Transcription: 0370 - Chris Coleman

Released: December 12, 2021

Darwin: All right, today I get a chance to talk to somebody that I have interacted with a lot over the last, I don't know, decade and a half maybe? Something like that. His name's Chris Coleman. He is a professor at University of Denver. He is in the... What is the department now called actually?

Chris: Emergent Digital Practices.

Darwin: That's right, EDP, right. It was Digital Media Studies when I was there. Nevertheless, it is sort of like the digital end of art. It's a fabulous thing, and Chris has always been kind of on the bleeding edge of software in art, art in technology, so he's a perfect person for us to talk to on this podcast. So thanks a lot, Chris, for joining us. Why don't we start off by having you talk a little bit about what your current work is?

Chris: Okay. I'm currently working on a number of fronts. I'm doing a lot of things with digital fabrication, thinking about what it means to go from the digital back into the physical, and that involves a number of processes. But I just got a new CNC machine. I'm spinning that up over the Christmas break. I'm doing a lot of work with photogrammetry, where you take lots of photographs and turn them into 3D models and then subsequently turn that information into 3D models for animation and motion graphic works. Really, mostly working in terms of landscapes and nature, and thinking about the ways that we construct and decode and control nature and natural spaces - [this] is one of the areas I'm thinking about.

The digital fabrication work I'm working on that I mentioned is, conceptually I'm thinking a lot about labor and how we monetize labor and how we value labor or don't value labor and different kinds of labor. Then another huge chunk of my time at the moment is taken up directing something I made a couple years ago called the Clinic for Open Source Arts, which is a nonprofit organization focused on the health of open source tools for creative use.

Darwin: That sounds amazing. I see already you've given me three hours worth of questions just with that, and we've got fricking 45 minutes. So, sorry, listeners, you're going to see me jumping all over the map. Let's start with the backend of that, this Clinic for Open Source Arts. Can you expand on that a little bit? Everyone that listens to this is in some way interacting with open source art-making tools, and I'm wondering, when you talk about making it... I don't know what was the phrase you used, but making it like a vital place for creatives to work, what does that mean, what does that actually look like in practical terms?

Chris: Yeah. COSA came out of my efforts realizing that, a full professor at a nonprofit but well-off institution was indebted to the tools that we use in our classroom, and trying to figure out how do we give back to the community. Every time we teach a class with Processing or Bitsy or any of these big or small tools, Blender, how are we making sure that we're an additive part of that community.

So I was originally just doing smaller actions, inviting the Processing team out to develop... They actually developed version three, using our spaces as a sort of developer hub for a week, and doing some things for Open Frameworks and other projects. So from there, escalating that to creating an organization, thinking about the big picture issues of sustainability. I think we have a real issue with projects that get spun up and they start to get used, and there's a sort of disconnect between... There's lots of that discussion of, is it free as in mattress on the curb? Is it free as in... all the different kinds of ways that things are free and all the different kinds of ways that we think about open source and how it can be helpful and how do we feed back into that?

Yeah, that notion of sustainability and health, thinking deeply about the community around a tool and not just, the tool is code and are there people helping make the code? But it's really about, what does a community look like around a tool and how does the community engage with code and the people developing code? I think learning a lot from Lauren McCarthy and her work on defining contribution with the p5.js project, really deeply thinking about everybody that makes a tutorial or everybody that even advocates for using p5.js is a contributor. So once you start to expand that notion, you start to think about how everybody is a part of this living thing called an open source tool for the arts.

Darwin: Right. Yeah. That's awesome. Now, the other two things you talked to about, the digital fabrication and photogrammetry, it seems like those are opposing forces, right? One, you're trying to take the physical and turning it digital. The other, you're taking the digital and turning it physical. Now, it's actually funny for me to - as long as I've known you, you've been involved in robotics and microprocessors. You were the first person I saw that actually embraced the whole 3D printer thing. Even when it was kind of a mess, you were still in there and taking a swing at it. It was really interesting to watch, but also it was one of those things that was kind of surprising to me, because at the time there was really this desire to collapse everything into digital. I would have discussions...

