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    Guide to Experiential Art in Web3

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    Guide to Experiential Art in Web3

    Experiential art is a form of artistic expression that emphasizes the experience of the viewer as an integral part of the artwork itself. Considering the digital sphere’s obsession with experience (hello, all you UX researchers and designers), the Internet makes for a hospitable setting for this amorphous and evolving art category. 

    In a sense, all art is experiential. Marcel Duchamp said that nothing is art until it has an audience. And yet there’s a marked difference between a painting or installation sitting in wait for the viewer and a work that requires active engagement. 

    Unlike traditional forms of art, where the focus is often on viewing or interpreting a static object (which includes non-dynamic time-based art like film, theater, and music), experiential art is about creating an immersive, interactive, and often multi-sensory environment that engages the audience in a more direct and personal way. 

    Experiential works often blur the boundaries between art and life, artist and viewer, reality and illusion, challenging traditional notions of what art can be and how it should be experienced. This is a category where storytelling is often central but almost never resembles Freytag’s Triangle. 

    In the following post, we will explore a handful of recent exemplary pieces of experiential web3 art from prominent and lesser known artists, including Sam Spratt, Operator,  Siebren Versteeg, Lauren Lee McCarthy and more. 


    The Monument Game by Sam Spratt

    Guide to Experiential Art in Web3
    The Monument Game by Sam Spratt

    Recalling a cross between the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the work of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Sam Spratt’s epic painting The Monument Game mechanizes and gamifies art appreciation in a few interesting ways. 

    Knowing the nature of the Twitter scroll, Spratt wanted to draw viewers into a more intentional way of viewing and collective meaning-making. To do so, he worked with the Nifty Gateway team for a year to create the Monument Game experience: a massive, high-resolution digitized version of the painting that allowed viewers the ability to zoom in on the astonishing details of the work.

    For a three-day period, he opened the experience to 256 participants, who got a pass to investigate and annotate the myriad scenarios and vignettes playing out across the impressive landscape of characters.

    Though Spratt finished the painting long before the event, it’s arguable that the work wasn’t complete until after the meaning-making event, just as Duchamp contended that nothing is art without an audience. 

    Like this? See also: Entropes by alxi


    Do You Want To Feel Something? by sgt_slaughtermelon

    The opening screen from sgt_slaughtermelon’s Do You Want to Feel Something?

    Partially inspired by a disarming moment from The Rehearsal by Nathan Fielder, sgt_slaughtermelon’s Do You Want To Feel Something? brings the world of Twine-built interactive text-based experiences into web3 and digital art collecting. 

    This metamodern exploration of simultaneous levity and gloom doesn’t let participants coast toward the comforts of either pessimism or optimism. Instead, slaughtermelon uses a seemingly endless series of mock Windows 95-like interactions — thoroughly revised with the distinct slaughtermelon vibe — to guide…um, players? readers? viewers? through a sort of aggressive therapy session that embraces the contradiction that happiness and numbness, joy and despondence, hope and depression can and, in fact, do coexist simultaneously in all of us. 

    Throughout the experience, players (let’s just call them players) are allowed to mint the given artwork that acts as the retro techno Virgil through this tongue-in-cheek journey of enlightenment and anti-enlightenment. 

    Like this? See also: God Observer by heaven.computer


    Human Unreadable by Operator

    From the Human Unreadable series by Operator

    Created over the course of a year, Human Unreadable by Operator (Ania Catherine and Dejha Ti), fuses choreography, generative art, and cultural criticism. 

    The multi-part work started with the minting of a series of 400 Man Ray-ish generative pieces that combined disjointed choreography, motion-capture technology, and several layers of generative art. (Please watch this talk by the couple at NFT.NYC to better understand their painstaking process.) The resulting work is abstract and often only barely hints at a human figure. 

    After collectors minted, they could unlock a generative movement score of stick figures related to their piece. 

    The final phase was a performance choreographed in partnership between Ania Catherine and the generated sequences born of the earlier phases. All of this amounted to an exploration of privacy and a slow unveiling of the human buried in its cocoon of technology. Human Unreadable embraces the messiness of humanity in the face of orderly technology, facing down modernist grid systems in favor of a focus on the unruly expressiveness of the human body. 

    Like this? See also: The Boys of Summer by Mitchell F. Chan and/or Plaques & Tangles by TJO


    Good Night by Lauren Lee McCarthy


    Where the abovementioned works required rather intense technical know-how to convey the artists’ complex concepts and meanings, Lauren Lee McCarthy’s Good Night uses only the most basic current technology to engender personal intimacy in an NFT-based performance for one person at a time. 

