A collection of photographs for Index, an exploration in styling and photography by Matthew Garza. This collection was photographed in New York with Michelle Li and Zaid Arshad in March of 2022.
website: indexetc.com instagram: indexetc
A collection of photographs for Index, an exploration in styling and photography by Matthew Garza. This collection was photographed in New York with Michelle Li and Zaid Arshad in March of 2022.
website: indexetc.com instagram: indexetc
mthwmthws untitled [excerpt], 2022
Is love intrinsic, or is it a habit? What is the difference between love and friendship? What is the relationship of love to truth, freedom, and justice? These are just some of the questions to be explored in What Is Left Unspoken, Love, a thirty-year survey of contemporary art featuring artworks that address the different ways the most important thing in life—love—is expressed.
Organized during a time of social and political discord, when cynicism often seems to triumph over hope, this exhibition will examine love as a profound subject of critical commentary from time immemorial yet with a persistently elusive definition. As poet and painter Etel Adnan wrote, love is “not to be described, it is to be lived.”
What Is left Unspoken will feature nearly seventy works, including paintings, sculpture, photography, video and media art, by more than thirty-five international artists based in North America, Europe, and Asia. Artists include Ghada Amer, Rina Banerjee, Thomas Barger, Patty Chang, Susanna Coffey, James Drake, Keith Edmier and Farrah Fawcett, Alanna Fields, Dara Friedman, Andrea Galvani, General Idea, Jeffrey Gibson, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Kahlil Robert Irving, Tomashi Jackson, María de los Angeles Rodríguez Jiménez, Rashid Johnson, Gerald Lovell, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Kerry James Marshall, Felicita Felli Maynard, Wangechi Mutu, Ebony G. Patterson, Paul Pfeiffer, Magnus Plessen, Gabriel Rico, Dario Robleto, RongRong&inri, Michelle Stuart, Vivian Suter, Jana Vander-Lee, Carrie Mae Weems, Akram Zaatari
at The High Museum (Atlanta) on view March 25 – August 14, 2022
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe is a short documentary film directed by Les Blank in 1980 which depicts director Werner Herzog living up to his promise that he would eat his shoe if Errol Morris ever completed the film Gates of Heaven. The film includes clips from both Gates of Heaven and Herzog’s 1970 feature Even Dwarfs Started Small. Comic song “Old Whisky Shoes”, played by the Walt Solek Band, is the signature tune over the opening and closing credits.
THURSDAY APRIL 7TH – 9:30 PM SHARP
VILLAGE EAST – THEATER 1
181-189 2ND AVENUE
I was struck by the amount of attendees who declined having their photograph taken, including some who remarked that they did not want their likeness associated with this event due to having “sensitive friends” or searching for a new job.
I realized that I should have asked those who declined if their rationale was simply an exaggeration, given that it was described by the organizers as just an “art event,” or if the fear of being associated with a transgressive space was actually justified. If the latter, doesn’t it seem like the “anti” institution is more important than ever?
If we are afraid to even have a photograph taken at an event that could be seen as a collective response to the currently socially accepted, yet illiberal, set of boundaries that the artist “must” work within, isn’t there something wrong with that? And kind of the exact reason to be interested in an event like this to begin with? Perhaps that is naïve to think when there is less at stake as the observing photographer, as opposed to the attending audience.
I left the event wondering if having my name credited with the images might come back to bite me. But then I thought, fuck it—why can’t I take pictures?
THURSDAY, APRIL 7TH
5:00PM – 8:00PM
515 WEST 19TH ST, NYC
Founded in 1996, UbuWeb is a pirate shadow library consisting of hundreds of thousands of freely downloadable avant-garde artifacts.
Public Records is a music-driven restaurant, performance, and community space built within the historic former ASPCA Headquarters on the tip of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. We are entirely vegan, maintain a plastic-free operation, and champion diverse peoples and scenes through both our artistic and cultural programming.
great collection of vintage mountain bikes
Came across this today and I thought it was cool. its a video game designed to train search and rescue workers who operate underground in mines and mining accidents, cave ins, etc. the graphics are sick.
why are dogs so freaking cute?
Hey everyone! I curated a group show thats opening this Friday at 11 Newel Gallery in greenpoint. Opening reception is 6-9, hope you can make it 🙂
Lobus and filmmaker Lilian Sumner have teamed up to launch a Web3-based fundraising campaign for her upcoming short Angel Song. Using a crowdfunding smart contract on Ethereum, backers deposit ETH in exchange for $ANGELSONG tokens. The tokens serve as proof of patronage based on the backer’s fractional stake in the film.
Lobus’ collaboration with Sumner spotlights how Web3 technology can be harnessed to revolutionize creative industries. By providing financial incentives to film backers, such as fractional ownership and token economics, Lobus is introducing a new way to fund and monetize short films.
Angel Song is a short film that explores the traumatic imprint lost memories make and how one retrieves and comes to terms with them. Sunny, played by Isabella Anselmi, discovers a deeper layer of selfhood, a process which helps her and her imaginary friend let go of the past.
While the short zeros in on a pivotal moment in Sunny’s life, Sumner plans to develop the character more fully in her upcoming feature film Obliteration.