One of the things with working in and around the university, you always get curious people with big checkbooks wandering around asking questions, right? What was hilarious to me is the number of people that, as soon as you started talking about something that was a physical entity, they clicked off, walked out the door with their checkbook. They didn't want to hear about it, because somehow that violated some kind of venture capitalist rule 101, right? But I think it's interesting that it continues. It's one of those things I swear are, every day I see some kind of little thing pass along on Instagram or something. It's like, "Oh, here's the world's largest 3D printed boat," right? Or, "Oh, these people 3D printed their interior for their RV," or something like that, right? It's like there's this constant thing, because there's excitement about being able to do it, but also there's an indicator that it's becoming a lot more viable for things that we would actually really use.

Chris: Yeah, for sure. I'm part of the NFT scene right now, and that's also a huge conversation, this notion of physical primacy and digital primacy and the notion that finally we can collect all the art, and we only have to have space on a hard drive, and you don't have to have a big house, and that somehow that that's a different kind of democratizing. But I'm over here busy buying physical art just as much as I'm buying NFT art. So it's a pretty intense conversation. I literally just bought a print of an NFT piece today just because I was like, "I want to live with this." It's not about putting it in my cyber house sometime in the future. It's like, I want to live with it in the now.

Darwin: Your cyber house! You in fact are the person I think of that would be the first person with a cyber house too, for that matter, so there's that. Well, this is really interesting, and I actually want to get into NFTs a little bit more in a bit. But before we do that, one of the things I like doing in my podcast is talking to people about their background, how they got to be the artists that they are, what were the influences, both artistic and technological, because that is the shtick behind this podcast, is talking to people that have feet in both technology and art. I'm curious, what was the thing that drove you into each of those, and maybe who were some of the people that also influenced you on the way?

Chris: Goodness. So I have always been a really creative child, but my father, stepfather, grandfather and more, were all engineers. So I was raised and I'm very comfortable in 3D and physics. For me, there was a sort of comfortable space in both worlds growing up, but it was obvious that there was no such thing as a job in art, and so you went to school for engineering, as people do. I thought I would be able to be a creative engineer, designing toys and roller coasters and cool stuff. Then I met somebody who graduated the year before me, and they explained that their job was to engineer and re-engineer the hook on the end of a Venetian rod that closes blinds, and that that was his literal nine-to-five job. That was literally the moment I dropped out of school.

Darwin: You bailed.

Chris: Yeah. I quit my mechanical engineering major with six credits to go and did a little bit of a reset, because I realized that I wasn't so good that I was going to be some superstar engineer and get those cool jobs. So I went back to school for art after that, and I've been bringing stuff together ever since. Especially when I went to SUNY Buffalo, where I was in both the art department and the media studies department there, and working with really just some fantastic artists and being exposed to all the artists I'd just never known before. A lot of my professors came out of Carnegie Mellon, and some of the ideas around the subRosa, which is a cyber feminist group, Faith Wilding headed up that, but Laleh was also a part of that, and the Critical Art Ensemble, so a number of members of that were also professors or people adjacent to the Critical Art Ensemble, and Paul Vanouse was my primary advisor in that regard, teaching me electronics at that point. They were just exposing me to so many amazing people.

Also, one of my earliest digital teachers was Hasan Elahi, who actually taught for 15 weeks at West Virginia University as one of his first jobs before he got flagged by the FBI and everything, and so that was a really interesting and early connection in a very small world of digital artists.

Darwin: Well, that's really interesting. SUNY Buffalo and kind of the academic world surrounding Buffalo just has this long history of media arts stuff, and so that has to be a rich environment to let your mind grow as well.

Chris: It was. I mean, Tony Conrad was there, pushing boundaries even at his age at that point. But every single person there was really on the edge of a lot of things. I actually was learning VR in 2002 there in a programming language called Yggdrasil with Dave Pope...? I don't remember his last name now, but he sort of designed the VR language. So yeah, it was super edgy stuff at that point.

