When Crypto Art got Trashed

Crypto Art Jul 10, 2020

In much the same way that change in any other art world occurs, the crypto art world experienced a dramatic and interesting turn during the end of 2019 that resulted in an entirely new and controversial sub-genre appearing on the scene.

Essentially what happened is this...

A particularly rambunctious OG crypto artist, Robness created a now infamous work, "64 Gallon Toter". The link here is to his originally minted artwork, and is deliberately left broken (it is now a 404) as that is part of the remaining story.

The original artwork is an animated GIF; here is the imagery associated with the NFT.

ROBNΞSS. "64 Gallon Toter," 2019 (Rarible)

The artwork- true to title, depicts a standard trash can by the Toter brand in a 64-gallon capacity. The image was then fed into image manipulation software, where presumably particular preset filters were added to create the half-tone and rotational animation effects present.

The effect is indeed a mesmerizing sort of loop that offers hints and glimpses of quasi-stereoscopic effects and inteerestingly intense oscillating bars of red, blue, and green.

After originally releasing his artwork on the SuperRare platform, several things then happened...

The blue chip crypto artist, Coldie tweeted commentary about losing a lot respect for some artists after discovering that they use tools like Photomosh. It appears from the ensuing Twitter dialog that this was part of the creation process for "64 Gallon Toter". It therefore seems plausible that the appearance of this artwork and several others like it on constant rotation during the time possibly prompted the tweet.

Robness was ultimately deplatformed from SuperRare, allegedly for infractions against the SuperRare terms and conditions of use. Many suspect that the furor created by "64 Gallon Toter" was the last straw for his presence on that platform.

A collector fairly new to the space who has since become notoriously vocal about a growing collection of perceived faults in crypto art began to decry issues around copyright violation in this specific artwork and others like it, likening the work to "trash art."

A group of perhaps a dozen newer artists seemingly appeared out of nowhere to support Robness and build what appeared to be a "trash art" sub-genre of crypto art in protest of this collector and his tastes, which were viewed as unwelcome to some.

To these artists, this collector was viewed as naive person without any art education, daring an attempt to cross the impossible chasm of dictating what is and is not art.

Of course and as if on cue, Duchamp's "Fountain" was busted out faster than you can say "well ain't that a pisser?!" and the full on raging debate over what is and is not art went on for what felt like months to behold.

The discussion became complex, heated, full of trolling and super negative energy all around. Clearly some folks wanted to attempt drawing lines and establishing boundaries- these people felt that their financial investment was enough to buy them a seat at the crypto art destiny table.

Things quickly evolved into a very difficult overall artist / collector dynamic that is less prominenet in the traditional art world, (probably because of representation, but that is another article for another time) and there appeared at times to be an all out war raging between some artists and collectors.

Here is a mini gallery featuring several artworks in relation or tribute to the original "64 Gallon Toter".

Go home crypto art, you are drunk...

Certainly some of the key issues at play that fuel the trash art movement remain largely unresolved today. These problems revolve around the concentrations of power that limit access and exposure, limited collector base, limited overall adoption, and at least in the case of Ethereum, outrageous transaction fees.

Access and exposure - As it is in the traditional art world, a new crypto artist can struggle to get accepted by the popular galleries who have applied tight filtering and acceptance rates. With the exception of a small number of galleries and minting tokens under one's own token symbol, the options for a new artist are potentially slim.

Limited collector base - If rumors and Twitter are true (lol), there are only about 50 serious collectors in the crypto art space. The entire space is currently quite small, with total artists on most platforms numbering in the low hundreds.

limited overall adoption - All of the cryptocurrency space suffers from this, and it is magnified in the small niche of crypto art. It is almost as if none of it appeals to the majority of people.

outrageous transaction fees - In the world of Ethereum, the gas prices have been through the roof of late, with zero signs of letting up. You will feel this every time you buy a piece of art, gift a piece of art, mint a piece of art or participate in any meaningful way in the various metaverses.

These problems need to be properly addressed or crypto art will end up the same as the traditional art world or likely even worse.

Circle Back: August, 2020

The "64 Gallon Toter" imagery continues in the form of art by other artists in recognition of and solidarity with the trash movement.

Marcial, Carlos. "What is Art? pt. II," 2020 (SuperRare)

This finely rendered example by the master of infinite rooms features a wonderful wrapping of the SuperRare 404 error encountered when attempting to access the original art. It's a sweet nod to what is essentially and indisputably a real moment in crypto art.

If you dig this bit of crypto art history, please share it with a friend and donate to Alpacawhal.

Tell them Alpacawhal sent you...

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