are just a container. They're just whatever we want to fill them with. And any single person who makes art that is time based or screen based or digital in any way can use the container of NFT technology to addition their work. So I often say about it that this is a movement that has a unity of spirit, but not a unity of style. There are so many myriad styles in so many fascinating, diverse practices within this. This greater movement of what we're doing here that is technologically based, so I give you a few recommendations there. I know I waxed poetic a little bit too, but. 

Craig: [00:59:16] No, no, no. This is great. I'm surprised you don't have your own podcast. I mean, you, you you're you're very thoughtful, and I really appreciate you taking your time today to talk to me and try to talk to my audience about what's unique about this space, in how it lives in the greater sphere of art and try to put a magnifying glass on where we are in a time stamp on this moment in time. And so I really appreciate your generosity of spirit in time, and I really appreciate you joining me.

Sarah: [00:59:55] Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

Craig: [01:00:05] And now the news.

Craig: [01:00:10] In an earlier episode of the podcast, I spoke with journalist and author Barnaby Phillips about the complex origins and status of the Benin Bronzes. As a reminder, the cultural treasures of the Edo people of what is now Nigeria were plundered by foreign forces in eighteen ninety seven. Since then, the assorted sculptures have been scattered around the world. Well, just this week, the German government and the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments agreed to a timetable for the restitution of the artifacts that currently reside in Germany. The agreement paves the way for a more formal contract expected to be signed later this year, which will transfer ownership of nearly 11 hundred Benin bronzes from German museums to the nation of Nigeria by the middle of next year. In addition, Germany has agreed to contribute to the construction of the Edo Museum of West African Art, which will be breaking ground in Benin City near the side of the palace, which had been originally ransacked over one hundred years ago. Although ownership of all the bronzes will transfer to Nigeria, a number of the pieces will remain on display in Germany at the request of Nigeria's government. Now we wait and see if other nations follow suit. On August 16, nineteen seventy two chemist Stefano Martini had left his home in Rome to take a holiday in Italy's Calabria region. An immature snorkelers and scuba diver, martini decided to partake in a dove in the clear waters, just two hundred yards from the marine and rayasi on one of his dives.

Craig: [01:01:49] That day, he saw something eerie that made him expect the worst. It was an arm reaching up from the bottom of the ocean floor when Marianne Anthony reached out to examine the body. He found that the arm didn't belong to a cadaver, but was part of a bronze statue sitting on the ocean floor. Mary Anthony had stumbled upon Greek bronzes from five hundred B.C., which by all accounts, must have been lost there as a result of a shipwreck. He reported the fine to the local authorities in a salvage operation was underway within days that brought to pristine bronzes of Greek soldiers ashore. After nine years of conservation, the Rayasi Bronzes were finally revealed to the public in nineteen eighty one. Part of the fervor over the find is tied to the fact that there are so few Greek statues still in existence. The majority of examples we have are Roman copies of Greek bronzes done in marble. So where they all go? Well, arrow tips and swords. Many a relic have met a similar fate, so finding two statues untouched after two thousand five hundred years was a significant fine. Now, 50 years later, the local government is planning a new museum for the statues, as well as an underwater investigation for a possible third statue.

Craig: [01:03:18] It turns out that in Meridian Tinnies original account of what he saw, he described a third statue with outstretched arms and a shield. When the team returned to salvage the statues in nineteen seventy two, they could only find two. The mystery has always been whether a rogue treasure seeker got word in salvage, the third before Mary Anthony and the official showed back up, or if the third statue had become obscured by the silt sand on the ocean's floor. Either way, there may or may not be a third statue off the coast, but it's certainly worth looking. In another story about the afterlife of statues, Hyperallergic Valentina Delicia this week published an article titled What Does It Take to Kill a Monument? In the article, she highlights a research project called How to Kill a Statue, founded by Lyra de Monteiro, an associate professor of American studies at Rutgers University Newark, and her former students, Hyatte Abdel-Aal and Tyler Crespo Rodriguez. The topic at hand is the fate of hundreds of historically troublesome statues removed from public display nationwide in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing and rise of Black Lives Matter. The project has used public records and social media accounts on all sides of the debate to map out exactly what statues met their demise in the last year.

Craig: [01:04:45] That's just the start. The real hot topic in the research is assessing where the statues are now. Many are in storage at taxpayer expense, waiting for what comes next. But what is that? There are those who say the statues of historical figures like Christopher Columbus, Andrew Jackson or Robert E. Lee should reside in a museum. While being provided the correct historical context. Others fear that as long as the statues are safe and in storage, there's the possibility of the statues being re erected in their prior location or on someone's private property. So what do we do? Save the art or make sure the materials are transformed into items of hope and progress instead of eartips and swords. That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rates show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. And click on the Podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Craig at Canvia. Art, thanks for listening. Do.

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