Darwin: Right. Right. Amazing. Amazing. You came out of that. How did you get into academics? Was there any kind of a period of professional stuff, or did you just keep on working your way through the academic system?

Chris: I quickly learned that one of the things that I love to do is to share knowledge with people, and despite being an introvert, I discovered a space where I could put on a performance and use my love for sharing and generating ideas with other people, sort of co-brainstorming. I feel like those are two great skills for a teacher. I started to understand that those two things kept me excited about teaching, but also the piece that I was constantly having to relearn and learn new things. I think maybe those three things together, constantly wanting to learn myself, constantly loving to help other people learn and share things with them and brainstorming, that really comes together quite well. I did have one of those moments where I was offered a really great job doing motion graphics in New York City and just sort of a path in the past, where I could have gone to one direction or the other, and I decided to stay with the academy at that point.

Darwin: I was wondering, because in the timeframe that you were coming through, I was assuming that there would've been those moments where someone dangled a job offer, because the combination skillset that you would've had was relatively rare at a time that those things, or at least the exploration into those things, was kind of exploding.

Chris: Yeah, for sure. I was fortunate. Everybody was spinning up digital programs. Buffalo was such a rare bird at that point. Yeah, I got lots of job offers. It was a really interesting time to be on the market and talking to people. There were other people who had a lot of technical knowledge, but not a lot of people who also brought the sort of critical voice to their work. There was lots of, "I'm a technician making beautiful things," and then there were... I had people tell me that I was a rarity because I brought both of those things together.

Darwin: The way that you bring the critical view into play, though, that can come in a lot of different ways. For you, how did it manifest itself? What were the ways that you brought critique - social critique, environmental criticism, whatever - how did you bring those into your work?

Chris: I think probably the most powerful stuff happened through a lot of my motion graphic animated work, where I was reusing propaganda pamphlets that came out of 9/11 and terrorism readiness stuff. I was combining that a lot with old illustrations from Boy Scout and Girl Scout manuals in the fifties and earlier, and thinking about how we're trained and taught to do certain things [in] certain ways, and how to twist that kind of training around to instead talk about issues of borders and nationalism and the ways that we treat other people, the moment we call them an "other", and try and define them as different because they live on the other side of an invisible line. So I was really making a lot of work that tackled these issues. I think one of the hardest things for me to do is to transition from purely making work that really took these things on, in a pretty angry and disturbed way. I wanted you to know that this was a problem.

And I think I've really been trying to spend the last decade retraining myself to not just point out problems but start to point to solutions, and what does it mean to move forward? How can we think about options for being constructive and finding a future that we want to exist in together? That's a much bigger challenge than just pointing out the things that are wrong. So it's been a joy but also a real impediment to making quick art. You've got to be much more thoughtful in a way.

Darwin: Sure. Now, what was your path to professorship? Were you an instructor at schools before DU, or was that your first place?

Chris: Yeah. Immediately after...

Darwin: I'm surprised I don't know this. I've known you forever. I'm surprised I don't know these answers.

Chris: It's a typical academic story, which is, right out of grad school, I was lucky because I had a full-time gig, a full-time one-year gig, at SUNY Fredonia, about an hour south of Buffalo. Then I had a one-year full-time gig at St. Cloud State University in Northern Minnesota.

Darwin: Yeah. It's just down the road from me now.

Chris: Yeah, where it's very cold.

Darwin: Very cold.

Chris: They tried to get me to stay, and they were amazing people. Sometimes you encounter faculty and they're really a great group of people and they get along together. It was a great experience, but man, it was cold up there. So then I got a tenure track job out at University of Oregon in Eugene. I did that for a couple years, and that's a great program, their digital arts program. I probably wouldn't have left except for I started seeing my now wife, Laleh Mehran, and we went on the "spouse job hunt" together and ended up here in Denver.

Darwin: Well, congratulations for that. That's one of the things that often is really hard for couples that are both academics, is being able to find work together. Now, you actually do artwork with Laleh as well, right?

Chris: That's true. We were collaborators before we were romantically involved.

Darwin: Oh really? That's cool.

