A virus, its pervasive influence, through artists and their works
“You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times” — Nina Simone
Back with parents again; with several little children while working remotely; or in a tiny apartment completely alone; far from family in another country, in another city; social distancing and socially remote; losing a job, losing a business; worrying about gas in the car and food on the table; confusion and worry at infection of oneself or friends and family; illness; lingering effects; “zooming” with a sick loved one who is alone in hospice; touching screens, longing to be together again.
The madness of almost three years sometimes seems difficult to fathom. But they serve as evidence of Nina Simone’s famous and impassioned remarks. Artists can help to untangle thoughts and feelings, through their own unique experience and through capturing shared experience and ideas; they spur action and change. Artists in the NFT space explored our heartrending experience by creative expression, by conceptual means and other modalities, and encoding it forever on chain.
I was curious about this, so I mined on-chain data for this resonance between art and the times. The visualization above shows the effect on chain. It is built from data of KnownOrigin’s artwork editions by scanning thousands of descriptions and titles for virus-related concepts (infection, quarantine, etc.). The wave lines are almost 200 artist wallets across four years on KnownOrigin. The bright lines show how far back a wallet goes into KnownOrigin’s history. Dots are editions created by artists over time. The red dots are virus-concept mentions. You can see a wave of influence in spring 2020. COVID’s effects cascade forward, even with new artists on KnownOrigin who sometimes mention COVID as part of their story for joining this art community.
This post shares these effects qualitatively through the words and scenes of artists themselves. I have taken a chronological selection of these KnownOrigin pieces. I extract segments of their description along with the visuals and present them simply and sequentially below. The descriptions and works are reminders of effects that many of us experienced, and some of us under very trying circumstances — the pandemic repeatedly remind(s/ed?) us of the variance in vulnerability. (See more links and information at the bottom of this post.)
In these works, a COVID-related concept is sometimes included as an emotional statement. Sometimes it’s included as an explanation for altered artistic process. Others bake the virus concept into the very work itself, as a conceptual ingredient. And so on.
But the works show these effects, resonating in a shared upheaval.
“Whilst the largest face mask manufacturer can’t keep up with the coronavirus demand, this face mask was found discarded by the side of a London Underground platform.”
Face Mask Life
Block 9558468 (2/26/2020)
“Here we present a tech-surreal interpretation of current events regarding the pandemonium of both the Coronavirus epidemic scare and also the extremely turbulent world markets currently at hand. ‘Playing the Nation Blame Game’ aims at expressing the current nation blaming trend.”
Playing the Nation Blame Game
ROBNESS, Norman Harman + others
Block 9652055 (3/11/2020)
“The world economy was affected and revealed that a micro-sized virus can affect the global macro world market”
Jade Masked Darkness
Block 9662088 (3/13/2020)
“Titania refuses to leave the stage during the opening night of A Midsummers Night’s Dream. As a result, armed police tie her up in quarantine tape and carry her off the stage. As she leaves the theatre, wrapped in tape, she whispers under her breath her famous soliloquy from Act 2…”
THE DETENTION OF TITANIA
miss al simpson
Block 9681165 (3/16/2020)
“The starlet that was propped up during the last week of the Covid-19 crisis. Akin to superstardom, the shelves of grocery stores around the United States emptied of toilet paper and other not so important stockades resulting in mass shortages never before seen in almost a century.”
𝒞𝒽𝒶𝓇𝓂𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝒶𝓃𝒹 𝐵𝑜𝓊𝓃𝓉𝒾𝒻𝓊𝓁
Block 9690985 (3/17/2020)
“Artist’s modern reinterpretation and social commentary on the state of the world amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (1917). Friendly reminder: wash your hands. Please.”
Block 9752065 (3/27/2020)
“Governments have used the coronavirus health crisis as another great opportunity to “print” more money out of thin air and are on their way to bailing out again “too big too fail” companies. It feels like 2008 all over again, the year that Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin white paper.”
Fiat est Violentiam — Coronavirus
Block 9871545 (4/14/2020)
“…depicting the dating scene in the era of social distancing and Covid19”
SINGLES DATING COVID19 STYLE
Block 9986573 (5/2/2020)
“Art made during several months of COVID-19 led isolation, all the nights spent awake imagining intimacy and how it is felt by people. How intimacy was, how afraid we are of intimacy in the current times — not just physical, but also emotional…”
Fountain of Intimacy
Block 11087725 (10/19/2020)
“The lockdown experience have left a intense desire of feeling other mouths and bodies.”
Block 11190793 (11/4/2020)
“Generated artworks series is the result of the Covid19 lockdown. I was unable to use my usual tools…”
Generated #4 Second Iteration — Hires
Block 11490154 (12/20/2020)
“Created during the lockdown period whilst being confined to the same place every day, this piece is part of a series of imaginary places that I dreamed of being able to work from.”
Really Remote Working Part 1
Block 11831054 (2/10/2021)
“The Bubonic plague hit India around 1897, the same time the Benin mask was carved in Africa. I decided to imagine how the mask would look if it had been carved in this era of the Coronavi.”
Block 11931220 (2/26/2021)
“The collection was created during my recent trip back to Puerto Rico, my home country, after almost two years of not being able to visit family and friends due to the COVID-19 crisis. It took a lot out of me to be able to make this trip happen. The pandemic left in me a crippling fear of crowds. … I decided to go to the place where I truly find myself, the water. Feeling the ocean once again, listening to the waves crash, and smelling the saltwater gave me life. It infused me with renewed energy. In spite of everything, in spite of anything. I’m back home and that’s what matters.”
Block 12854655 (7/19/2021)
“…After being stuck at home for 16 months during a global pandemic, taking in this view made me realise that this was just the beginning of the new life I wanted to build for myself.”
31 is the new 21
Block 12866173 (7/20/2021)
“Right at this moment, living in my country, Indonesia, during a global pandemic, everyday life is getting harder and full of questions about the future. … we both try our best to stay hopeful at a time when being positive is an incredibly tough challenge.”
‘Menunggang Asa’ (Riding on hope)
Block 13035860 (8/16/2021)
“‘Get better soon Kitty! We love you and miss you! Loads of love, your Cryptoart-family xxxxxx’ … Money raised from the sale of this artwork will be donated to help Kitty in her recovery.”
Flowers for Kitty
Angie Taylor + collaborators
Block 13184742 (9/8/2021)
“The Virus Club does not exist, this image does not make any sense and trying to find any truth or clue about anything in this artwork would be symptomatic of a serious brain dysfunction.”
Block 13639887 (11/18/2021)
I’m sorry if I did not include your piece here, or your favorite piece. I have created an expansive exhibition over at JPG with dozens more from artists on KnownOrigin. Feel free to visit the exhibition here.
Why KnownOrigin? I have been a fan of this platform for a long time, especially the early cryptoartists who contributed (e.g., see my feature on hex6c). KnownOrigin also has excellent structured data available through The Graph, which facilitates this exploration greatly.
Visit my website for various creative projects, featured writing and a fuller bio. I am on Twitter. At the time of this writing, I have not yet visited my home and family after more than 2 years (for various personal and pandemic-related complications). I share this, in part, because of this.