FEATURED ARTWORKS OF THE WEEK
Interview with Machine Dialogues Curator JenJoy Roybal
As the CryptoArt scene has quickly evolved, so has the need for thoughtful art curation. NFT curators provide necessary assistance to artists and marketplaces by navigating the popularity of tokenized artwork. The selective process of curation ensures that creators and collectors alike are exposed to pieces that fit their general interests and introduced to new artists and communities within the space.
Curators handpick voices and creative visions that speak to the time and cultural movements happening locally and globally. In doing so, curation can help spark conversations and encourage progressive discourse within the CryptoArt space and beyond.
This week, we spoke with JenJoy Roybal, the curator of our recent collection, Machine Dialogues, about curation being a cultural witness and discussed her curation process for the collection.
Tell us about the latest exhibition you curated, Machine Dialogues.
The exhibition Machine Dialogues is taking a look at how artists in Web 3 are utilizing artificial Intelligence (AI) to inform their creative process. So many tools have become available to creatives and we’re seeing a massive period of curiosity and experimentation across the artist community. I wanted to see what the impact was to long-time experienced artists using this technique, as well as artists just learning to integrate it into their work.
I felt it was important to get past the eye candy and the noise to discover what is really happening for artists and how they are thinking about it. Right now there’s a lot of criticism and debate about the use of AI, similar to what happened when creatives started using the camera, created prints, used synthetic paints, or tools like adobe suite, in the past. It feels like an inflection point where we need to pay attention to how artists are interacting with these tools, which are undergoing rapid development. I’m learning that oftentimes it’s a dialogue with a lot of back and forth happening, hence – Machine Dialogues. More importantly, I feel it is critical for these interactions to take place as AI becomes even more sophisticated and ubiquitous across all that we do as a society. Like with Web 3 technology, I think it’s imperative that artists use these tools and contribute to their development.
What were you looking for when you were looking at pieces to go into the collection?
I wanted a strata of artists that represents what we’re seeing in Web3, so viewers will see works in Fine Art, Gaming, Typography, and Metaverse Fashion. For this collection I reached out to artists that were pushing the possibilities of AI, using them as tools to expand their work. I invited artists who have been coding their own AI and doing recursive processes, where we could see a through-line of the tools that came before (drawing, painting, photography, etc). I looked to storytellers using AI to inform a particular cultural narrative, where it seemed like the AI helped them land with impact and strengthened their voice. It was also important to capture the collective spirit happening in Web 3, so an art collective was brought in to share that perspective. It’s incredible to see how artists are supporting each other in this space and as a result the work gets stronger and stronger.
What’s the benefit of curation in the NFT space to you?
Like any era or movement in arts and culture, it’s important to document, capture and witness what is happening. For me, curation and writing does that well. I’m a bit removed from the taste-maker type of curator like in fashion or music. I’m more immersed – gonzo style– in the community and culture by trying to capture the zeitgeist. I’m fascinated with the collapse of industry verticals and how there is a new mix of talent rising out of that. It’s thrilling.
I also use curation to draw in talent into Web3. [At my company] SearchLight, our work is conceptually more pull than push. Our artists don’t come to the space baked and cooked, ready for Christie’s to put a “bow on it,” but rather we witness a rapid development to that desired level. I like participating in this part of an artist’s journey. Plenty of people in our community have become best-selling artists in Web 3, whether minting on Manifold or Mint Gold Dust. It’s been rewarding to see that happen. It’s important that we pursue the holy grail of artist financial sovereignty. If we can’t build the road to get there we don’t need blockchains.
So I guess some benefits of curation in the NFT space include being able to witness and interrogate the cultural activity and provide some perspective as its happening; also to shine a light on artists that may otherwise get lost in the cacophony.
Why do you think AI is having its moment in the cultural zeitgeist right now? And where do you think it’s going?
The confluence between art and blockchains has put an obsessive focus on tech-driven artwork. When many of the largest tech companies released their “untrained AI tools’” around 2018, coders and artists got energized about the prospect and now it’s starting to scale and grow.
I believe some of the most interesting artwork will come out of this moment and it will be critical for the ongoing engagement of artists, storytellers, designers and so many more people to engage in AI dialogues or we’ll end up with SI (Stupid Intelligence) instead of AI.
There’s a lot of debate in the art world about whether or not this new iteration of AI art should be included in the art “canon.” What are your thoughts on that?
AI is already included in the cannon, The Whitney Museum of American Art and many others have been doing a good job of tracking this; so I think now it’s more about how artists will ride this next wave as it connects with blockchain culture. Also, if the “art world” is rumbling about a new tool that artists are using and shunning those outputs, much like they did with photography and NFTs, it’s worth taking a closer look. The debate is important, and I do think people are making valid points about how things are credited, plus we’re seeing a lot of generic looking things. However, I’ve been through a few transformative moments in art and I can feel the bubbling sensation in this sector. For me, it just needs to mature a bit more for any naysayers to be alleviated.