Exploring future food production and creating the techno-relics of tomorrow.
Where are you from? (Provide a little bit of your background, have you moved etc)
I’m from the UK, and aside from six months as a student in Slovakia where I worked in the glass department of the Academy of Fine Arts, I’ve lived in the UK my whole life.
I grew up in the Midlands, spent most of my adult life in the North East where I spent a lot of time in nascent grassroots art-initiatives and collectives.
I moved down to rural Oxfordfordshire a couple of years ago and now have a studio on a farm!
Can you tell us about your background and what lead you down the path to becoming an artist and ultimately experimenting with NFTs?
Art is something that I have always felt an affinity for, even as a small child I was endlessly creating sculptures out of twigs and stones, and paintings in mud. My Nanna was an incredibly artistic person and definitely took me under her wing when it came to learning about art.
I studied Fine Art at university, specialising I sculpture – and I’ve worked at my own practice ever since, exhibting widely across the UK and Europe, in galleries, museums, car-parks and abandoned farmhouses… as you do.
I came to digital work and ultimately NFTs largely because of covid. I had been learning CAD packages in order to work with fabricators for large scale sculptures – so I could supply them with drawings for cut steel and glass etc. When lockdown kicked in I lost about 12 months of work, exhibtions, lecturing gigs and residencies. I could no longer afford to make sculpture (the materials I used were not cheap!) so I threw myself headlong into digital, seeking to make the kind of worlds that had been brewing in my head.
In autumn 2020 I listened to an online talk by the wonderful Metagiest (@metageistVR) about NFTs and was hooked. What ensued was some hefty and thorough research whilst I learned about crypto, security, marketing, platforms etc etc
When did you mint your first NFT? What platform did you choose and why?
I minted my first NFT in early Feb 2021 and chose the then nascent Zora as my platform. With my background in grassroots arts, I’m always drawn to communities that build for themselves and have an open-source philosophy. They also seemed to do a lot of the right things with how much metadata was stored on-chain and so on.
In fact… I know they’ve grown a lot since then. I need to look into them again
Can you tell us one thing you cannot live without? (and why)
Movement! Seriously though, I have a long-term spinal condition that gets seriously aggravated by inactivity. Climbing, cycling, walking the dog – hell, even DIY is good for it. And when working digitally it is far too easy to turn into a giant potato, so I need to be active.
Who is your favorite artist(s) (Non NFT)? What about their style resonates with you?
Ooh this is so hard – I guess I go through phases of being particularly fond of different artists, but there are some evergreens and Mat Collishaw has to be one. His work is beautiful but unnerving, embracing of technology but also reflective on the passing of time and the ultimate fragility of life.
Who is your favourite NFT artist? What makes this artist unique?
I’m not sure they’d class themselves as an NFT artist, more of an artist who has made NFT’s – perhaps thats pedantic… but I think that Nikita Diakur is a genius. Rather than animate and rig their characters by hand and the normal methods, they utilise the simulation tools built into CG programmes. So characters are large sails that are driven by wind, they have springs in their feet, and some rigid body simulations are their heads. What this results in is a hilarious and charming style that reveals the limitations of the tools we are using.
I appreciate artists that know their medium so well that they are able to break its inherent rules and still make wonderful work.
What made you pursue NFT art?
I was enthralled by the enthusiasm and passion with which Metageist spoke about NFT’s and could immediately see the value in digital ownership. I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of society, and the trajectory into a digital-physical hybrid world is well-underway and only going to become more integrated. NFTs are going to be an important expression of that.
What is the one piece of NFT art you wish you had purchased but missed out on?
I sincerely wished I could have bought one of Deafbeef’s Entropy series. I was ‘lucky’ enough to find the work on the day it was minted, but at the time I simply couldn’t afford it. It is now well well out of my reach!
For those that don’t know, Entropy is a small series of generative audiovisual works that degrade every time they are transferred from wallet to another. So each time a piece is sold, the work that the new collector receives has degraded slightly both audibly and visually.
I love these pieces because I feel they integrate and exploit the actual medium of the blockchain within the work itself.
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go? Why this location?
Svalbard Global Seed Vault – I’m utterly fascinated by this place, which is essentially a ‘backup’ for the worlds seed storage, held in a giant vault literally carved into a mountain and sealed by the permafrost. I made a large art project in response to this place in 2017 but never had the opportunity to visit. I recently learned that the next door neighbour is Githubs Open source code repository. There is something deeply compelling about seed and code buried underground for our future-selves to reuse in case some disaster wipes out all the other known safestores.
What are your other passions besides art? Why?
I’m somewhat obsessed with my dog! But also I’m a keen climber; I just love the fact that its both a physical and mental puzzle. You find yourself in all these weird situations and it seems almost impossible to move forward on the rock – until you subtly shift the weight over to a different part of your foot, or change your grip slightly and it unlocks the next move. When I’m climbing I have a deep understanding of my body that I’m simply unaware of at other times.
Do you make other forms of art?
Yep- as I said at the start, I have a background in sculpture, and I still make small castings in silicone and rubber when I want to do some specifically physical. I’m currently looking to incorporate 3-d printing into this.
How did you come up with your specific style?
It’s taken a long time – my nanna (mentioned above) was dutch, and I was exposed to a lot of the still life tradition as a child, so I love moodily lit interior pieces, or scenes with a lot of detail and chaos. But I also love works that have an allegorical aspect. In my works, everything symbolises something specific.
Anyone who looks at my work will also notice that lab-grown meat features heavily in my work. This comes from a long-term research project about the future of foodstuffs, and how the technology we use can actually shed a light on who we are as humans. – what we fear, what we hope for, what we seek to protect but also what we consider to be the resources at our disposal?
How has your style evolved over the years?
Thats quite a hard one to describe. Evidently I’ve moved from sculpture and large-scale installations into digital, but the works still carry the same sense of character.
Within the digital discipline, I’ve definitely become more interested in building up little details, and I’ve been working hard on my lighting. I suppose the work has become more cinematic in recent months and contain oblique story-telling clues and hints.
What is coming in the near future?
In the near future I have a big group drop with BLOOM on a big platform. BLOOM is a great cohort of absolutely incredible artists who formed simply because we all love eachothers work and want to stand for and encourage the best possible quality in the NFT space.
I am also bringing my Ghosts in the Carnery series to a close. This is a set of works on SuperRare that takes the form of an investigation or detective story, with each artwork being a new piece of evidence, and each previous piece of artwork containing clues about the next one to be minted.
The final piece of evidence in the story has been minted, and is an artwork that medidates on the interaction between humans and technology and where the borderline between our bodies and machinery becomes blurred.
It also contains some well-hidden clues which is open to anyone to discover, so I’d encourage you all to take a look.
What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from that?
Within art?…that’s a hard question. Honestly, the mistakes have always been when I haven’t trusted my gut. I tend to do a lot of research before making moves, but sometimes there have been things that juts feel right – I’ve been to scared or hesitant to fully trust that and have missed an opportunity in the process.
It’s a lesson that I need to keep learning and relearning.
If you could collaborate with one artist who would it be?
Probably Frederik Heyman, if only to get a better understanding of their incredible workflow
Do you have any upcoming drops?
Not any that have firm dates, but the BLOOM drop should have some info to share very soon
Where can collectors find your work?
Link to Website: www.davidlisser.co.uk