Angel Song will be minted as an NFT following its release. Using a smart contract, backers will receive payouts based on the amount of $ANGELSONG tokens they hold. $ANGELSONG tokens may also be used for governance over decisions like distribution and sale.
For more information please visit: https://www.lobus.io/angel-song
Serving the People (STP) is a platform created by artists for artists.
Founded in 2017, STP has built a community of thousands through inclusive programming
and collaborations with brands including Woolrich, Converse, Adidas, Sneeze Magazine, and more.
Serving the People is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and we depend on the support of our community.
For crypto donations please visit our Endaoment page.
For all other donations please click button below.
💌 STP is currently in beta testing. To inquire about an account, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gushies is a collection of 545 NFTs created with a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) algorithm composed of thousands of images of plush toys.
Sara reimagined Woolrich’s iconic sheep logo for this limited edition shirt. This collaboration between Woolrich and Serving the People marks the beginning of an exciting partnership between both organizations.
CRUSH : Do you like giving interviews?
SARA: No, actually. I don’t really go back and read them because I trip and overthink but I don’t think I’ve said anything horrible. I just don’t think about them.
CRUSH: That’s healthy. When people search you, they might be reading about a version of you that doesn’t exist anymore, but it comes with the territory. Coming to New York to pursue a life or career—while bringing some perspective of where you come from—is quintessentially New York. Build me a 72 hour itinerary for Ohio.
SARA: I’m from Cincinnati and I think it’s the best city in Ohio. I didn’t ever really kick it there because as soon as I graduated high school I left to come to New York. I’ve been here for like eleven, twelve years. But I can’t answer that question about Ohio because when I lived here I was just like, “Fuck this whole place.” When I visit now I don’t mind it as much because the nature is pretty, everyone is nice, and it’s definitely a slower pace.
CRUSH: The range you display within your portfolio is impressive. Rather than showing off all of the mediums you’re capable of working with, it reads more as the ability to capture expression in a variety of impactful ways. You’ve been referred to as a masterful observer—do you feel that your work is more about your subjects or for yourself?
SARA: Myself for sure.
CRUSH: So the subjects are the vessels by which you say what you want to say?
SARA: Every single thing is me. It’s always me. And sometimes the little cartoons will actually look like me. Even if I’m drawing someone else, I’m drawing myself in them—which is narcissistic.
CRUSH: What compels you to start?
SARA: I’ll see something that I like or something that makes me laugh. I consider myself a glorified fan girl. There are some artists that I really, really like and I’m like, “Oh shit, I want to do that.” And I try to do it with my own fingerprint. Or sometimes I’ll think of something that’s really fucking funny and I just want to draw it. You can probably see that distinction in the work—which ones are supposed to be funny and which ones I focus on technique.
CRUSH: For sure. Who are some of those artists that you really fuck with?
SARA: Antonio Lopez, Shel Silverstein, and Satoshi Kon. I really like a lot of animation. I love Frank Frazetta and a lot of sci-fi art.
CRUSH: The past two years have absolutely flown by and deep quarantine felt like sci-fi IRL.
SARA: It was like a collective fever dream. What was that?
CRUSH: I don’t know if there was a defined ending either, it just gradually changed. When I look back at articles and interviews from that time period they all feel similarly coded. It’s interesting to recognize a pattern of people shifting entire thought processes all at once. In a more recent article from PRINT you said you’ve somewhat lost yourself because you haven’t been working on a whole lot of personal projects since 2019—mostly client work—and that timeline predates the pandemic. I’m curious what you think it takes to break the cycle and why it’s important.
SARA: I’m just not sad about it. It’s my own fault if I’m not working on personal projects. Maybe I’ve also reframed my thinking that every single job can still be personal. I used to spend a lot of time doing personal stuff because I wasn’t getting hired, and then I started getting hired and I missed it. Now I just don’t think about it and if I want to do more personal work, I’m just gonna have to carve out time for it because the jobs aren’t stopping.
CRUSH: It’s a survival mechanism to a degree.
SARA: Everything stops one day. If I can keep working and making money I need to do that now. One day the phone will stop ringing and then I can start doing all the stuff that I miss and I’ll be able to support myself from the commissioned jobs. If I’m sitting here saying I miss doing personal work that’s no one’s fault but mine. I should just make time for it. I put my heart into everything and it’s hard to do both at the same time—it’s exhausting—so I need to be stronger and then I’ll be able to do both.
CRUSH: I can relate to that. There’s a lot of stuff I used to beat myself up about, and then like one day I just stopped caring and it was really liberating. It wasn’t sad or anything, it was more of an admission of, “I’m in control.”
SARA: Yeah, it’s not giving up. It’s just acknowledging that this is what’s going on and I’m gonna ride it. If I think about it and I miss it and it’s sad, all I need to do is change my thinking. It doesn’t need to be a big deal.
CRUSH: There’s an illustration of a spider on your website with the phrase “HAPPY MATRIGARPHY” referring to the evolutionary survival mechanism. As humans we’re capable of perceiving meaning in something natural like this as a morally pure, altruistic gesture, but why are we so obsessed with assigning meaning to things? Especially with art, it seems like someone always requires an explanation.
