Barabeke’s first imprinting with art was in his cradle. Above his head, there was a giant reproduction of Leonardo’s cartoon, the one hosted at the National Gallery in London. As a child, Barabeke has memories of staring at this artwork, which is still one of his favourites. When it comes to Barabeke’s artwork, the one he is most proud of is his version of the Earlier Mona Lisa (previously known as Isleworth Mona Lisa). It was his first “proper” transfiguration, a point of arrival and a new beginning. It’s the only one of his artwork he has bothered printing and sticking to a wall.
NFT Granny: “Dear Barabeke, many thanks for taking your precious time to answer my question. After browsing through your art pieces, I wonder who or what your biggest influences or sources of inspiration are?”
Barabeke: Thanks for your interest in me and my art. In my top influencers list: I’d put Da Vinci, Bosch, Basquiat, Andy Kaufman, Monty Python, Jung, Joseph Campbell, Jodorowsky, Ram Dass, Allen Ginsberg, Ezra Pound, Cervantes, Melville, Mirra Alfassa, Jesus, Buddha, and The Beatles.
I don’t want to sound too intellectual. I am also into trash, such as Italian B-movies of the 70s and 80s or edgy YouTubers, who I won’t even mention as I consider them completely amoral – but I can’t stop watching them!
How did you first become interested in art, and how did you get started with it yourself?
Barabeke: I think the first imprinting was in the cradle. Above my head, I had a giant reproduction of Leonardo’s cartoon, the one hosted at the National Gallery in London. As a child, I have memories of staring at this artwork, which is still one of my favourites. Both Freud and Jung wrote about it.
I was into photography in my teenage years, then I learned to use Photoshop, and I naturally started to create crazy stuff. People began to take me seriously, so I started to take myself seriously (although never too much). The cryptoart scene, which I was among the first ones to join, pushed me to fully embrace my artist identity and play the play I was born to play.
Can you tell us more about the story behind your project “Digital Howl”?
Barabeke: It’s my version of Munch’s “The Scream”, which I called “Howl” for my love of the homonymous poem by Ginsberg (a significant influence in my teenage years).
In my digital work, the original by Munch is repeated thousands of times. I consider it a gateway artwork, an early example of “Transfiguration” (my most successful series so far). I reinvent masterpieces of the past by using only the original artwork, as it was paint and brush at the same time).
While I was creating “Digital Howl”, I was conscious it was screaming about our times. That’s perhaps why it got a good reception, and we are still speaking about it.
Which of your artworks are you most proud of?
Barabeke: I think my version of the Earlier Mona Lisa (previously known as Isleworth Mona Lisa). It was my first “proper” transfiguration, a point of arrival and a new beginning. It’s the only work I have created that I’ve bothered printing and sticking to a wall.
Is there an artist you would like to work with? Like a collaboration?
Barabeke: I never actively looked for collabs, my bad. There are many artists I admire, but my style may not be compatible with most. I’d definitely be up for a collab with Max Osiris, Robness, Skygolpe, Gary Cartlidge, Mamadou Sow, Freakjesus, Spaced Painter, Prokopevone, just to mention those who first came to my mind. I like their work, and they are all friends (that’s crypto twitter slang for “friends”).
We are curious 🙂 Would you be willing to share any plans of upcoming projects?
Barabeke: I have a lot of simmering in my cauldron. Currently, I am featured as artist of the month at Heretique 121, an incredible summer exhibition on cryptovoxels. Those who love art that is a bit dark and eerie should visit it.
I have other exhibits/media opportunities ahead, but I try to focus on evolving my art. I am taking my transfigurations to the next level (where I should probably stop calling them that way). In my process, now I am introducing both hand drawing and AI.
I have also started to create generative art series in which I try to combine my vision with machine vision. What is Love? is a recent installation that leverages an AI (VQGAN + CLIP), providing visual answers to this eternal question. I guess many would find the way I framed this AI “stream of consciousness” puzzling or even disturbing, but I believe that’s what makes it a piece of art.
Is there something specific you are trying to express with your art?
Barabeke: Yes, the collective unconscious and all the archetypes, spirits, ghosts, and demons inhabit it. I try to evoke them from the ordinary, for example, from photos I take or images of the public domain. That is why I see photographs as mirrors, and I believe a magical world is waiting to be explored behind mirrors.
Furthermore, I also have a conceptual and ironic side. Through which I like to provoke thought and point my finger against the malaises of our time. A recent example is The skeleton underneath all this show of personality, an NFT that I released along with my critique of nowadays media.
What do you feel when you are creating new art?
Barabeke: I feel like a shaman summoning spirits or an alchemist. The creative process is gratifying for me. I’d do what I do even if nobody was interested in it. I am happy if I receive praise or sell, but the actual moment of gratification is when the work is completed.
Do you remember the first time you heard about NFT Art?
Barabeke: In early 2019, I joined the scene (which everyone was calling “crypto art”). I was already into crypto. I was – and still am – interested in its potential to build new, more humanist, societal models.
How do you enjoy the NFT Art you have collected? Do you have a way to display it, for example, at home?
Barabeke: I am a collector, but I have never really been into collecting or possession in general. I’d be okay living in a white room as long as I can do my things. I primarily collect to “reward” art and artists I like and make a profit by flipping art I believe in for a higher price. I love to see talent in others and help them a bit on their path for what I can. It’s a natural inclination I have.
What would be your biggest wish for the NFT Art scene? What is currently missing / not fully developed to reach full potential out of it?
Barabeke: Less corporate and celebrity power. Following the smell of money, they have colonised a space that is supposed to be for avant-gardes, dreamers, innovators, rebels. A new counter-culture could arise from crypto, but it’s painful to see it becoming an additional space for homologation to the ignorant, divisive, and increasingly oppressive culture pushed by Western media.
I have been affected by it. If you don’t conform to the dominant narrative, or worse, if you dare to criticise it openly, many doors will close (but I believe more will open in the long run). People may agree with me, but they are afraid to touch anything vaguely controversial in public. I guess it’s an old story; many of the artists we celebrate today had to clash with the conventions and the insanities of their time and have been marginalised or even persecuted. At least today, thanks to crypto, they can’t shut me down completely. I can keep cultivating my little self-sovereign Bottega without having to bow to shallow people.
We would really like to know, where do you see the NFT Art scene in the future?
Barabeke: After a first “generalist” stage, we will see curation rising in importance to help people navigate the current chaos and find gems. We will see the rise of metaverses, where like-minded people can virtually meet and thrive and build things together. I hope to see more culture arising and less dominance of commercialism. We all want to sell, but that can’t be the only horizon.
Please describe your idea of a perfect world in max. 5 sentences
Barabeke: There can’t be a perfect world. We would always find problems with it. Today, we live in the most prosperous, free, and rich in opportunities world ever, and people seem to be more divided and unhappy than in wartime. Humans have an innate inclination for drama, exacerbated by the poisonous influence of media. But if all followed my ten commandments for the digital millennium, we would definitely get to a better place, both individually and collectively.
- Current hometown: Italy
- Languages she speaks: English, Italian, Spanish