Forecasting Digital Art Futures: In conversation with Anthology of Metaverses
Review by Farah Dianputri

Wandering the futuristic landscape of the Anthology of Metaverses 1.0, their first online exhibition, which brings together the work of 20 digital artists. Screenshots taken from: https://anthologyofmetaverses.com/

Even with all the technological advancements that have occurred in the last 20 years, we still have yet to develop a robustly accurate crystal ball. Without the coding knowledge to web-scrape, extrapolate on trends and get an AI to write the article for me1, I decided to bypass the programming and consult some humans. I spoke with the team behind Anthology of Metaverses, an online art space that seeks to bring together digital artists in South-East Asia. After talking about how their cyber-friendship led to them curating their first online exhibition2, our conversation quickly turned to the artistic value of video-game mods, crypto-art, TikToks and a speculative exercise in divining the possible futures of digital art in South-East Asia and the world.

What lies in the future of digital art spaces? Will they be a new opportunity of displaying art or will they be co-opted by the powers that be?

James: That really depends on the political, economical landscape. Though I think you can still bypass these things, if you know how to play the game. Using different web addresses: if your website is linked to another country you could probably work by those rules. So, it’s still possible but it’s getting harder I think. But the future of digital I think is bright because everyone sees how it works and data protection is a very big topic now with social media, Facebook, Google, algorithms and such. There is a huge potential for art that is specific to a virtual world to be made.

Rimba: I want to add to what James said there about internet art. It’s not just a trend, it’s already vibrant. It’s mostly on forum groups. The difference is that the avenue is not always in the art world but the game modding world. There’s a lot of creative potential in there by ‘amateurs’. They are doing really amazing work, but never in their mind do they think that this should be published as art, as something that a gallery could present. So they are only cooped up inside these small (well, not small) avenues of game-modder communities. I think if we give fuel to this, and give new options to this type of work to be broadcast, I’m guessing it’s going to explode in the near future.

A Grand Theft Auto 4 Mod with an Indonesian gas supplier, Pertamina. Image source: https://www.gtaall.com/gta-4/mods/31240-azs-pertamina.html

I’ve joined several modding communities, especially Grand Theft Auto 3, it’s so public and widespread at every level of socio-economic background. Every type of person chips into that community, bringing their own take of what a virtual space could be. Some of them make gas stations they find in their countries. It's really amazing. And I think these guys should also present their work in a gallery. Because that’s the work that drives culture, isn’t it?

James: It’s the realm of the avant garde now.

Amanda: I don’t know, in the future, once the attention is like 100% virtual and galleries start taking over, it’s just going to be like real life. Now grassroot communities and collectives are trying to experiment with ways of showing art virtually, but then once the galleries and all the institutions take control, there will again be hierarchy. It's great but also dangerous in that way.

Rimba: Also, there is the rise of what they call crypto-art. So virtual art made tangible – well not tangible, but you can be made into the exclusive owner of a piece of digital art. I got invited to make my art into crypto-art.

James: With blockchain technologies I think a lot of artists are experimenting with developers. Like how do you sell digital is a big question. In Asia, I think there are communities talking about it, but in the institutions it’s not really a thing yet. With painting, we used to start with tempera, but then oil painting came and everything changed. I think it’s the same.


A recent crypto art auction saw crypto-artist PAK sell tiles of Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’. PAK’s gross art sales come up to about $5,458,681.29. Cryptoart is a way of giving digital art the same scarcity and ownership as physical art. It’s done by adding a unique signature to the file that ‘mints’ it onto a blockchain. The tokenized art is sold via cryptocurrency. Image source:https://makersplace.com/pak/the-creation/

Why don’t game-modders see themselves as artists?

James: I think it’s sort of what happened with film, which was something people didn’t see as art until given a certain time of gestation, and artists started to use the medium, then it started to become considered as an art form.

Rimba: With the rise of apps like TikTok, everyone’s an amateur videographer. What they make is actually art to me because they are representing something, and some of the media has meaning. I actually gained a lot of exploration from these types of community art projects, I’d say. I can see other people’s viewpoints from people making TikToks. Usually there are social barriers that are too difficult to get through. I don’t know what life is like for people in a sweatshop but they can now make TikToks and dance and make recordings of their lives. It's a snippet of their culture that I can consume. Like in Indonesia we have many tribes and many islands, and now we can actually see the art they are making from the other side of this country.

To the question of why the modding community doesn’t see what they do as art, they aren’t trying to do that. Most of the people making mods are technical people, maybe they have a background in basic 3D modeling, and they enjoy playing video games. But they never see themselves as an artistic, creative person. I think we should be promoting to them that you are not just a worker bee, if you have the aptitude and sensitivity for creativity, these things could be taken to another level. They have done that accidentally, some of them.

Amanda: Yeah, accidentally. I like the word “accidental” because at the heart of it, a lot of digital artists are accidental artists, at least the ones that I know. And more than ever from the point of view of art itself, we’re trying to redefine what art is, it’s not just a painting on the wall, we’re talking about art being interactive. Where it really meets and intersects in the game world.

James: I think it’s more than just a visual thing. I think art is an activity where you need to spend time. You need to click and be involved. That is the important and different thing, that sets digital art apart from a painting which requires none of these things. It gives us the feeling that we are all powerful, that we can do everything with a click.

Amanda: I totally agree. Action is so important. A lot of people think that digital art and Internet art is just about creating beautiful images on the screen, but it’s more than that. It’s the engaging part of it, the interacting part of it, that makes it Internet art.

James: It gives a sense of autonomy that we have also been brought up with. As we grow older we find…

Amanda: That we’re losing autonomy.

James: Yeah, it’s some illusion.

Amanda: We don’t search for it anymore. And we’re not thirsty for it, and it’s dangerous.

James: So within virtual technologies, we find that sense of autonomy again. We’re not really past the physical, yet the possibilities are easier to achieve.

You can visit the Anthology of Metaverses here https://anthologyofmetaverses.com/
Follow them on instagram @anthologyofmetaverses




The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Farah Dianputri is a writer under the CENDANA-ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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