SARA: I don’t relate to that type of artwork or that way of thinking. I try very hard to take things at face value. I like things that are pretty so I make things that are pretty. There’re a lot of people who like artwork that have conceptual, research, homage, or archival elements and that’s great but it’s not my first pick. I just feel sometimes that simple is better, less is more.
CRUSH: There’s seldom the acknowledgement that things can just be.
SARA: Yes, I like things that just are. I do like to be challenged. I have close friends that are on that end of the art spectrum and I think that’s great. I just like to go there, I don’t live there.
CRUSH: What scares you?
SARA: Revolving doors. I don’t like revolving doors. I don’t like people talking with toothpicks in their mouths. I’m afraid they’re gonna choke. There’s a deeper answer in there somewhere.
CRUSH: I like the shallow answers—they’re more interesting.
SARA: I used to be a fearful person and then things have happened to myself and all of us and I just try to live with less fear. Maybe that’s why those answers were the ones that came up first. But yeah, I don’t like snorkeling. I don’t have any of these big existential fears that I feel I can answer with right now.
CRUSH: Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
SARA: No. I used to be really superstitious on New Year’s and I had to be around certain people at a certain time. If I was around bad people at midnight I thought that it would affect my year and all those stupid things. Then I realized that it doesn’t fucking matter and your year can turn to shit anyways. I no longer have New Year’s resolutions.
CRUSH: Some of your illustrations are hyper-realistic—almost exaggerated—contrasted by a cartoonish surrounding. It’s interesting and harmonious. Are there any parallels in your personal life that may have prompted you to make work like this?
SARA: I’ve never even thought about that. I definitely like to balance the seriousness with the absolute carelessness and the mess. You need to have both. You can’t be serious all the time or else you’ll just die.
CRUSH: How many tabs do you have open on your computer right now?
SARA: Oh my gosh, I will not answer that question. I have more than one computer and it’s way more than one tab and way more than one window. Every time my computer crashes, I’m always like, “You’ve done so well. I’m so sorry.” And then I have to shut it down. There are a lot of tabs. My computer doesn’t even ask if I’d like to restore tabs. It’s like begging me, “Sara, please don’t do it. Don’t make me do it.”
CRUSH: A lot of people I know have a million tabs open at all times. Is this a pattern of high performance?
SARA: It’s the key to success. The more tabs the more success, I promise. Talk to me in six weeks.
CRUSH: I just try to keep it minimal.
SARA: Let it go. Just relax. See what happens. Sometimes I go back to a tab that I opened up weeks ago and I’m like, “Oh, shit.” Then I don’t go to bed and I go down that hole.
CRUSH: What’s the first tab open on your phone right now?
SARA: The online services for the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles because I got vanity plates. I was thinking that this would be a really cool plate if people knew me, but if I say it and it goes on the internet the game’s over. There’s a chance that they might get rejected but I’ll find out later.
CRUSH: Would you rather be able to relive anything on demand or always be lucky?
SARA: I can already do both. I feel lucky all the time and I have a really good memory. Something that I do before I go to bed is watch my memories in my head—but in HD would be awesome, so I’ll pick that. HD is also kind of scary. You can see people’s blemishes and how old someone is and I’m like, “I’m trying to watch TV. I don’t need this to be real life.”
CRUSH: Are you scared of getting old?
SARA: No, I actually love it. I fucking hate my twenties. Every single day I like myself more and more and I feel better about who I am and I know that will keep going. But I’m a little bit vain, so I’m kind of bummed about cells that start dying and looking like shit. But the mental part I love. I also think that the older I get I’ll start to care less and less about maintaining how I look. So I don’t have to worry, I’ll just stop fucking caring and I think that’s also really hot.
CRUSH: You once said that there can be extreme value in not sharing your work and I agree but I’m not sure why.
SARA: I had a close friend who used this metaphor with me once and it’s about how you don’t have to share your gold with everyone all the time. It will lose its value or it’s very precious, so when you decide not to share something it can keep it sacred to you. Also, when something’s out there it’s kind of out there and it’s open for praise or criticism. But if you keep it to yourself it’s just your secret gold—and that’s awesome. It’s just between you and yourself.
CRUSH: In that same article you talked about all the positive things that can happen if you share it. If I was sitting on a pot of gold and I never shared it, is there some sort of benefit other than knowing I’m rich?
SARA: I think that it depends. Not everything has to be an open book all the time. Also, if everyone knew that I was sitting on a pot of gold, wouldn’t they just be dying to see what I did next?
CRUSH: Yeah, or rob you.
SARA: They can’t do that.
100% Cotton T-Shirt
Made in Japan
Printed by LQQK Studio
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.
This Thing of Ours presents ‘Don’t Look At Me’ a film by Jim Longden based on a day in the life of a delusional man on his birthday.
Starring Jackson D. Silva, Nell Williams, Josephine de La Baume, and Glen Mexted.
Director of Photography – Harry Wheeler
To learn more, take a look at our review of his last film “To Erase A Cloud” on Substack.
