Looking at the Stars with 2oby

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Mockup of Singularity’s Children (Part One to be published this year)

“Technology’s relentless alienating march is the landscape to be explored,” reads 2oby’s Facebook profile. And true to his words, 2oby is exploring that landscape in a wide variety of ways. As an artist, he works in both traditional and digital media, examining themes like space travel, arcade games, and cryptocurrency.

2oby is also an author. His novel, titled Singularity’s Children, takes place in the near future: “A brave few heroes and plucky billionaires must fight the fascist corporate vampire squid for the soul of humanity.” In the world that 2oby has envisioned, humanity is being “crowded out by algorithms” as technology becomes more & more opaque.

I knew that I had to speak to 2oby in more depth after viewing The Price, a mixed media work that serves as its own Bitcoin price tag. I was eager to explore that aforementioned landscape with him, in a quest to learn more about his thoughts on the technologies both of the future and of today.

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Arcade Wave by 2oby

Emily Braun: What themes do you typically explore in your artwork? How does the Bitcoin piece fit into your larger body of work?

2oby: I am fascinated with the future. My earliest artistic influences came from the covers of the SciFi books I read – huge drifting derelict space hulks and strange alien planets. This has morphed into the magical realism and surrealism that many of my pictures & paintings delve into. Bitcoin is fascinating because it has the potential to change massive chunks of our society. It is another step on the open source, decentralisation, peer-2-peer path that we as a society have been trundling along for the last couple of decades. My work titled The Price is a recursive meta exploration of value:

What is the price of art? More if it contains a curvaceous bottom?

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The Price by 2oby

Braun: What is your favorite medium to work with currently?

2oby: Paint. I love digital and mixed media, but the ‘real’ physical & tactile truth of paint keeps the art honest. I usually work with acrylic. I often ‘paint’ my pictures in photoshop first; I use collage and 3D modeling to create the compositions, and then I paint the scene.

As much as the subject and the symbolism, I prioritise the composition and aesthetics of my work. Although not always a trendy point of view, I think it must look good on the wall.

Braun: Who & what inspires you?

2oby: This quote from Oscar Wilde sums it up: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

SpaceX, Blue Origin, Carl Sagan – I am inspired by the underdog story of Mankind’s tenacious and blindly optimistic faith & hope in the face of an accumulated overwhelming body of damning evidence.

Braun: How did you first learn about Bitcoin? What were your initial thoughts?

2oby: I read about it years ago, probably in Wired or ArsTechnica. At first, I though it was just a fad. I missed the key points, and I didn’t get the significance of the blockchain.

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Left: Space Adventure by 20by; Right: Daydream by 2oby

Braun: What single aspect of cryptocurrency is most exciting to you?

2oby: More than the cryptocurrency itself, I think the more generalised concept of Distributed Autonomous Cooperations is the most exciting aspect.

Braun: Have you ever bought anything with Bitcoin?

2oby: Only the service of transferring Bitcoin.

Braun: I saw on Facebook that you’re finishing up your first novel! What inspired you to write a novel?

2oby: I learned to read late as a kid, but since then, I have been a voracious consumer of words. Writing is always something I wanted to do; painting came later, actually. This will be my first novel, and I wanted to start close to home in time and space. Near future SciFi is harder in many ways than way-out speculation, because the future arrives startlingly quickly. Bitcoin and another fictional cryptocurrency I call MeshCoin play supporting roles in the narrative.

Braun: How are changing technologies impacting the art world? Are there any tech-related challenges you have faced as an artist or as a writer?

2oby: Each new technology disrupts. The photograph commodified representational images and spawned impressionism, surrealism, and abstraction. The new technologies expand the number of mediums in which an artist can work and also give new tools to artists in traditional mediums – as I mentioned, I use 3D modeling to create scenes that I then paint onto canvas.

I am a bit of a high art sceptic though, and I find most of the ‘Turner Prize’ style shock art suspect, or at least ephemeral. To keep grounded, I try to create real, tangible art that is aesthetically pleasing, or at least aesthetically interesting.

Mass production and digital copying destroy scarcity, but the hipster Neo-Victorian backlash will continue, and real, handcrafted, artisanal, full fibre art should continue to have a place.

Braun: Are you aware of any new technologies geared towards artists? If so, are there any that you think would benefit you the most?

2oby: Technology is a big deal. 100,000 years ago, technology was a rock. Now, technology has become an environment complex enough to support simple lifeforms, like viruses and worms – or even the mimetic viruses that are ads: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z696bTiP8Ro

When the AIs take over, I hope they have good taste.

– Emily Braun

To view more work by 2oby, click here!

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