Beyond Web3: The Socio-Political Imperative in Art — Unveiling the Missed Social Empathetic Edge in Glitch and Crypto Art

KUNTA THE BLeU PEPE
10 min readJan 1, 2024

Historical Patterns: Early Rejection of DJs and Graffiti Art— Connecting Glitch and Crypto Art to Global Political Narratives

Introduction

In In the dynamic realm of contemporary art, the avant-garde expressions of glitch and crypto art have garnered attention for challenging traditional norms. The echoes of rejection and skepticism faced by these innovative forms find striking parallels with the early resistance encountered by the revolutionary trinity of DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti in the late 70s. Much like their urban predecessors, glitch and crypto art venture into uncharted territories, questioning the established norms of artistic expression.

The late 70s witnessed the emergence of DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti art as raw and authentic forms of urban expression. Rooted in the streets, these artistic manifestations were the heartbeat of marginalised communities, seeking to break free from the constraints of mainstream culture. However, their revolutionary spirit was met with disdain, not only from established art communities but also from cultural gatekeepers and fans who were initially resistant to the unfamiliar rhythms and visual landscapes these art forms presented.

Fast forward to the present, glitch and crypto art face a similar narrative of resistance. As avant-garde expressions challenging the established norms of the digital art landscape, they encounter skepticism from traditional art communities, establishments, and even their own audience. The rejection they face is a testament to the cyclical nature of artistic evolution, as each wave of innovation is met with initial resistance before gaining acceptance and recognition.

Inversion of Natural Order, Tiger, Patrick Amadon, 2021, via https://superrare.com/patrickamadon, CC0 License

Unraveling Historical Patterns — Avant-Garde Spirit

At the core of both the late 70s urban expressions and contemporary glitch crypto art is an avant-garde spirit that questions, challenges, and pushes boundaries. This spirit, reminiscent of the early days of DJing and graffiti, serves as a catalyst for change. It sparks insightful discussions about perception, identity, and the evolving nature of art in a world increasingly driven by digital innovation. The dismissal of turntables, graffiti, and now glitch and crypto art as mere noise or rebellion echoes a historical pattern of resistance to avant-garde expressions.

The rejection faced by DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti was not merely a dismissal of their artistic merit; it was a refusal to acknowledge their cultural and social significance. Similarly, glitch and crypto art, while pushing the boundaries of technology and digital expression, often face resistance due to a lack of recognition for their broader impact on societal narratives and cultural evolution.

However, the concern arises when the avant-garde nature becomes more focused on the technological aspects of web3 rather than using the medium to address pressing societal issues. The need for a cultural empathetic edge is paramount to ensure that the innovative spirit is not detached from the human experience.

While glitch and crypto art challenge established norms, I personally have a growing concern that this rebellion against convention might lost touch with the socio-political context that fuelled earlier movements. The transformative spirit of DJing and graffiti, rooted in the urban experience, signalled a profound shift in artistic expression that went beyond aesthetics to address societal issues.

A Catalyst for Change

In the late 70s, the rejection of DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti fueled a cultural revolution. It prompted artists and communities to challenge existing power structures and redefine the very essence of what was considered legitimate art. Similarly, glitch and crypto art today have the potential to catalyze a paradigm shift in the perception of digital expression, challenging traditional norms and fostering a new era of artistic discourse.

As we delve into the transformative era of glitch and crypto art, it’s essential to recognise that their rejection mirrors the initial resistance faced by DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti. The avant-garde spirit that propels these art forms forward has the power not only to redefine artistic landscapes but also to reshape cultural narratives and societal values.

The skepticism faced by glitch and crypto art, akin to challenges encountered by DJing and graffiti in the past, serves as a catalyst for change. However, it is crucial to recognise that this avant-garde nature must be harnessed to provoke not only aesthetic discussions but also a reevaluation of preconceived notions about art and its role in societal evolution. The potential lies in using the art form as a medium to foster dialogue, empathy, and awareness of pressing socio-political issues.

