Julian Brangold Sits Down with the Argentine 3D Artist
The following is a continued transcription and translation of a conversation between Joaquina Salgado and artist Julian Brangold recorded over Discord in May, 2022. This is part 2 of 2. You can read part 1 here.
JB: Let’s talk more about your relationship with the crypto world, going back to your beginnings. How did you first approach crypto art?
JS: Well, during the pandemic I practically had no job because I was working on live shows, going on tour with trap artists to perform visuals in some different countries. I was going to leave for Manchester the week after everything was closed. Suddenly, at a very dark time, Frenetik Void, who I was friends with, told me, “You have to get in this world.” He had already been in the [crypto art] ecosystem for a while, and he took me through it, taught me the basics, how it worked, showed me the platforms, the ways of minting, an introduction into Twitter, etc.
I first understood the blockchain through crypto art, not that I had any previous knowledge on it; I knew it existed but I thought I would never cross paths with that world. So that was my introduction: It was out of necessity, because I needed to generate some income, and I wanted to try to do it from my own practice. Honestly, at that time it was amazing. You [Julian] entered at that time as well, everything was so fertile. I remember minting my first works on Makersplace. At that time they paid for the minting. I started minting works I’d had for a long time, which I had been working on, and suddenly I just made them public, and that was right there, free of charge on Instagram, it didn’t have any monetary compensation. So I had lots of work already done that I could suddenly monetize and live from. It was amazing and I could adjust my own economy based on it, being able to monetize what I had already done and to start producing, I was very motivated by that.
JB: Do you remember the month you minted your first work?
JS: I’m not sure if it was April or May, 2020. It’s crazy what happened in only two years, I can’t believe it.
JB: As I was doing research on your work before the interview. I saw your first sale on SuperRare was two years ago and sold for 1 ETH, which was 198 dollars.
JS: It’s amazing, now I’m at a reset point; in fact, that SuperRare profile is only an archive now because I got scammed. I have a new profile now, because I had to create another account linked to another wallet. So this new series will be the first mint on this new account, and I feel it will also be like a fresh start with my aesthetic, which I want to start minting on SuperRare. I can also use it as an excuse, because I had a big hiatus of almost a year without minting anything.
But that’s what I’m working on right now, along with what I was telling you before about taking into account my own rhythm, my production pace.
I feel it’s a lot more valuable, because it feels more genuine instead of trying to adapt myself to the rhythms of the crypto world, using the tools I already have and sharing them whenever I can, depending on my head and my body, it’s as simple as that.
JB: There’s something many of us who started at that time have in common, that feeling that it was very fast at the beginning and you had to produce to keep up. As we started, we felt there was some kind of obligation to enter this funnel with a certain speed, and I think with a determined format because they were files no bigger than 50 MB, and some other technical limitations. Did that happen to you?
JS: Yes, absolutely, I produced with that specific format in mind. I think we talked about some of it in the beginning, that I didn’t know and I still don’t know how to fit my work in this world. You could feel that one format has a higher chance of getting somewhere, or there are more collectors buying certain formats.
It’s not that we’re crypto artists — I don’t consider myself a crypto artist — it’s another form of expression, of sharing what one does, and so adapting this form and this tool to the practice, not adapting the practice to the tool.
In the beginning it was just like you said, I was like, “I’m going to create three images per week and they’ll have this format and that, and so if I publish it on Monday…” and so on. But that can’t be sustained, it isn’t real to me, I don’t know, it’s also the difference between making collectibles, or open collections of thousands of copies, which have a more specific format, there’s rules you have to follow. But we can play with that and make it our own, and reinvent what’s already there. I think a lot differently now, luckily, otherwise I would’ve gone crazy, I don’t know how you coped with it, but I was going crazy at some point, I felt like I had to be there all the time, and that wasn’t good for me.
JB: I also started doing 3D work with Unreal Engine by creating loops that lasted 20 minutes, 5GB files, zero narratives, and at some point I also felt I had to adapt my production to the tools of the crypto environment. I felt like that started to limit some aspects of my practice. At some point I realized it and thought “Ok, I have to go back to my roots and produce without considering where this is going to go, and then I’ll see where I fit.”
So you started on Makersplace, minted your first works with Frenetik’s advice, and where did it go from there?
JS: I think after a month-or-so I entered SuperRare, and at the same time, we started to develop CryptoArg. You were there in the beginning — there were five or six of us, Frenetik, you, Milton [Sanz], me, and I don’t know who else, and it was like, “Hi, I don’t understand anything.”
And it was beautiful, I mean crypto art saved my life at that moment, May, June, July, those horrible months in 2020, I think it kept me active, not because I wanted to sell, I mean it was something that caught my attention of course, but this knowledge exchange that grew in such an organic and exponential way between us, that just made me feel very full.
