Can crypto art save the creative world?
Viral video originator Eclectic Method talks NFTs
The world’s leading pop culture surgeon splices the future wide open
“I’m selling my art and you can’t touch it!”
Since the early days of bootlegs, cutting-edge video remixer Jonny Wilson has been creating mashups with rapid-fire edits that turn almost any sound into tunes you can dance to. Or thump your chest to.
The award-winning Barcelona-based British remixer started experimenting with AV in the ’90s after working with Brian Eno and Coldcut on a music project helping the war-torn children of Bosnia.
Nothing is off topic. He has since managed to add funk to the apocalypse, basement-dwelling hackers, the Apollo 11 launch, Greta Thunberg, and even meat – mashing up Cowspiracy and EU agricultural emissions.
invented the viral video.
Originally a trio, the remaining remix ninja behind the acclaimed alias has racked up more than 20 million views with his Star Wars remixes and can count Questlove, RZA, Ricky Gervais, Mark Ronson and the late-Anthony Bourdain among his fans.
Meanwhile, Childish Gambino, Snoop Dogg, Fatboy Slim, U2 and Rick & Morty have recruited him for official videos. Past live performances include an all-star jam on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and various remixes have appeared on The Colbert Report and The Late Late Show with James Corden.
Wilson sees pop culture as being reflected in the music of the moment, which is why he has always sampled films, TV shows and zeitgeist moments – and then put them right out there in music form. And there’s nothing more zeitgeist right now than non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the crypto technology that is shaking up the creative world to sell digital art.
That’s why, with his wife Maria, Wilson is shifting Eclectic Method from making music with video – “that’s video music, not music videos”, to creating and audio visual animations. The difference being that to avoid copyright issues the pair now make their own movie clips and remix those.
While the Eclectic Method client list is a who’s who of top brands and agencies, a successful shift to purely digital artwork means they get to turn down work for corporations. Today they stick to making NFTs and then doing remixes for the collectors of those NFTs.
We asked Jonny Wilson what NFTs spell for audio-visual culture
TOPIA: Hi Jonny, why the move into crypto art?
JW: I saw what Beeple, graphic designer Mike Winkelmann, was doing with his art and wanted to try it. I had recently transitioned into doing more original and legal content and was perfectly placed to try it out. It has totally changed my life beyond recognition for the positive. Initially it was a way to sell ideas on Spotify or anywhere else. I didn’t expect it to be so widespread initially – and now I understand it to be part of a wider movement in blockchain technology and society in general.
What’s Bootsy Collins got to do with NFTs?
Bootsy is a Twitter friend initially but when I started getting into crypto art I DMed him and asked if he’d be interested in collaborating on an NFT. He didn’t initially really know what it was but he liked my video work and is obviously an extremely experimental person. So we made this piece of Crypto Funk.
So what on earth are NFTs for those who still don’t get it (ahem)?
NFTs are a token, a bit of digital code that is assigned to a wallet on the blockchain. On the blockchain your wallet address is everything. It’s like your bank account and storage for all your deeds and contracts that prove ownership. Some NFTs are $10 some are a lot more. The reason some of them are worth so much is art and ideas have value. Although they exist digitally it doesn’t make them any less valuable than if the ideas were painted or printed.
NFTs are a wide range of artists – from shit to the best in the world. The idea that every single artist involved brings nothing to humanity is boomer overkill. This is more about art getting out of traditional established arenas old people are used to. We all decide what art is. They also solve the problem of authenticity. Most large art houses have accidentally sold off forgeries of huge works of art in recent years. The NFT Token is irrevocably linked to the piece of art so when an artist makes the art from their wallet it is like a fingerprint that can’t be forged.
How can you be sure they aren’t an art fad?
NFTs are just the new format for ideas like YouTube was in 2006. The value might go up and down and the market might get larger and smaller but there won’t be any stopping people with computers making art. A lot of these people were already filling your Instagram and YouTube feeds with great ideas. Some of them work on Marvel movies and we all happily buy those. Do their concepts only have value when a corporation is profiting from them?
People criticising NFTs based on worst examples is silly. I can take the absolute worst rapper and then say “look how rubbish this artform is” but that’s silly hip hop contains some of the greatest poets that ever lived. We didn’t quit computer games because Atari made E.T.
