But what else moves besides just the image? Is the soul not stirred by the British artist’s epileptic-seizure-inducing works? In them, are we not forced to confront the darker, twisted underbelly of our superficially idealistic humanity, all while getting terrifyingly lost in these infinitely recursing loops? To say nothing of the market, which is nothing if not enamoured of XCOPY and moves mightily when we drops new work, but why should this otherwise incredibly optimistic space feel so attracted by the ruthless cynicism portrayed by this digitally-native Banksy?i
With that in mind, and lest you think I’m the only one so deluded by these GIFs of gritty grandeur, let’s excerpt from a recent conversation I had with FingerprintsDAO curator, JPG co-founder, and a gent that I don’t not not have a man-crush on despite having never met and maybe only seeing one picture of, Mr. Sam Spike:
Pete D: Sam, where does XCOPY fit in your framework of the current digital art landscape? Listened to your excellent interview with Brian L Frye today while the SR auction for Dankrupt was closing and I couldn’t help but wonder aloud!
Sam Spike: It’s kind of you to listen to that! We’d scheduled a call but I wasn’t expecting him to ask if he could turn it into a podcast at the start. XCOPY… I think it’s super important work in a crypto context, and probably beyond that, an internet culture context, given its origins on Tumblr. I didn’t speak at all about ‘1/1s’ but I think they’re just as significant as the blockchain-native stuff. The XCOPY gifs interest me. They’re very well done. Singular, cohesive style. Maybe a bit repetitive, but I like them, and repetitive can be good (and/or successful). They’ve got a nostalgic quality to them, I think: both towards a certain set of post-Y2K aesthetics and to what I *imagine* to be the atmosphere of crypto 8 or so years ago when it really was a sub-culture on the edge. Both of which obviously precede his NFTs. But I wonder whether that combination of elements has something to do with his popularity. What do you think about it all?
Pete: For some reason that was a more positive review than I was cautiously expecting! I’m largely with you, and I was in crypto in 2013 to affirm your intuition. XCOPY definitely “gets” the crypto-anarchist/crypto-libertarian vibe that once formed the presiding and foundational ideology of the space, especially in his titling. He certainly feels the equal of Hirst and Banksy in his ability to capture the imagination of his audience with a single pithy phrase or word. (Seriously, what’s in the water over there that makes you guys so good at that?!).ii I find a lot of XCOPY’s visuals bothersome, but rarely less than cohesive and all too often in a way that I’ve had to come back to over time – in a way that I’ve been unable to ignore or forget. XCOPY manages to be dark and cynical without being as vulgar as say Beeple.iii Or compared to other “OG” crypto-artists like Pak, MDJ, and Trevor Jones (does Fewociousiv belong on this list too?), I feel like XCOPY has a much more insightful social and human commentary that better represents the implicit undercurrent of the space as a disruptive technological movement (the ‘degenaissance’ if you will)v but one ultimately still executed by flawed implementors, as all technology must always and everywhere be.
Sam: That’s a great summary. And I agree with all of it — including that the titles might be the best part. My favourite XCOPY is possibly FOMO. Especially love that it was minted on New Year’s Eve. So excellent, formally speaking.
Pete: That’s an incredible piece (and of course Rudy Adler owns it, he would…). My favourite is probably the Taxmen edition [seen below]. I actually prefer the softer, more soothing pink colours of the edition to the yellows of the otherwise identical SR 1/1 “Taxman”
Sam: That is excellent. I like now the gif flickers relatively slowly. There really is something striking about the interplay between the layers when you view it full screen, analogous to the push and pull of an abstract colour field painting.
Speaking of colour field painting, what do you figure our old boy Mark Rothko would think about the comparison, were he still alive today? Don’t you think XCOPY’s tragic emotionality would resonate and even move him?
It’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t…
- How is it that so many of the top collectors in the space (your humble author included) consider XCOPY to be perhaps the single most important artist of this enormously influential new social movement? Only Larva Labs and Gremplin are on XCOPY’s level, imo. ↩
- Sam Spike, Damien Hirst, Banksy, and XCOPY are all from the UK, in case you missed that. Like their fellow countrymen Jeremy Clarkson and Douglas Adams, the men who I most emulated when I began blogging over a decade ago, I’ve always admired the wit and wisdom of those North Atlantic islanders. ↩
- I also find Rare Pepes and CryptoDickButts to be excessively vulgar! Will they make you lots of money if you invest in them? Probably… but you’ll still have to live with yourself on the moon. ↩
- Fewocious was one of the first crypto-artists to come to my attention about a year ago thanks to Pomp, but Fewo’s pop-surrealist style was a biiiig turn-off for me, which set me back several (very profitable) months in this cycle. Alas, it was an important (and expensive!) education, one that Pomp is still too much of a proud Bitcoin Maxi to come to terms with, and is instead painting himself in corners of crypto-folly. But what can you do? Blocks march on! ↩
- “Degensaissance” is a term of art that I absolutely adore, one fully credited to ape brother 4156. ↩