Chris: Because she went to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon as well and was in the Pittsburgh-Morgantown area where I went to school in West Virginia, and so the digital art world at that time again was fairly small. We had done some early collaborations. We made a sort of security rave called M House, where you had to give up all your Social Security numbers and other personal information in order to get into the rave, and we used dozens of security cameras to show people what they were doing. It was like a fun fascist rave, I suppose.

Darwin: Sure. I've got to write that down, "fun fascist rave". That's a new phrase for this podcast, my friend.

Chris: Yeah, we've been working together ever since on large and small scale projects. Then I also serve as a technical producer for some of her artworks, and that's always interesting: understanding when we're doing a collaboration and when I'm working for her as an assistant.

Darwin: I wouldn't have even thought about having to make that definition, but I'm sure it becomes really important in a lot of ways, not only for how you get along working with each other on various projects, but also how whoever's showing the work, how they want to be able to portray it or talk about it or whatever. So that's interesting. I literally hadn't thought about that. That's cool.

Now let's talk a little bit about the, go back to some of these technological things that you talked about, because again, I knew people who had played around with Arduinos before I met you, but you were the person that I knew had embraced it, similarly with other what I would say are "artful technologies". You're always on the forefront of that. What is it about you that... Why do you seek that stuff out? Why is tracking that important to you?

Chris: That's an interesting question. I don't think I've ever thought of it.

Darwin: Well, because a lot of people, when they finally find something that they enjoy and are good at, they really want to just block everything out, which means that you can make a really bright thing of it, but also it may have just kind of petered out on you too. I feel like you have, when I watched you, it was almost like you had this innate desire to latch onto things and check out the new stuff and try out different things. I didn't know if there was something about doing that, that you had kind of identified for yourself or... but it's one of the ways I think of you, right?

Chris: I appreciate that actually. I grew up as the child who took every toy apart to understand how it worked.

Darwin: Okay.

Chris: And managing to put most of them back together. So yeah, I think in many ways I'm always trying to do the same thing. I've got about a dozen small projects here in the lab that I should bring to more of a finish, but I really like that process of being curious about how far you can push something and trying that out and pushing it around, and then just having that sit there for you until you find the project that needs that capability.

I just bought a Jetson Nano from NVIDIA, because I was like, okay, a $60 thing that has a GPU. I'm really interested not in using it for AI. I'm not real into the AI scene, but I'm interested in using it for shaders. So I was just running different artwork shader tests on it, to see how far we could push it before the fan kicked in and before the frame rates just went to shit. Now I've put that away. I may or may not use it again, and I've got a whole drawer full of micro controllers and other devices that I may or may not use again. Until I do, because the Jetson Nano's advertised for a certain thing, but I suspect that it could be used for other things. So when I or another artist or a student wants to do something, I can say, "Hey, actually I know what you could use for that."

Darwin: Yeah. That's actually really compelling. It does seem like it's more than just knowing that something exists. It's also having had the experience. You can not only say this might be something that you could use, but also it's like, but if you try, make sure that you think about this potential road bump or speed bump or whatever. Yeah. That's really cool.

Now, the other thing, and you mentioned it during our first segment, you mentioned that you were involved in getting both NFTs as well as physical stuff. In the NFT thing, talk about something that was like a flash fire, right? I remember I was talking to a friend of mine in San Francisco one day, and he was like, "Yeah, blah, blah, blah - NFTs." I'm like, "What's an NFT," and he's like, "Non-fungible token. It's this thing. You can do art, la, la, la." I'm like, "Well, I never heard of that before." Literally, the next day, I heard it on CNN, and the day after that, I hear it... I'm obsessed with listening to "Squawk Box", which is just all these talking heads talking about stocks. I don't invest in stocks. For some reason, I'm just fascinated by them talking, and they're talking about NFTs, two days later. It ramped up that fast, and I just couldn't believe it.

But now I don't know that we, as the collective body of artists, and especially my kind of crew, which tends to focus on sound art and music, I'm not sure that there's a real understanding of NFTs. I think right now, if you took an average person and said, "NFTs, have you heard of them," if they say yes, it'll be like, "Yeah, some dude sold a GIF for $20 million." That's the extent of what they know about it. First of all, it's pretty clear that this isn't just an option to sell GIFs for $20 million.

