Robert Alice invites himself to the Monnaie de Paris - Interview

Today, we are pleased to welcome a particularly influential guest in the artistic field of Web3 and NFT, the artist, writer and curator, Robert Alice. Recognized for his innovative approach and his ability to brilliantly blend the past and the future, Robert Alice has been instrumental in shaping the NFT space as we know it today. He offers us valuable insight into his work, his vision of art and technology, and shares with us his unique perspective on the evolution of NFTs and Web3. First of all, could you introduce yourself to our readers who may not know you yet? Why did you choose this pseudonym and can you also present your collection?

Robert Alice: I work under the name of Robert Alice. I am fascinated by the anonymity, confidentiality and pseudonymity of the blockchain. Besides, I just find it funny to choose a real first name as a pseudonym. It’s like hiding in plain sight. People don’t really know how to categorize you mentally because they know Banksy or Beeple aren’t real names. Being called Robert when it’s my real first name is an interesting exercise in identification and the meaning of names. It’s weird to be called by another first name, but I guess everyone has some sort of alter ego.

I am an artist, writer, and curator who has been working in the blockchain space for a few years. I sold my first NFT at a major auction house a few years ago, which set the stage for Beeple’s 5000 Everydays and lit the fuse for the NFT boom on the global media stage. I have organized several NFT exhibitions all over the world, at the Venice Biennale but also at Sotheby’s and elsewhere. I have just finished writing an art history on NFTs, which will be published by a major publisher. I organized academic conferences on NFTs at Oxford University. I am primarily interested in creating art, then thinking about how to integrate institutions into the space of NFTs and how I can use my artistic practice to explore new territories – the exhibition at the Monnaie de Paris is an excellent example.

CTB: The exhibition will take place at Monnaie de Paris and was designed in close collaboration with the museum’s curators. It is clearly a dialogue between the old and the new, between the institution and the artist, between the material and the digital. Can you explain this choice to our readers, especially in the context of Web3 and NFT?

AR: Of course. It is exciting. Most people think of Web3 and NFT as fundamentally a radical departure from the past, but a little brushstroke is all it takes to understand how interconnected and deeply rooted in history their roots are. That’s usually what preoccupies my art. Reflect on the story and its relationship to blockchain.

The Monnaie de Paris is one of the oldest institutions still in operation in the world! More than a thousand years, 1159 years or something like that. It’s crazy. Imagine if Bitcoin had such longevity – its supporters would be insufferable, probably frozen somewhere. But the bottom line is that crypto is new, money is old, and it’s interesting to explore artistically — especially in an institution that has witnessed nearly all of our modern human history.

Monnaie de Paris welcomed me with open arms and was receptive to incorporating a cryptocurrency and blockchain-driven philosophy into their rich history. This mixture of respect and challenge was, I believe, an enriching experience – exactly what one would expect from a national institution. They have shown an interest in creating challenging new contexts for their historical collections, demonstrating their boldness in taking risks despite their entrenched position. After 1159 years of existence, they have an unwavering certainty about their place in history and their role in the future. As they confidently told me: We’re not going away anytime soon! »

CTB: On a more technical note, how have you used and integrated Web3 technologies like smart contracts in your work? How do they contribute to the artistic experience of visitors?

AR: Several collections are on display. They are both physical and digital and for various reasons, both technical and curatorial. We decided to present the NFTs in the form of lightboxes. This approach gives the exhibition a marked physical presence.

Several screens show a new work entitled BABEL (2023), which is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ 1941 short story, The Library of Babel. BABEL is a generative algorithm hosted on IPFS that calls an Ethereum node to continuously update itself every 12 Ethereum blocks, meaning it will change and update indefinitely. It uses basic natural language processing to create new sentences, word clouds and passages of text in a very random way, based on a library of texts I have stored online. All texts relate to the history of the blockchain. It’s a reconfigured and rearranged endless library of history that oscillates between order and chaos. It is placed just outside the studios of the artisans of the Monnaie de Paris, which is fascinating to see them working while ancient writings on cryptography, secrecy, centralization, libertarianism and money collide .

CTB: How did the NFT LaCollection platform participate in the production of the BABEL exhibition, and how did it enrich the artistic experience?

AR: They played a crucial role. Indeed, they were the cement that allowed this project to come to life. Working with the curator, Marlene Corbun, has been a wonderful and particularly rewarding experience. It has been able to adopt a neutral position, in the manner of Switzerland, skilfully reconciling the needs of the artist and those of the institution. The way LaCollection has managed to open these doors, something other NFT platforms have failed to do, is a testament to their proficiency in engaging a deeper discussion of NFTs and crypto art.

CTB: As an artist who has chosen to integrate Web3 into his approach, what is your point of view on the role of blockchain technology, mainly NFTs and decentralization, in redefining ownership and value? artistic in the digital world?

AR: That’s actually the subject of this 600-page art history book I’m about to publish soon! Monnaie de Paris wanted an exhibit that would be a direct response to their collection, so it was wonderful to see these generative NFTs that transpose old monetary blueprints onto the blockchain. A lot of my work is about fragmenting, dividing things up and decentralizing them, so it’s a philosophy I believe in culturally and aesthetically.

The issue of ownership is complex. I strongly believe that NFTs allow artists to take back control of their work. However, the more I immerse myself in the world of NFTs and the more I see that the community promotes them, the more it becomes clear that the absence of the right of resale – and the impossibility of actively enforcing it – is a myth of this first phase of NFT adoption. It leaves me with a bitter feeling. There is still a long way to go before the promises of NFTs are fully realized

CTB: How do you see the future evolution of Web3 and NFTs in the field of art? What new creative horizons do you plan to explore in your next works?

AR: Where to start? I have a 20-page Google document where I jot down ideas. I add a lot more to it than I can take out. Everything and anything is there. So I’ll probably sit down after this show and see what I like. Ordinals are a must for me, I want to explore this world and what can be uniquely done on it. Otherwise, I want to learn more AI and natural language processing skills.

CTB: Finally, some of our readers may be established or emerging artists. As a recognized artist in the world of Web3, what message would you like to convey to those who wish to explore this field and use Web3 technologies in their artistic practice?

AR: I always wish them to meet people who will appreciate what they do and how they do it.

For my part, I have my own models, and I simply strive to match a tenth of their talent. I believe that the opportunities offered by NFTs and Web3 reside in the immensity of still unexplored terrain, in the multiplicity of ways to distinguish oneself by offering something different, innovative, challenging. And since the world of NFTs and the community that surrounds it are still in their infancy, a single major project can be enough to open doors for you for the future in this field. Do not hesitate to get in touch with others, cyberspace is not an inaccessible space. Most people I’ve met have been open, ready to chat, share, build connections and community, and think about how you can help move the NFT/Web3 space forward.

Our conversation with Robert Alice offered unique insight into the intersection between art and technology through the lens of NFTs and Web3. His passion for exploring new creative horizons and his deep reflection on the dynamics of digital art provide a valuable perspective on this new frontier.

Although a lot of ground has already been covered, there is still much to be done and the contributions of artists like Robert Alice to this ever-evolving sector will be essential in shaping the future of art and technology.

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