Tell us something about the blockchain that will rock our worlds.
Blockchain in general is going to change everything faster than people realise. We are in an exponential technological growth age. The next ten years will be comparable to the last 60 and we won’t be able to comprehend it. Visa is trialing its future global payment system on Ethereum. Insurance contracts, property deeds, all contracts in general will be settled on the blockchain. It’s going to change everything and entire games companies, film companies and companies for industries we haven’t even thought of will pop out of a global community of online people.
We didn’t quit computer games because Atari made E.T.
How do we protect artists from tech world opportunism?
Keep them away from Mark Zuckerberg. The thing is, YouTube, Facebook and other sites have let a lot of algorithms loose to decide things. People at these companies aren’t making emotional decisions based on how they feel about people’s art but their code is making calculated decisions to increase profit that chokes a lot of art. One reason Crypto Art has overcome that is because it really is a word of mouth community. A lot of the people in it talk in DMs and on Discord. So they often bypass what the algorithm decides to show us. I’ve had a lot of trouble fighting with the algorithm the last ten years. Any political or negative remix is instantly promoted by the algorithm whereas anything conceptual or fun is throttled. NFTs have freed up a lot of people to make art they love, not art Instagram loves.
Who’s really shaking things up? Who are the Crypto Art OGs we should keep an eye on?
I’ve done a lot of remixes using people’s content where they’ve allowed me to remix it. People like Casey Neistat, Beeple and Coldie have all allowed me to make NFTs with their content. We’ve worked with absolutely legendary visual artists that we would never have been able to work with prior to NFTs like XCOPY and Miguel Garest. As for really shaking it up…
Jonathan Mann is @Songadaymann. He makes a song every day and now does so much more. He was one of the early people into cryptoart, cryptopunks the whole thing. Right now he is innovating by selling shares of his musical catalogue.
Angie Taylor is a crypto art OG. She’s a technical wizard who has taught and consulted for the companies that make all the software we use. She’s made legendary music videos with Chris Cunningham in Soho basement, been there in the punk movement and is now in the crypto movement.
NFTs have freed up a lot of people to make art they love, not art Instagram loves.
Do you ever worry about spending too much time online?
No. Not at all actually. I spend a good chunk of the day not online, even though it doesn’t seem that way. The Internet has been good to me though. I would not have been able to succeed in a world where networking was done in bars and physically.
Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Do you consider the greenhouse gas emissions generated by energy-hungry cryptocurrencies?
Bitcoin and Ethereum both do use a lot of energy. It is very easy to track the use of the energy because the blockchain is so transparent. Similar estimates for the banking or gold industry exceed it. Estimates of how much crypto mining is from renewables vary from 40-75%.
What do you think the future holds for this world?
Blockchain is the future. It’s the way everything can be created and sorted and interacted with. Ethereum is not just a currency it is a decentralised platform, a language people can interact with in many ways from virtual worlds, to online markets, to selling properties by splitting the value amongst DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation) holders. It will allow the next Twitters and Facebooks to be built without a CEO and open to everybody.
Lastly, do you consider yourself an artivist?
Nah, not really. That’s too pretentious! Most of the time I’m just having fun. I only pop into politics for fun and because it’s too easy or obvious to do certain things, so I can’t resist. Art spreads ideas quicker than essays. Artists can encrypt the truth for digestion later. And also no music and no art makes for a boring world, just or not.
Still don’t get NFTs? Over to Eclectic Method…
What’s so good about this?
Until now there has been no clear way for people to collect digital artwork. Crypto art and NFTs allow just that. Artists can sell work that otherwise there might not be much of a market for. Buyers can financially support artists and receive ownership of the work and basic usage rights. Win-win.
And if you’re lucky, you could rack up millions like Beeple.
If you want to learn how to remix your own videos, head here.
Meet the writer
Lisa Goldapple is the creative brain behind the world of TOPIA. The magazine’s Editor-in-chief has been creating shows for MTV, BBC, Vice, TVNZ, National Geographic and more since the noughties. Then created social good platform, Atlas of the Future. Today her desk faces the trippy side of Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, which might explain a few things. To understand how TOPIA came out of this rare brain, read ‘Mind Blown’. As she puts it: “If life splinters and you hallucinate triangles, make a kaleidoscope.”