The Digital Renaissance and Socio-Political Context

While glitch, crypto, and digital art are emerging as vanguards of a digital renaissance, there is a need to ensure that this movement does not become detached from the socio-political context. The influence of these art forms should extend beyond traditional boundaries to resonate with a diverse audience, challenging not only artistic norms but also fostering an understanding of the human condition.

As glitch and crypto art seek their place within the broader artistic narrative, their rejection by certain factions of the art establishment parallels the struggles faced by DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti in the late 70s. The rejection is not just a refusal to embrace innovation; it represents a resistance to acknowledging the potential cultural and societal impact of these avant-garde forms.

The transformative spirit of glitch and crypto art, much like DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti, lies in their ability to transcend mere aesthetics and engage with the socio-political landscape. In the late 70s, urban expressions directly addressed social and political reforms, challenging the status quo and demanding attention to the struggles of marginalised communities. Glitch and crypto art, as contemporary expressions, must navigate the digital landscape with a keen awareness of their potential to address real-world issues.

In the face of rejection, glitch and crypto art have the opportunity to emulate the resilience of their urban predecessors. The avant-garde spirit that drives them forward can become a force for societal transformation, fostering dialogue and understanding. The rejection they face is not a roadblock but a stepping stone toward reshaping perceptions and ushering in a new era of artistic acceptance.

FREEDOM 0F EXPRESSiON, KUNTA THE BLEU PEPE, 2024, Author Created Art, Unminted

Shifting Perspectives: Global Political Narratives in Glitch Art

Despite concerns about glitch and crypto art being detached from broader political narratives, there are instances where artists have consciously shifted their focus to address global socio-political issues. A notable example is Patrick Amadon, an LA glitch artist whose work transcends the digital realm to engage with real-world political events. Amadon’s artwork, particularly the “No Rioters” piece, gained attention when displayed on the side of a department store in central Hong Kong.

In this particular piece, Amadon revealed a deception by inserting names of jailed activists in flashing text that couldn’t be seen by the naked eye. The artist intended this act of “solidarity” with protesters in Hong Kong. However, the subversive nature of the artwork led to its removal, prompting further reflection on the political climate in the city. Amadon commented later that the artwork’s removal “completed” its political message about the crackdown on the city’s civil freedoms.

This example illustrates how glitch art can be a powerful medium for engaging with global political narratives. By deliberately inserting hidden messages, Amadon not only addressed the local struggle in Hong Kong but also used the digital medium to expose a political deception. This shift in focus from the purely aesthetic to a broader political and global context represents a promising evolution within glitch art.

NO RIOTERS, Patrick Amadon, 2023, via https://superrare.com/patrickamadon, License CC0

Decoding Liberties: A Glitch Art Manifesto on Digital Rights

The Global Digital Rights Charter 1.0 (GDRC 1). Released under a Creative Common 0 (CC0) license, this manifesto serves as a statement of human rights in the digital realm, mirroring its physical counterpart.

THE GLOBAL DIGITAL RIGHTS CHARTER, VERSION 1.0 — MARCH 2023

The GDRC 1 asserts fundamental rights in the digital realm, guaranteeing life, liberty, and happiness online, while emphasising ownership and control of digital objects. It champions the freedom to transact, use decentralized applications, and be secure against unwarranted searches. Privacy rights, including encryption without back doors, are upheld, and protection against discrimination is enshrined. Users are granted the right to exit digital services with their data, and anonymity is protected. Abridgement of these rights requires due process, and national security exceptions must be time-limited and judicially supervised. Compliance with laws is encouraged, with an obligation to respect others’ rights, and signatories commit to promoting and implementing these principles.

This manifestation of digital rights is not just a document; it has been coupled with a unique NFT, reflecting the commitment of the web3 community to these principles. Launched by Punk6529, a prominent figure in the web3/NFT space, the GDRC 1 has already seen substantial support, with 11650 editions minted at the time of writing this post. Punk6529’s renowned crypto art collection, “The Memes by 6529,” further amplifies the message of the open metaverse, decentralisation, community, and self-sovereignty.