Chris: Right.

Darwin: There's something else going on there, but I'm wondering how, as a person who's involved in technology and art, as a person who works with a lot of artists as well as a lot of technologists, what does NFTs hold that is of value to us as a community of artists and a community of art technologists?

Chris: First and foremost, it's a pretty straightforward way for people like me to collect work from other artists, whether they be audio or video or GIF or still images or photographers, anything that can be a digital file. I've been trying to be an art collector. I'm not rich, so I'm not buying big name stuff, but I've been trying to collect art from digital artists for more than a decade. It has just become a thousand times easier. I'm not dealing with galleries. I'm not dealing with emails that never go anywhere, artists who don't want to set up and run an E-store to sell their work. All of a sudden, everything, after you've set up a wallet and bought some cryptocurrency, everything from there on out is just butter-smooth. The fact that in the same breath, I can start selling some of my artwork, which again, I've never modified my artwork. It's just not a thing that's in my wheelhouse. It's not a main interest of mine. It's a privilege to not have to worry about that.

Darwin: Right.

Chris: So then I'm making more money that I spend on other artworks. It's been a beautiful sense of finally having an exchange with artists and a multinational sense of artists that I've just never been able to do before. So to me, being able to support artists in a very real way at all levels, and really easily, that's amazing. That's amazing.

Darwin: But it also makes me curious about the experience of being a collector, right? Because now the opportunity to get stuff is made, as you said, butter-smooth, but how do you enjoy it? I mean, looking at the equivalent of a wallet of your collected items is, other than from an attainment standpoint, that's not the key. How do you enjoy the content that you purchased?

Chris: That's a super important question. Laleh comes down and asks me every week, "When are you going to make a thing so we can enjoy the 2,000 things that you've bought?"

Darwin: Yeah, right.

Chris: Simultaneously, it's a problem that I've been dealing with for, again, five or six years, buying video art on platforms like Sedition, Data Editions. We have a whole bunch of the Infinite Objects little micro screens, that are really beautiful, but they don't have any audio. So it's an ongoing problem for all digital art. There are people who are spinning up screens, where you basically give it your wallet, and it downloads all the things and then just shows them to you.

But there's a number of problems, one of which is - I actually really love to collect interactive works and WebGL based works. It's not as easy to show those as it is a JPEG or... Then I'm collecting a lot of generative works as well. This piece on the wall behind me is a Kim Asendorf, and it's all shaders. It's running right now, and it's different every time you load it up. So that's running on a old laptop that we have. I think it's a big challenge that hasn't been solved yet really well, is how to enjoy those in your daily life. They're a little bit too much commodity right now and not enough art that you enjoy.

Darwin: Yeah. Okay. Well, that helps. That all makes sense, but also it rings another bell for me, which is kind of a bell that rings for me in so many variations of digital art, which is: if you go beyond the most basic things, so if you go beyond GIFs or JPEGs or WAV files or MP3s and you get into things like generative stuff, shaders, WebGL tools and stuff like that, it's dependent on that technology still being there. All of a sudden, we're starting to see things like, what actually becomes of shaders as some of those technologies start to get to be eclipsed, or even as something as standardized as OpenGL starts going through multiple revisions of change, and all of a sudden you have an artwork that's dependent upon deprecated technology. This is a problem as old as Nam June Paik, right?

Chris: Right.

Darwin: But isn't that kind of exacerbated by the NFT opportunity?

Chris: Yeah, for sure. I think, again, that's some of why I said that it feels a little bit more leaning towards art as a commodity that's meant to be traded than it does as art as meant to be collected. There are a lot of higher level discussions going on around like, okay, make sure you download all of your NFT files and you've got them on hard drive. You're thinking about how you're going to assure that those work into the future. I'll give you, one of the side things, which is, a lot of the works that... I have certain works that I'm going to have printed, and that's going to be one of the ways that they're archived. I have some works, like this one behind me, which I do want to actually make a little dedicated microcomputer that just plays that artwork, and that's all it does. Then a lot of works are going to die.