Release Date – TBC (2022)
Featuring exclusive interview with Lucien Smith by William Corman
Serving the People teamed up with Sneeze Magazine for an exclusive takeover of issue 49 — featuring artwork posters from Sandy Kim, Chito, Nick Atkins, Emma Kohlmann, Adam Zhu, and Atticus Wakefield, with Lucien Smith, Theophilus London, and more…
32-year-old Lucien Smith has a story that follows the classic hero’s arc: Sudden rise and prominence. Temptation and fall. Transformation and return.
Born in Los Angeles and raised all over, Lucien graduated from the Cooper Union in 2011 to commercial and critical success as a painter and multidisciplinary artist. Off the jump, his works sold for multiples of their costs on the secondary market. Brand-name galleries came calling. Famous patrons lined up.
As Lucien’s notoriety grew, the same critics who had once championed his talent then placed him in the crosshairs of Zombie Formalism, pushing the artist into an unsustainable market.
Just because the art syndicate is over you, doesn’t mean you have to disappear into the Montauk woods forever. After a series of trials, Lucien is taking his own cautionary tale and applying the learnings to an emerging arts community by way of his non-profit, STP.
This time the acronym of many meanings stands for Serving the People. The foundation’s purpose is to lower the barrier of entry to the arts for the next generation of painters, filmmakers, musicians, and other types of creators. STP operates as both a global mentorship program and a digital platform that offers a much-needed alternative to the rigidity of the traditional gallery system.
STP officially started in 2014, but in 2021, a year where the pricing of art and collectibles is escalating at a frenetic pace, there’s no better time for the non-profit to fulfill its vision. No better time for someone to come along and push back against the nightmare galleries and tech bros whose speculative practices are ushering in the next great crash.
Meanwhile, Lucien is back painting, making films, and coming up with new ideas, which, if borne out, could mean rewriting his story beyond the self.
Interview by William Corman
WILLIAM CORMAN: I knew about you before I ever met you. I knew you as a spectator and I thought you had an ego.
LUCIEN SMITH: That initial impression was mainly due to me lacking any sort of social tools. I was raised in a very interesting situation, having to move around and not really being able to form a real identity. At the age of 19 or 20, I was lacking a lot of things I needed in order to provide a healthy foundation for myself. On top of that disheveledness came this overnight success.
WILLIAM: You were a 20-something-year-old selling works for over $400,000 at Sotheby’s. You hosted star-studded events. You were working with the top galleries in the world, like Half Gallery and Salon 94 and Skarstedt. I was half-envious, half-scornful at your story.
LUCIEN: I became an amalgamation of the perspectives and advice from all the people around me, who weren’t necessarily the best people. It was a big game of catch-up for me.
By 2015, I had become so exhausted with making mistakes. The only way I really foresaw ever being able to have a healthy future or career was if I put things on pause.
WILLIAM: Was it lifestyle choices? Like drinking and partying?
LUCIEN: Drinking, partying. How I treated other people, how I treated myself. How I looked at the world, how I looked at my career, how I looked at my family. Just all this stuff that I’d never dealt with and didn’t have the tools to deal with. And, trying to keep up this extremely volatile career at the same time. I had no energy to do any of it.
WILLIAM: Did you go through some sort of life-changing ayahuasca experience?
LUCIEN: I wish. I had scrounged up what cash I had left and purchased my house in Montauk. It was supposed to be my summer home and it ended up being my home home.And even that wasn’t really an easy one. I had to transition from city life to living this more isolated one while still dealing with — and coming out of — a lot of issues.
WILLIAM: What really went down in those years? It seems like time just passed by, but I’m sure so much more happened.
LUCIEN: A lot of development happened quite recently, but the overall progression wasn’t something that happened overnight. It was really like a bottoming out. I moved to Montauk with a plan of getting sober and dialing in my process, my career, my practice, and my life. And that didn’t happen until year two or three. I had no one around me who was really healthy, or there to provide any sort of mentorship or a helping hand. So I was just figuring shit out on my own like I always do. I made the misstep of going to Los Angeles and trying to start a studio out there. It really struck me then that less is more. I deducted more and more stuff from my life. One of those things was my gallery. Alleviating myself from expectation, I left all the galleries that I had. That’s when things started to make sense. I was independent, able to make my own decisions and make my own mistakes.
WILLIAM: Talk about giving birth to STP.
LUCIEN: It started in 2014. I did a show called Scrap Metal in Kansas City. In Scrap Metal, there were two wood panels that were oddish oval shapes with the letters STP in them. I was really interested in the history of the STP logo, from the motor oil company, and did more research into it. And part of the story goes back to the Stone Temple Pilots, who wanted to sell merchandise but didn’t have the money to produce it. So they just called their band STP and bought hats from gas stations to sell at their shows. They came up with the name for Stone Temple Pilots after the fact. And then before that, civil rights activists had adopted it for “Serve the People, Stop the Police,” and reappropriated the logo for their purpose.
WILLIAM: That’s very in line with your work, the recontextualization of existing centers.
LUCIEN: That’s at the heart of what we want to do: take the business models and strategies of marketing and networking — all of those things from the commercial, mainstream world — and flip them on their head by using them for creative purposes. I think that’s much more servicing to community and to the freedom of community.
