a Rockstar's Journey
Through the eyes of Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and Stone Temple Pilots
Leading up to the eighteenth century the church commissioned the majority of art produced in Europe. In the nineteenth century, the antagonism between art and money changed the structure of the art world, where art became autonomous, in effect art became independent from the previous controlling powers like the church, politicians, or the markets, and this new independence of art itself defined the period we call, “the modern art world.”
During that time one of the most important writers in Europe, Victor Cousin, said the iconic phrase, “Art for art’s sake,” (l’art pour l’art) which defined the idealistic aesthetics of modern art. Philosopher Immanuel Kant elucidated this concept through his definition of “common sense” in his book, Critique of Judgment, published in 1790.
After the Second World War, the contemporary art period emerged through the works of artists such as Andy Warhol, who became famous for the reappropriation and artistic interpretation of common objects.
Warhol, who was inspired by the legacy of Duchamp, would sign his signature on common objects such as cigarette boxes, food packaging, and paper money bills, which transfigured the previously common objects into art and thus increased the value of the objects. Similarly, Maurizio Cattelan transformed the ordinary banana into a work of art by duct taping a banana to a wall at Art Basel, the world’s largest art fair. The banana sold for $120,000.
As with many of the aesthetic lines of postmodernity, Marcel Duchamp is a pillar of the genre of Money Art, mainly for his work, Monte Carlo Bond (1924), where he released a series of artistic renditions of fake government bonds while he played roulette in Monaco. The fake bonds served as works of conceptual art, and in essence, mocked both the finance and gambling industries.
Similarly, artist Arthur Williams introduced a new concept around the relationship between money and authenticity. He is most known for counterfeiting the 1996-issued $100 Bill, with a level of quality that is on par with the supernote. Williams printed an estimated $10 million dollars before he was convicted of counterfeiting and sentenced to seven-year in prison. Williams studied art throughout his incarceration and managed to transfigure the place that counterfeiting occupied in his life. After being released from prison Williams started creating works of art around the concept of the artistic use of paper currency, similar to the bills that he had counterfeited. Williams creates works of art by reinterpreting images of $100 bills with famous images of celebrities in the media.
In his new NFT series, Arthur Williams uses the self portrait photography captured by Scott Page while touring as the saxophonist of Pink Floyd in the 1987 album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason. Page captured his personal experience as a traveling band member. Pages’ photos and videos marked a turning point in the use of the camera and the role of the photographer.
The 1980s can be thought of as the era in which photography explored its relationships between the photographer, the photographed, and their audience. In the same period, artist Roberto Jacoby photographed the audience of his New Wave rock band, Virus, at their concerts in Latin America. Similarly, the French artist, Phillip Parreno, gave cameras to the audience in an art gallery and turned the photos taken by the audience into his own artwork. This piece inaugurated the artistic genre, Relational Aesthetics, a term baptized by Nicolas Bourriaud in his book with the same title, published in Paris in 1998. All of these works of art helped develop what we can define as the community photography experience, which now inspires Scott Page in his new endeavor to build community around non-fungible-tokens with his THiNK:NFT project.
Arthur Williams also highlights the serial nature of money, as well as the visual patterns as if they were a fractal kaleidoscope in photographs of the Rolling Stones and Stone Temple Pilots. Williams thus transforms the fungible character of money into the non-fungible character of tokenized art.
Arthur Williams artistic interpretation of forgery could be compared to Orson Welles’s documentary, F for Fake, which focuses on Elmyr de Hory’s career as a professional art forger, exploring the concepts of the authorship and authenticity of art, as well as the meaning of the value of art.
Arthur Williams not only talks about the enigmatic nature of money but also about the relationship between the original and the copy. Philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote an essay of cultural criticism, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935), in which he explains that mechanical reproductions devalue the (uniqueness) of art objects.
Now with the power of blockchain technology, the “Aura” of fine art can include digital art because the code of an NFT guarantees the finite, unique character of the art, just as an original sculpture or painting is a unique art object.
Through his unique procedure in creating his art Williams not only harnessed the power of art to transfigure commonplace things into eternal existence, but he also used the immutable power of blockchain technology to encode the unique, non fungible experience with art and money.