In the same way, I'm okay with my work ceasing to exist. I'm okay with parts of my collection ceasing to exist as well. I don't know that culture, all culture needs to survive forever. I'm a little less of the keep everything all the time. That seems weird to me. But I understand that there are aspects of what we're doing that do need to survive and exist into the future so that we're understood. I think history is more complex than "save all the things".

Darwin: Right. Well, especially since, at one point saving all the things was maybe a reasonable thing to do. Because we weren't obsessive with generating things, right?

Chris: Right.

Darwin: Now we absolutely are, and it's imperative for us to figure out how to throw away things. You just hear about the numbers of videos that are uploaded to YouTube or images that are uploaded to Facebook, and you're like, oh yeah, we have to learn how to throw away shit.

Chris: Yeah, we really do.

Darwin: It's true. That's funny. So I appreciate you helping me out. Now, again, in terms of the technology that can be embedded or can be minted into an NFT, there's no limits. I could just do an album and turn it into an NFT or a sound art thing. The main limitation, it has to be purely digital in some fashion, right?

Chris: Yeah, and people are doing that. In fact, you can pre-mint a new project of a thousand pieces by Telefon Tel Aviv starting next week.

Darwin: Oh, okay.

Chris: He's getting into it and has spun up a really interesting website. I saw that you interviewed him really early on.

Darwin: Yeah. He's gotten to be a good friend, yeah.

Chris: Yeah, so you should check that project out. It's interesting.

Darwin: Yeah, I'm going to have to poke him about that. He can give me an education.

Chris: Yeah, and I've seen some really beautiful, I've got some really beautiful generative audio pieces, and then I've got some pieces that function more as just an album, and it's got the picture for the track, and it's got a little audio player, and it's all HTML based. You can download the MP3 and load it into your music player, on your phone, if you want.

Darwin: Well, I'm particularly interested, though, in the idea of generative work, because this is another thing I feel like when I think about you, you've always gravitated towards generative things or things where you set a system up and then view and maybe tweak its output, but it's a generative system. How do you do a generative piece in this NFT world, and again, have it so it's going to survive... Can you do something like a Processing sketch or a PD or a Max patch, or does it have to be an HTML-based thing? To what extent can you just have a bunch of code? Obviously, if you're going to have shaders, there's some way to have it be code-based, but I'm curious, how does that happen? Again, how, as the collector, do you get to play it?

Chris: Yeah. So it's different per platform. The platform that I prefer, it's in the sort of Tezos space, and they basically allow you to upload...

Darwin: I'm going to stop you there. Tezos space?

Chris: Sorry. Tezos is one of the blockchains. So you're probably familiar with Bitcoin and Ethereum, and so Tezos is a, let's call it, clean NFT. It's a proof-of-stake versus proof-of-work. It's about 1,000th as ecologically damaging or energy consuming as Ethereum.

Darwin: Okay. So I'm already more interested, because that's one of biggest issues I have with crypto in general, and so this is very interesting to hear. Okay, great. Continue.

Chris: Yeah. So the Tezos blockchain, friendlier, and a lot more experimental, and that's where I tend to play. Essentially, yeah, there's templates that you can use. But at the end of the day, it's kind of like, what can you run in an iframe? So anything that you can manage to run in an iframe for an HTML page will run on most of the platforms that I use. Yeah, I think some people are doing generative stuff with as simple as p5, but I suspect there's other JavaScript libraries and such that are doing other kinds of generative audio. I don't know if somebody's got something running from PD to an iframe. That's a good question.

Darwin: I didn't think that a shader could run in an iFrame. How does that...

Chris: A shader can run on a website, yeah.

Darwin: Oh, okay. All right.

Chris: You can run shaders just through p5 even.

Darwin: Right. Yeah. I don't know. Whenever we start talking about shaders, all of a sudden my mind goes to a very different place, and it does that often, you're right, so I appreciate that. So one of the interesting things is that by working on this virtual stuff, all that stuff is immune to the hellhole that is COVID, right? So yay.