WILLIAM: I remember first hearing about STP like a year ago, and I couldn’t help but smirk. Here was this kind of socialite artist returning to the art world by spearheading this philanthropic endeavor. Then I actually met you and, go figure, you weren’t the person I’d made you out to be.
LUCIEN: STP was born out of an awakening of an idea: using the things that I found to be my best traits as a way to do what I initially wanted to do with art, which was to create a better world, as catchphrasey as that sounds. I didn’t have much respect for art or understand its potential until the last five years, really. Having that sort of enlightened experience, and seeing younger people like you and at STP who were looking at me in a noncompetitive way. In my early career there was so much tension from everyone around me, including my peers, and it created an unhealthy and really competitive environment.
WILLIAM: Which just feels so backwards in the arts. I mean, it’s how capitalism has wrapped itself around the art world.
LUCIEN: Money took all the air out of the room and created the art jock mentality.
WILLIAM: Art jock. That’s funny.
LUCIEN: I knew I didn’t want to do that. STP is really a coalescence of all the mistakes and lessons that I’ve learned in my field, which is the fine arts, and figuring out how to now open that up to a much wider conversation. A lot of it’s based off the experiences I had [as a student] at Cooper Union.
WILLIAM: How has your definition of success changed since you were at Cooper Union?
LUCIEN: I thought being alpha meant everything. I thought being the youngest artist to do this or do that — reach some sale price — was what would establish me as a great artist. It played a big role in what I did and the people I hung out with. Then when I started to get some of those accolades, the void kept growing and I became more and more empty. I started realizing that the things I was chasing were ultimately going to create more negativity and create more stress, and I checked myself. I really had to form my own perspective.
WILLIAM: So you moved to Montauk and made some changes.
LUCIEN: In my day-to-day now, I only do the things that make me happy and feel good. That’s not to say I’m perfect. I still go in and out of waves of self-destruction, and I have to cope with that. I need the STP button on all the time because it keeps me grounded. It keeps me connected to the people around me and the people I love. It keeps me feeling as if my life has meaning.
WILLIAM: You’re saying that meaning is greater than you? Is that what you’re alluding to with STP?
LUCIEN: I really reached an endpoint where I didn’t see the purpose of living. I didn’t see the purpose of the things I was doing and needed to find something I really believed in. STP is the solution to my existential crisis — which is to use my resources and time to help people.
WILLIAM: What does it mean to help people?
LUCIEN: I try to use the extended network I have as an advisory board for our group and for the people who participate in it. I think to help comes from a place where it’s not about what someone can give back to you, it’s just about what you can give to them. The selfless act is definitely a big part of it.
WILLIAM: Who are the people at STP?
LUCIEN: Internally, it’s a core group that manifested itself through friendships and immediate connections. Ben [Werther] worked for me at the Watermill Center residency. I met Sam Grund, our developer, through his brother, who was one of the representatives at SCAD during the BFA show. Mia [Manning] entered through one of the many programs we’ve put on and expressed interest in being involved in the mission. Outside of that core team is an advisory board of professionals from different fields that relate to STP, who give their input and advice to help guide the organization to success. Then comes the thousands of artists and students and creatives that function within our social media and physical networks.
WILLIAM: Who’s doing the serving?
LUCIEN: I mean, it’s gotta be an equal trade-off. We are internally and externally serving the community we support. The artists breathe life into it. I see it as this mutually beneficial exchange. As you’re providing for the people, they’re providing it right back. I think it’s really special because it does go both ways.
WILLIAM: What’s being served?
LUCIEN: In the most generalized verbiage, creativity. We’re serving creativity as something tangible. Because it can inspire and overcome a lot of the many demons society has. I really believe there’s a creative solution to every issue, and that art can help people transcend bias and prejudice. I think art is a window into the creator’s soul. And it’s not just for the fine arts. It encompasses all kinds of art, be it music literature, film, clothing, design and whatnot.
WILLIAM: So what are the major benefits for creators producing content through STP? I’m talking, like, yoga classes with Kyle Miller, playlists by Brion Starr, and podcasts by The Ion Pack.
LUCIEN: It’s really about shared audiences in a centralized place. So when we do stuff with Kyle Miller Yoga, people who are in the yoga world are now discovering all the other things we’re doing outside of that. So all these different satellites bring in their audiences and connect these different viewpoints and different experiences which might’ve never happened in the real world or in real life. That’s my strategy. That’s why we have this multidisciplinary approach.
WILLIAM: I love that. I would’ve never done yoga if it wasn’t for Kyle.
LUCIEN: You really attended one of the yoga classes?
WILLIAM: I was like, “Fuck it, I have to get off my ass.”
LUCIEN: In a nutshell, that’s the type of experience we’re trying to create. People are so worried about analytics, right? Like page views and all that. That’s not something that’s important to me right now. If we can get one person to read the blog or one person to attend the Kyle Miller Yoga class, that’s proof that we can get millions of people to do it. I’m not in any rush. I’m in the reverse of a rush. I’m really trying to keep us in this growing and learning phase as long as possible, because as soon as this thing does grow — and it will grow into something much larger — we want to make sure we have those tools and those lessons learned.