As glitch and crypto art navigate the challenges of the digital landscape, the GDRC 1 stands as a powerful testament to the evolving nature of digital rights. It is not merely a set of principles but a call to action for the artistic community to champion these values, ensuring that the avant-garde spirit of innovation remains deeply connected to the human experience and the principles of equality, freedom, and privacy.

THE GLOBAL DIGITAL RIGHTS CHARTER, VERSION 1.0 — MARCH 2023, Punk6529, via https://digitalrightscharter.org/, License CC0
Digital Rights Are Human Rights, Punk6529, The Memes, 2023, via https://looksrare.org/collections/0x33FD426905F149f8376e227d0C9D3340AaD17aF1, License CC0

Connecting Art Social / Political Contexts

In delving deeper into the socio-political imperative, it’s imperative to bridge the gap between glitch, crypto art, and the real-world experiences of common people. Unlike the early urban expressions of DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti that directly addressed social and political reforms, glitch and crypto art often risk losing the empathetic edge essential for connecting with the struggles faced by marginalised communities.

One of the key aspects that set DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti apart was their ability to act as direct expressions of the need for change. DJs spun records that resonated with the rhythm of social inequality, breakdancers embodied the resilience of marginalised communities through their physical movements, and graffiti artists painted the walls with messages demanding justice. These art forms were embedded in the grassroots struggles for equal rights, challenging the status quo and demanding societal reforms.

Contrastingly, glitch and crypto art, while revolutionary in their own right, often find themselves entrenched in the technicalities of web3 technology. The focus on tokenisation, digital innovation, and the exploration of glitches might inadvertently distance these art forms from the visceral experiences of human suffering and the political contexts that demand attention. As glitch and crypto art ascend to prominence, it becomes increasingly crucial to ensure that the avant-garde spirit is not confined to the digital realm but extends its reach to the hearts and minds of those grappling with real-world issues.

The Necessity of Empathy-driven Art

Cultural empathy serves as the bridge between glitch, crypto art, and the lived experiences of ordinary people. It involves a deep understanding of diverse cultures, societal struggles, and the interconnectedness of the human experience. DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti inherently possessed this cultural empathetic edge, as they were rooted in the everyday experiences of marginalised communities. Glitch and crypto art must consciously strive to infuse this empathetic edge into their narratives, ensuring that their revolutionary potential is not limited to the digital sphere but resonates with the pulse of society.

The transformative potential of glitch and crypto art lies in their ability to merge technological innovation with empathy-driven narratives. By acknowledging the struggles, inequalities, and political contexts faced by common people, these art forms can become catalysts for societal transformation. Just as DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti were vehicles for expressing the need for social and political reforms, glitch and crypto art can transcend their current limitations and become agents of positive change.

Technology, when harnessed with a cultural empathetic edge, becomes one of the most effective tool for amplifying the voices of the unheard. Glitch and crypto art can transcend the limitations of their digital platforms and address real-world issues by leveraging technology to create connections, foster understanding, and drive societal change.

We’re fine., Patrick Amadon, 2023, via https://superrare.com/patrickamadon, CC0 License

A Call to Action for Artistic Evolution

In conclusion, glitch and crypto art stand at a crossroads where they can choose to remain immersed in the intricacies of web3 technology or evolve into powerful vehicles for societal transformation. Acknowledging the missed empathetic edge is not a critique but an invitation to expand the narrative. By embracing a cultural empathetic edge, glitch and crypto art can revolutionise artistic expression, creating a legacy that resonates not only in the digital realm but also in the hearts and minds of those yearning for social change. The avant-garde spirit, when guided by empathy, has the potential to shape a new era of art that is not only innovative but deeply connected to the human experience.

SOLD!, KUNTA THE BLEU PEPE, 2024, Author Created Art, via https://manifold.xyz/, License CC0

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KUNTA THE BLeU PEPE

Self-Taught Artist | Freedom Activist | Human-Centered Designer and Researcher