Chris: Right.

Darwin: But an awful lot of the artwork that you've done, the art that you've been involved in, things that I've seen that you or you and Laleh have worked on together, have been physical pieces that live in the real world, that are visited by groups of people walking through a singular place. How has the monkey of COVID affected that?

Chris: Yeah. We literally gave an artist talk last week, and we were showing our Unclaimed piece, which is where you blow across this small city and your breath is repeated across hundreds of fans underneath a giant sheet of plastic, and so it re-invigorated your breath or recreated your breath as an atmosphere, and the whole point was that multiple people would be blowing across the table at each other.

Darwin: Poor choice.

Chris: That piece used to be so beautiful, like, we're all mixing and breathing the same air, isn't that wonderful? Now watching the footage, you're just like, "Oh my God."

So yeah. Thinking about participatory art has become a different thing. I think one of the nice pieces is that at the same time that participatory is having to mean less about breathing on each other and touching the same things as other people, the technology for doing much better body tracking and interesting body tracking has improved with some of the machine learning. I'm getting ready to teach a class on that this spring, just because I think there are new ways that you can engage the body in more subtle ways that aren't just Jumping Jack/Magic Mirror kind of artwork, and so I'm interested in how that opens up new pathways for engagement that are still COVID safe maybe.

Darwin: Yeah. Well, that sounds good, because I'll tell you, one of the fears that I've recently had and talking with some other artists, it kind of confirmed my fears, which is that an awful lot of art that people are being asked to perform is sort of like, "Don't do anything close. If you want to shoot it across the side of the building, that's awesome. If you want to cover a 20-story building with art, go nuts. Just don't come within six feet." It's like, there's a whole lot of art, whether it's performative arts or collaborative art things or just interactive art pieces, where you're going to eventually end up sharing that button that you press or whatever, that it feels like those are compromised in a very vital and scary way. I don't know how we come out of that.

Chris: I don't either. I know that in some ways Meow Wolf, as a project that's very physical and very spatial...

Darwin: I can imagine.

Chris: I think they've pushed through it and just said, you know what? You sign the waiver, and we space people out and wipe things down and it is what it is, because the very essence of their work is sort of embodied space and-

Darwin: And touching stuff.

Chris: ... and physicality, yeah. I think we're going to get back to that. I think it is interesting that a lot of COVID has stopped being about whether or not you're touching something, and it's really just more about whether or not you're breathing on someone. I think that's going to continue to unpack and allow physicality to come back in some interesting ways. Yeah, we're so much more aware of how close we are to other humans and who gets permission to come into our bubble now. It's pretty insane.

Darwin: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that idea of going back and looking at footage of how we used to act, crazy.

Chris: But we're all hungry to, and we ask permission, to get hugs. We're ready to be there with people and give them hugs again.

Darwin: Sometimes. It depends who you are.

Chris: But that's what I mean. That's what I mean. When you meet someone you care about, you're ready for that.

Darwin: Right. Yeah, that makes sense. Well, Chris, we have long run out of time. I blew right past my fail safe moment there, and so we're going to have to bail. But before we go, is there anything that you're working on right now that's new and interesting that you'd key people into? Because, again, you're my cool-seeker, so what's something you've run across recently that that caught your eye?

Chris: I love what Casey Reas is doing on the Feral File NFT platform, and I know it's in an NFT platform, but it's full of really interesting art, and it's very thoughtfully curated. The next show that's coming up at the end of the month is, everything that you buy as an NFT also comes with a plotter, like a physical piece, so it's a nice entry way if you can't decide if you just want to be non-fungible. That's one of the things I'm thinking most about, and then the Interdependence Podcast from Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst has just been blowing my mind with the way that they're pushing and exploring really future forward notions of digital primacy, physical primacy, what does it mean to have new kinds of economies? That podcast blows my mind every week.

Darwin: Awesome. Great. Man, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it, and have a good one.

Chris: Thank you. You too, Darwin.

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