WILLIAM: Now continuing on with these
creators producing content, one of the big problems I see — which is the case with most or every social media platform — is that content producers don’t get paid directly for creating and sharing their content. Do you also see this as a problem, and how do you see STP tackling this issue?
LUCIEN: There’s different ways to monetize on STP. One of the most straightforward ways will be by creating an artist page and uploading artworks for sale directly to it. Artists who upload and sell their work will be paid directly by the collector through the platform, which takes no percentage. For things like podcasts or playlists, that’ll be a thing where you’ll have a profile page so when you create a playlist, there’ll be like a Patreon embed and then it’s up to you whether or not you want to collect money.
WILLIAM: One of the big challenges with growing to a much larger scale is being able to nurture those individual relationships or being able to promote a specific artist’s work. After a certain while, it just won’t be feasible.
LUCIEN: That’s the thing that I’m dealing with now. It’s why I want the marketplace to function as a for-profit and move into more of a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) so it can create constant revenue to support the foundation. And then the foundation can restructure itself. Because, yeah, the model that we’re running on now is not sustainable if we continue to gather more and more artists and creators. The foundation will function like an artists incubator. Artists will have to apply to the STP foundation, apply for grants, apply for residencies, and for support. Once making it through a decentralized and democratic barrier — and by barrier I mean the people voting, who are going to be the artists who have come through the community as well as people on the board and staff so it isn’t insular or cliquey — that’s when we can start the hands-on approach and really help nourish the artists of the future.
WILLIAM: You have a large audience and people who look up to you for guidance. Do you feel you have a responsibility to act in a certain way?
LUCIEN: No. That’s probably what’s gotten me into trouble time and time again. On Instagram, my DMs are filled with people asking for advice on how to make it in the art world. I used to respond to all of them individually, always the same thing: “What is it that you want?” Most people just wanted fame and success, the same accolades that I had strived for when I was a younger artist. I’d always end the conversation by saying, “All the things you really want or need are right in front of you.” Art is always best when it’s made by circumstance, using what you have. With Instagram or social media, there really is no way there can ever be another Van Gogh. If what you’re making is good — if it has integrity and quality — there’s a viewer for it out there.
WILLIAM: Van Gogh, I mean, he lived a very troubled life. We like to romanticize everything because of the work he ended up producing, but he wasn’t famous. He had one or two collectors in his life.
LUCIEN: I meant it as, like, it’s almost impossible to go undiscovered in the world we live in today. There are really extreme situations or circumstances where artists just don’t possess the social tools or the understanding of how to put their work out there in the world. But when it comes to, like, “Oh, I want rich people to buy my work and famous people to know who I am,” well, I can’t help you there. You know what I mean?
WILLIAM: You were talking about all these artists DMing you, asking questions like, “How do I make money?” and “How do I get my work into the hands of collectors?” All those worries stem from financial burdens. Artists need to make money to survive.
LUCIEN: I’ve had this conversation with artists before — I’ve even had it with myself — and it’s to get a job. Find something you can do to support your art career. Because no one ever told you that your art is supposed to support you. An art career is an extremely rare opportunity that you can’t statistically depend on. The harsh thing is that life has winners and losers, you know. Some people are gonna get their dream and some people aren’t. Some things are meant to be, some things aren’t. Call it what you will: fate. You can choose to revel in defeat or you can choose to find a way to overcome that and find meaning in your life. Not everyone is going to be Pablo Picasso. We all accept and understand that, yet we all think we’re the exception — we all have the X factor, the Y factor. That’s just not a healthy way to live life. If you end up pigeonholing yourself to these ideals you become cemented in what you call your dream, which doesn’t allow you to accomplish something much bigger. Take me, for example, in my early career. All I was focused on was the basic idea of success in the arts. I would have never been able to fathom something like STP, nor would I have wanted to.
WILLIAM: I really believe that the BFA show last year was one of STP’s greatest accomplishments. You fixed a problem plaguing students across the globe, who couldn’t show for their thesis because of the pandemic. That was really powerful.
LUCIEN: Me and Ben were at the Watermill residency playing PlayStation when he said something about Cooper not having senior shows. I hate to throw anyone under the bus, maybe I won’t. We reached out to someone at Cooper, high up on the administrative staff, to say, “Hey, STP has this platform for art. Would you allow us to host the senior class show as a way to give them a platform?” As a Cooper alumni, I thought it made sense, and Ben, as another Cooper alumni who recently graduated, thought it made sense as well. We got no response. So we were like, “Fuck, that sucks.” Then we were like, “You know, it doesn’t have to be through Cooper. We could do something on our own. Why do we need the school? Why not just reach out to the students individually?” That was Ben’s thinking. From there we started setting up a sort of ambassador program with the student bodies of all the different universities. Like, “Oh, I want to represent my school, I want to be the guy or girl who is the representative for [the Rhode Island School of Design].” So we reached out to someone at every art school, and then those people became responsible for educating their student body about our BFA show, and our resources and links to getting your work up there. Then it just all came together.
WILLIAM: I think it was very unique. I hadn’t seen that done anywhere in the arts.