    The performance, which will continue as long as McCarthy is alive, comprises one simple act: every night before she goes to bed, she texts a wish to the NFT holder to have a good night. When the collector sells, the performance transfers to the next collector. 

    Good Night questions the blockchain’s promise of eternal life with an interrogation: What about mortality? What about presence? What about the human beneathLike this? See also the contract? When technology is trustless, can we at least trust another person? 

    As McCarthy writes, Good Night embeds a social contract within a smart contract, “a commitment to a set of rules I have set out for myself; the performance is the lived attempt to meet that commitment.” In a sense, Good Night is endurance art for relationships. I have to wonder if McCarthy ever calls the collector, and how far does this intimacy extend?

    Like this? See also: Miss You by mizzy


    For a Limited Time by Siebren Versteeg

    From For a Limited Time by Siebren Versteeg

    Siebren Versteeg has been making highly conceptual art with digital tools — generative algorithms, live data feeds, web-scraping techniques, programming languages — with an eye toward critiquing technology since the early 2000s.

    When NFTs became the buzzword of the moment, Versteeg recognized the commodity-centric view of art perpetuated by so much of the culture as “antithetical to the kind of ethics and ambitions of [his] work.”

    His response to NFT culture, For a Limited Time, is a year-long experiment that creates a new painterly collage of scraped trending events and stories every 10 to 15 minutes. Of the ~35,000 generated works, 750 will be saved and made available for $300. 

    The collection mirrors back to viewers their own media-saturated lives, the collage reflecting the brain-melt of information overload and how this surfeit of the neverending scroll must sit like mush in the unquiet mind of the Very Online.

    This embrace of immediacy and real-time data presents viewers with work that is profound in its vapidity — a beautiful collage about the Kroger-Albertsons merger or English cricket coaches — and one that could just as likely be lost to time as minted and thus “immortalized” on chain.  

    Like this? See also: Reliquary by remnynt


    Web by Jan Robert Leegte


    Jan Robert Leegte is a Dutch pioneer of Internet art, and in the early aughts he shifted his focus toward bridging the online art world with the gallery art world. Not unlike Versteeg, Leegte explores the digital materiality of onscreen interactions using both digital mediums (websites, digital images, video) and traditional physical mediums (prints, sculpture, installations, drawings, and projections). 

    With Web, “a monument to the hyperlink,” Leegte created a massive generative network of 1,000 webpages, a pure, content-free aesthetic experience of web browsing that decouples quotidian surfing from any sense of purpose. In other words, it’s the Internet, but poetically so, devoid of utility and elevated to fine art reminiscent of light artists Robert Irwin or Dan Flavin.  

    In Leegte’s words, “Web is not a utility, but an expression of the machine. Wandering it suggests a forsaken usage and navigability, but it is just an echo of information architecture crafted with the cold introvert yet careful handling of the machine, leaving you getting lost and walking in circles.”

    Like this? See also: SALT_v4 by Figure31 and Oxmons in collaboration with JPG


    Perils of Sēsē by All Seeing Seneca


    All Seeing Seneca rose to prominence as her recognition grew as the once-unsung lead designer behind the creation of the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Building upon this notoriety, her the ambitious and far more artful endeavor of Perils of Sēsē, a 2880-edition illustrative generative-meets-hand drawn digital art series, sold out immediately upon its release.  

    Reminiscent of Jim Woodring’s surreal Frank comics, this abstract narrative pays homage to the structure and aesthetics of children’s storybooks. The component that makes this experiential is the introduction of the ERC-7160 Token Standard, which opens the ability for multiple metadata options per artwork.

    As collectors interact with their pieces, the stories and artwork evolve. Collectors can “pin” their preferred display, which will remain in place even as new layers are added to the dynamic piece, and even the borders will bloom and evolve over time, so that the longer a collector lives with a work, the more of it they will experience. 

    Like this? See also: The Metro by int art 


    Outroduction

    The above examples are not only the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there but also of what’s possible. As digital art moves closer to the center of the art world, thus giving artists and researchers the room and resources to explore and experiment, the possibilities will absolutely reveal themselves and expand ten-fold. It’s a future worth pushing for.

    Hero image: Welcome to An ORDINARY DAY by sgt_slaughtermelon


    For updates on all of our upcoming editorial features and artist interviews, subscribe to our newsletter below.

    The post Guide to Experiential Art in Web3 first appeared on MakersPlace Editorial.

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