The Creature Finds Its Voice
To enter one of Danny Cole’s worlds is to enter the safest corner of his brain. Taking inspiration from his own childhood imagination, Cole has set out to create a series of narratives within a 3D landscape that function as an art experience, called Creature World. Cole is hoping to give people “an art piece they feel so connected to that it feels like a friend. Creature World is artwork that you can climb into and adventure inside of. Your adventures become a part of the art. And your art pieces update alongside the adventure.” Since this project will be following an open-ended timeline, we as spectators may view the enterprising venture as a step forward for artists wanting to create NFTs that can offer the market emotional gravity.
Cole’s 3D interactive realm has now entered the second phase of its story in The Creature Finds Its Voice, which invites partakers to “walk” through a psychedelic landscape. In phase one of this project, $120 million was spent on Creatures in four months. I ask Cole to speak on his quick success to which he responds, “When I put out Creature World, I thought it would be a slow build. To me it all starts with giving people an experience worth telling a story about. I like to think about it like this, every art piece you give is a seed you plant in the world. I can’t water 10,000 seeds. People from all around the world have watered those seeds. The community that has formed around Creature World is why everything got so crazy.”
The 22 year old’s spirit can be characterized by his paint-splattered loft filled with a documentary crew following him around for the day and a creative team as young as he is. “This period of my life has been so crazy that that question of “who are you and what do you do?” is not something that I’ve actually had the opportunity to fully take a step back and process.”
We spend the next hour taking that step back by diving into the creative process behind Creatures. Cole lets out a tired sigh, “It was hard. It was really hard to make because we didn’t get to copy the framework of something somebody else has made. We utilized video game technology. But I don’t know if you could really call it a game. It’s more so an experience to explore.” The artist has made a name for himself by transcending mediums to show off the bulbous humanoids that he affectionately refers to as Creatures. He’s expanded their place in the world by taking on projects that allow for a relationship to foster between the artist and the community he is building around them. In what started as a series of 2D paintings, Creature World has developed into a spate of free-to-the-public live events, featuring musicians such as Portugual.The.Man and Beck. Two of these events are notable; A F$*KING WEEKING IN THE CREATURE WORLD and Creature Playground, as Danny and his team built them with their bare hands to bring a world to life similar to that we see in their digital venture. The unit channeled ambition to transform empty warehouses into these two whimsical zions, A F$*KING WEEKING IN THE CREATURE WORLD with fever dream-ish set design and Creature Playground housing an 80 foot inflatable structure. Looking at the evolution of the creature world as an entity, it’s clear that there’s a certain obsessed madness behind Cole’s efforts to bring it to life.
We take a pause from this interview, after the artist convinces me to get on the back of his motorcycle and ride to Brooklyn’s McCarren Park Cole for a change of environment. There, he closes his eyes and goes into an almost trance-like state, tracing a visual for me with his hands, “I think the story of Creature World starts with preschool. I would take my covers and wrap them around me. I’m wrapped like a cocoon and my mind would just be running with visuals. I could live in this other world before I would go to bed. And that world really felt like home to me. Well, fast forward to when I’m 17. This girl has just broken up with me and I’m just not talking to anyone anymore. I’m just detached. I feel like I’m at war. And I want to go back to that dreamlike place from preschool, to really see it in front of me. So I went to a local art store and I bought the most liquid paint that I could find. And I bought some empty markers and I poured the paint in the markers. And I was like, “I can draw a painting.” And as I’m drawing, I can see this creature I’ve just painted right out in front of me. And it walks up to me and my first thought is, “it’s nice to finally meet you.” It’s a visual that he recreates in The Creature Finds Its Voice, only he has laid out an opportunity for participants to take their own meaning from it as they meet it for the first time.
Many artists’ have found their careers elevated in both financial capital and notoriety by entering the NFT marketplace. A marketplace that’s been seen to reward artwork that channels utility through the blockchain. I ask Cole to expand on how this project differs from others that have found success from the second realm, “We make art that is meant to be experienced. It’s not a stock. That’s where we differ. With that focus, our art rewards you by allowing you to continue to experience it actively, unlike art has been able to do historically. It is rewarding to continue to own, not just to try to sell at a higher price. The actual experience of possessing a creature is what we deliver. That’s what’s different about us.”
Danny’s team originally dropped 10,000 NFT Creatures, viewable through OpenSea and any other digital trading platform. Current holders can see their NFT evolve based on the choices they make within Creature World. This is art that grows. “There is going to be an ongoing output of a journey for these Creatures to go on. And in order for your Creature to change, you have to own the NFT to be able to document your experiences within this developing storyline. The first journey was the Creature’s birth and in this new one it finds its voice. So when you find your voice, your Creature gets a new mouth. The art updates. And we’re not selling anything new. It’s a form of art that has never been able to exist before and that, in my opinion, is what makes art worth being digital.”
There are other artists pushing for work that can evolve over time; such as BT’s Genesis.json and Daniel Arsham’s Digital Sculptures use AI technology to exist in a timeline beyond human perception. Danny Cole’s Creature World adds a human touch to the sub-community by offering a narrative that challenges it’s participants to internal growth. After its initial release, on Sunday, December 19th, 2021, Cole’s art was initially met with some controversy. The project’s reward is in the experience of the participant. Which is in contrast to a market that often rewards ventures with more tangible and appraisable offerings. Viewing art as an investment first, inevitably puts pressure on the artist and creates a space that is unwelcoming to those who create as a means of creating. “Sharing creativity in a market that was paved by finance is going to look like paving new paths,” says Cole. Creature World can be looked at as an example of how digital art is relevant and evolving. Which begs the question, how can we better hold space within this digital environment for artists to create, simply for the sake of creating?
With childlike enthusiasm, Cole shouts down at me from the baseball field fence he has just climbed,“This the craziest thing I have ever made and I can only control what my team and I put out so I’m going to have to have a little trust in the -physical- world right now. Let’s just see what happens.” Spending the afternoon with Cole confirms that building shared experience is the moving force behind all of the art he creates. He wants to make his Creature World tangible and the metaverse may bring him as close as he can get to that. Anyone interested in experiencing Cole’s alternate reality can participate in his new release regardless of NFT ownership. He concludes: “None of these experiences are closed off. They are open for everyone, because that’s how I believe art should be.”
Visit https://creature.guide/ to better understand Cole’s vision and to get lost in the rolling hills of The Creature Finds Its Voice.
Words by Oona F.I.B.