LUCIEN: The show featured over a thousand students, each contributing one artwork. I think we had about 96 universities from 13 countries. It ran through a Google submission form — there was no selection process. We let everything in. We just had to make sure that there was no pornography or anything malicious. Luckily there wasn’t. I don’t think there was one artwork that wasn’t accepted. It was just a basic list view exhibition. A lot of STPs functionality is built on my experience with art. In the past, I always dreaded openings. For me openings were never about the art. It was about the people.
WILLIAM: Yeah, socialization.
LUCIEN: I really enjoy seeing a show the day after or on a weekday when no one’s there. But an entry point into art can be on a website. A website is an alternative to or an extension of its own gallery, in a sense. That’s where the early functionality for stp.world was born. I wanted to create a platform or virtual gallery that, aesthetically, would please the most people and have the most amount of artists want to see their work on STP.
WILLIAM: What I found so exceptional about the BFA show was the space you made digitally: having your own avatar, being able to walk through.
LUCIEN: The virtual space was a lot of fun. I think it speaks a lot to STP being so small and so young. We don’t have a lot weighing us down like other galleries, organizations, or platforms. It wasn’t until a week before we were ready to launch the show that someone forwarded me the graduation ceremony for Parsons, which was designed by a senior, Yifu Zhang. It was a virtual experience where every one of the graduates was able to log in with their email. They got an avatar with their name, could walk around, and could clap. I was like, “Oh my God, we should apply this to our show.” I reached out to Yifu and he was totally down. And I asked, “Can you make it so that people can chat to one another? And can you create a way to display all the works visually?” He did. That came together in seven days and actually became the BFA show. For me the BFA show was the list view, and I was happy just being able to provide that. But I think Yifu’s development and the success of that [virtual show] points out how important the community plays into the art. If you don’t have the people and the experiences that revolve around those things, you’re left with something that’s really closed off. For me, that’s a big realization into what art is. Art is the excuse for people to come together, people to relate, to communicate, to feel each other. STP is just a way to allow for that to happen.
WILLIAM: What’s the future of STP?
LUCIEN: In the next few months, I’d love to launch the new STP marketplace and allow people to participate in much larger numbers. I want the people at STP to be able to focus on providing our artists with more hands-on programming in order to elevate what they’re doing, rather than just showcasing their work. Like artist spotlights, where we’re functioning as producers.
WILLIAM: How about in relation to Covid and the world slowly opening back up?
LUCIEN: I’m excited to see things activated in the real world. After our Group Show 3 and hearing some of the testimonials and positive responses from the artists in the show, I needed that. I think a lot of people at STP needed that. It’s hard to live in a vacuum. As a species, we’ve all gone through this shared existential crisis together. We’ve been through so much with the last president, the racial war still going on, the class divide. We’ve experienced humility and relation to one another in ways we’ve never been able to, be it financially or just being locked up in your house. I think it’s going to produce a healthier outcome, especially with the birth of blockchain and crypto. The fact it’s all happening at the same time is amazing.
WILLIAM: Let’s get into crypto.
LUCIEN: Crypto is the first punk rock thing to happen to currency since currency trading. And that anti-establishment mentality has given birth to a lot of other innovations within the crypto world — be it NFT, or, my favorite, blockchain. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that blockchain has taken off during the pandemic. It offers the ability and the mindstate, as a platform and a community, to change the world without sitting in the driver’s seat. That’s exciting for art, for politics, for business.
WILLIAM: Blockchain is such an incredibly powerful tool, but a lot of the people I see using it are in it for the wrong reasons. They’re utilizing the tech for financial gain through hype and speculation.
LUCIEN: That’s going to happen. There’s going to be tons of NFT and digital marketplaces used in the wrong way, but there will be the few who use it in the right way. They don’t really affect each other.
WILLIAM: With the current NFT marketplaces out there, who do you think is doing it right and for what reasons?
LUCIEN: They’re all doing something right. They’re all doing a lot of things wrong. No one can give the full package. Foundation is great with analytics and how it presents work, and it functions a lot like an auction. Getting that initial bid triggers a 24-hour countdown. Living in that number one view spot toward the end of an auction is genius. What they lack is decentralization. Their community is very small and the reason for that is to, quote unquote, “sustain the quality of the work on the platform.” Rarible is great because anyone can make an account, you can create art there, and sell editions. But a lot of people aren’t educated enough to know if an edition is the smartest thing to be spending money on. A lot of platforms shy away from edition functionality because of that reason.
WILLIAM: The big problem with these marketplaces is that they’re all just so transactional, even Foundation.
LUCIEN: Money is the reason why there’s so much popularity in the marketplace. People can’t fathom why someone is paying so much for digital content.
WILLIAM: Which leaves no room to talk about the art. The conversation surrounding the art is about money.
LUCIEN: That will fade. People will get bored of that conversation. It’s also a learning curve. There are a lot of talented people who just don’t understand how the space works yet. The art world is fixated on being the white knight. There are plenty of digital artists who’ve been making amazing art for a long time, and who now finally have a place to prescribe value to their work. I think Yung Jake is a great example of someone who’s been forced by the art world to make physical objects in order to commodify his practice. Watching him move into the NFT space is so amazing. It’s like, “Oh my God, we finally have created something to sustain his type of art.” Then you look at someone like Urs Fischer, who clearly has an interest in certain aesthetics that may lend themselves well to the NFT space. Him being able to enter that cannon is exciting too. It’s just a matter of time before the scale begins to even itself out and we see a focus on the integrity and quality of the work that will match the price tag attached to it.