I really felt like there was a real need for an exchange, not to sell, even though it is a part of it and that’s great, and it’s great that we looked to get paid, but I felt like there was a genuine interest for understanding the intersection of the crypto world and art, and we were able to reveal and discuss and generate our own opinions through the exchange that was going on. So I think everything that happened with CryptoArg was the key for me, to stay motivated and keep producing and my growth in many ways: professional, personal, relational.
I really feel that what we built at that time was wonderful, and it motivated me to stay inside [the crypto world], even beyond the market itself or selling. This human group rescued me throughout those months, and at the same time, growing and sharing, that was the most important thing for me in 2020 in the crypto world. Sharing information between us.
And then I stayed pretty active during 2020, and in 2021 I couldn’t take the rhythm anymore, so I chose to get away a bit, although I always stayed near the community and produced. But that was the moment I turned to projects that had to do with more complex production methods, or working on bigger projects. And now I’m back in this space, but with a different point of view.
JB: What is your feeling towards the ecosystem now?
JS: I’m glad that so many digital artists were able to find a way to make a living and generate some income with that. I’m really glad for Latin-American artists, people who have been producing for a while and it is suddenly profitable, so they can manage to make a living off their work. I think what happened was very important for the Latin context, and that’s why there are so many artists from this side of the world there. But I feel ,in part, seeing how time passed, I don’t know if I should say this, but some kind of responsibility for having been there and having been through that whole process of following the rhythm, trying to look for a way or not… I don’t mean to sound like a colonist. I feel that it’s good for us, who have been here for some time now, to share our experience from a genuine place, and sometimes that rhythm is really hard for me, I feel that it’s too focused on selling; and now that the marketplace is bear, it’s a good opportunity to create new ways of producing and sharing. That’s where we are. I think it’s good to see the difference between the art world, or their proposal with these artistic projects inside the NFT world.
I feel lots of things are being defined, things that were in a weird gray area before. And since we’ve been here for a while now, we have this responsibility, since we have a larger vision and we’re important actors in this whole thing, generating these more conceptual spaces.
JB: I know that as you go on with your career, you also have a relationship with the traditional local art scene, and I’d like to ask you, what would you like to see happen between the traditional art world and the crypto world?
JS: Honestly, I don’t know. I guess I wouldn’t like for the traditional market to suffer from this movement generated by digital culture, because it has something of its own that I find amazing. I’m not really sure what I’d like to happen. I mostly want artists and many people to have access to these kinds of tools and for them to use NFTs as a method for selling their work and making money. But other than that, I don’t think I want [these two worlds] to be that close together.
JB: That’s a good idea, so, do you think there should be some limits between one thing and the other?
JS: I feel that the core of the crypto world, from this anonymous, global, decentralized perspective, if it joins the traditional world it is going to dissolve. Yes, there is something magical and very mysterious, the fact that we are right now not looking at each other, only talking through audio…
If I were having an interview with a traditional gallery, we’d be on a video call, like there’s something about the format that I think is great for people to still relate to, how you can establish a bond between artists and collectors. The dynamic isn’t 100% horizontal, but there’s a lot more horizontality than in the traditional art world, and I don’t know, I don’t think it’s good for that to change. The traditional art world never included electronic arts within its mediums; It was always like, “you stay here, we go there.” You can create this great piece, a great interactive installation with 10 Kinects, and it will be hard for you to sell it to the traditional art world.
JB: Yes, I also think that’s one of the reasons I don’t like to make a distinction. I’m not sure if I’ll include this in the interview because I don’t like to contribute to these divisions, but from the side of the people working with NFTs, I feel like there’s a rejection towards the traditional world because historically, traditional art didn’t consider electronic arts to be a valid art form. It was always in another category. I totally agree with what you’re saying, it was already divided even before NFTs appeared.
JS: Yes, and what attracted them? Money, there’s no other thing, the amount of money that started to move around. So one can create from there, or from a discursive community, the whole work we’ve been doing within CryptoArg, suddenly there are dynamics with no relation to traditional art, but more with internet’s culture.
JB: What projects would you like to do in the future that you couldn’t do up to now?
JS: I have this idea, that’s been in my head for over a year and I’m kind of going in that direction, I don’t want to spoil it…
JB: We can talk about something else if you want…
JS: No, it’s something I’m approaching on a conceptual level, but my search is to merge the physical space with the digital world, creating something that could have different formats and could work in both realities. So what I want to do is a physical being, a robot, but for it to have some kind of animal skin, I’m still exploring materials, so then that being will interact with one of the virtual worlds I automatize. I’m mostly with that project in mind; now that the pandemic is over I’d like to work in physical space. I think many people are going through that, digital artists wanting to live in the physical world.
JS: But I feel like there’s something forced there. There’s something about the idea of including the physical space that I lovem and I feel like we haven’t arrived at an interesting format, or there aren’t that many works that integrate it efficiently and poetically. So I think that’s where my search is headed, being able to create well thought pieces from the multiformat or multidimensionality.
JB: Well, I hope to see it taken to execution because it sounds really good.
JS: Yes, but I’m so slow, it’s in my head. I mean when something gets in my head I do it, so I hope so… We’ll see.