WILLIAM: I’m excited about entering this space because it encompasses new media artists. I really see this next decade as being the renaissance of digital art. It’s a medium that didn’t get the light of day until now.
LUCIEN: Yeah. I’m excited to see — I don’t know if you could call them galleries, I don’t know what to call them — structures that would represent the artists you’re talking about, to be able to represent filmmakers and be able to monetize their video. I would have loved to see the NFT or blockchain model be used by an early Matthew Barney.
WILLIAM: It would have done amazing things for this career.
LUCIEN: Not that he doesn’t have an amazing career now, but that’s the type of thing I’m interested in. The birth of a new type of gallery is really exciting. I think it’s already happening with Gagosian sort of on its last legs as far as being the apex of the art world, and a bunch of galleries becoming more like institutions. I think you’re going to have younger innovators come in and offer so much more to artists that there’s going to be a huge fallout. Some of the stronger galleries will be able to adapt, but it’s a changing of the guard. That’s the thing I want to witness and those are the people I want to work with.
WILLIAM: I’d hedge my bets that it’s these young kids who are going to change this landscape, not the people who’ve been in it. And by kids, I’m talking about anyone from 15 to 35 years old. I don’t see the change coming from the institutions.
LUCIEN: It’s counterintuitive to their business. No one wants to have to restructure from the ground up, not unless they have to.
WILLIAM: I’ve had to rebut the argument of, “I could just take a screenshot or a screen recording of an NFT,” so many times. It’s exhausting trying to explain that shit.
LUCIEN: I always make this one reference to [Pablo Picasso’s] “Guernica.” “Guernica” once belonged to someone privately. It now lives in an institution and someone got a huge tax write-off on it, but anyone can Google “Guernica.” Anyone can have a photograph of it on their phone, they can print a reproduction of it. Fuck it, if they want to make a one-to-one scale they can do that too. But at one point in time there was one person that really owned it, and got all the bragging rights and all the rewards of owning such a significant piece of culture. And today we have a parallel in the digital world where a lot of functionality and reality and ownership exist. When you go to the ATM or look up your bank statement online, that’s the representation of how much money you have in real life. Why could you not own something that lives solely in [the digital world] that you could digest in visual form?
WILLIAM: I think there’s an obvious dissonance with owning a digital asset, because they’ve always been free. We’ve always been able to send them to each other. All of a sudden, you can actually provide ownership to them. It’s radical. It’s tough for people to wrap their minds around it. But digital assets will become as valuable as physical assets. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the head of Contemporary Art Asia at Christie’s posted about a new platform, an NFT marketplace about to launch. I think it’ll be the first to try to make a blockchain-based platform for the fine arts.
LUCIEN: There’s going to be so many NFT marketplaces. Each of them will offer different functionality and different artists. I think that might be the future of the galleries.
WILLIAM: Do you see a problem with these platforms being extremely oversaturated?
LUCIEN: There are all these digital ways to be able to devour and represent information, so I think that the most successful NFT marketplace will feature a multitude of different categories. Then you can have millions of users on there. Instagram is a great model to understand, because there’s so much information on there yet somehow we manage to find what it is we’re looking for. I think an NFT marketplace needs to adapt to that because the whole reason our world is so flawed right now is due to gatekeeping and limited access, which is based on the limited access of physical space and operating staff. But those things don’t apply in the digital world.
WILLIAM: Talk about the physical space. Were you nervous about locking in an office?
LUCIEN: It scared the shit out of me. The first biggest mistake I ever made was renting that studio in L.A. that was going to become sort of the ground zero for STP. It bankrupted me. I had, like, extreme PTSD about signing this lease. I was like, “It’s a pandemic, why are we signing this lease? Why are we doing anything?” But it made sense, and we’re figuring it out. Julia Fox and her crew recording their podcast there has been exciting. Having a place where all of us can meet and do stuff and have that face time, it’s worth it. I think the only reason why it doesn’t have as much of the energy — or what I’m imagining it to have — is because of the pandemic. We’re already starting to give keys out to people.That’s exciting to me. I want to walk in there on any given day and find someone working on a project I don’t know about.
WILLIAM: Do you know about Adam Neumann?
LUCIEN: The WeWork dude that got fired?
WILLIAM: Yeah, dude who got fired. I strongly suggest looking into him. He’s out of his mind, but in such a great way. He’s so atypical. A lot of the positives that I see in him, I see in you. The whole idea with WeWork was to be able to have different startups and small businesses all working within the same space to use each other’s resources. He was set on making the WeWork employees really build a community. He’d host annual events where he’d bring the biggest names in pop to do concerts. It all crashed because of how fast he was burning through cash.
LUCIEN: I think that points to what we were talking about before: We’re not in a rush. I don’t think [STP] will ever be done. Even if it takes me my whole life to see some of the ideas that we’re talking about now. The whole point of starting [STP] was to leave something behind long after me, and that’s it. For me, the answer is giving something to people to enrich quality of life.
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