Robness is a pioneering NFT artist with a rich history in the digital art space. He was one of the first to adopt the counterparty protocol and has been creating unique and innovative pieces long before the term “NFT” even existed. His passion for art began at a young age, when he purchased a music album solely because of its captivating cover art, created by none other than Andy Warhol. This sparked a lifelong journey of exploration and experimentation in the art world, including a brief ban on his work on the platform SuperRare. One of his most notable works, “64 GALLON TOTER,” has even gone on to inspire a new movement in the crypto art world, known as #trashart.
NFT Granny: “Dear Robness, thank you so much for your time. You are one of the first crypto artists in the world. Could you tell me about the beginning? Which art style was minted as NFT back then? Who were the other first movers? How did you communicate with each other? How was the spirit?”
Robness: My crypto Art beginnings began on the counterparty protocol. The protocol is still in use today, although not as popular as Ethereum these days. I was BETA Testing two games in the early days. One is called “Spells of Genesis”, and another is called “Sarutobi”. Both games were the first to use blockchain game item NFTs and were way ahead of their time.
After a while, I stumbled onto a “Rarepepe” asset on the counterparty exchange and investigated what it was. It turns out there was a telegram with a few like-minded individuals, and we began minting “Dank Memes” and were obsessed with preserving them as NFTs on the Bitcoin Blockchain. The telegram grew into a worldwide network of artists, being one of the actual civilian and decentralized art groups in the space. We grew to about 1.600 People strong with artists around the world.
My beginnings started with simply crafting memes, but when the “Galery phase” of Crypto Art happened, with Superrare and KnowOrigin in 2019, I had an outlet to do more personal works, which were very influenced by the vaporwave music community at the time.
What I call the “Origin family” is the first tribe of Crypto Artists from the Gallery era…For example, Xcopy, Coldie, Max Osiris, Trevor Jones, Robbie Barrat, Jivinci, Miss al Simpson, Oficinastk, Mattiac and myself etc.
These were the Crypto Artists created when the concept of Whales/Collectors was non-existing.
Twitter combined with the Opensea Marketplace was our tried and true communication style and remains that way today.
Twitter has been a crypto native social media platform since 2014, and it was only natural for the crypto Art / NFT world to bootstrap right alongside it. Back then, the spirit was faithful to the ethos, and we all wanted to prove to the world that we could spend some of the controls of the art world. I believe we succeeded in some regard.
How did you first become interested in art, and how did you get started with it yourself?
Robness: I became interested in art through a sort of symbiotic process, being fascinated with music and being a musician in my younger years. When I was 12, I remember at a record store, and I had no hesitation in buying the Velvet Underground & Nico album because of the infamous banana on the cover. After taking it home, I realized it was an Andy Warhol work and that he produced the album’s aesthetics. This was indeed my first sleeper hit introduction to the fine art world through the most unusual of artistic transmissions. After this, I always paid attention to album covers, who did the art and who was behind specific creative directions as well.
Could you tell us more about the story of your Project “TechnOrigami Blockchain Fine Art Gallery テクノ折り紙”?
Robness: This was when fellow artist Max Osiris and I were regrouping from being removed from crypto art gallery Superrare for breaking terms of service by releasing copyrighted material.
That’s a whole other story, but we had to begin using other minting platforms because of this situation.
We began to use Rarible.com, which of course at the time was considered a ‘cheap’ minting platform and as a joke we thought it would be funny to kind of use and abuse it. In turn, it gave us a lot of artistic freedom, gone were the questions of citing our works and what type of material we were putting forth. This gave rise to my ‘Technorigami’ series, one of the first fine art collectables developed explicitly for the Rarible.com platform.
I say developed because I noticed that the aesthetics of the platform lent to making what I thought of at the time as some sort of true NFT collectable. I’m not sure if it was the ‘feel’ of the platform or how it was designed, but I remember joking with Max that this would be huge in Japan one day.
Which of your artworks are you most proud of?
Robness: Currently, I would have to say the ‘64 Gallon Toter,’ the piece that got me removed and de-whitelisted from Superrare. I say this because the work, through the last couple of years, has started an entire crypto art movement (#trashart), and to date, the whole NFT space is full of remixes and homages to the said piece in question. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see new trash can work that refers to the original piece. Artists from all over the world, on almost every continent, have done some sort of work about it. It amazes me, and I am humbled, genuinely proud of it as it stands.
Is there an artist you would like to work with? Like a collaboration?
Robness: Most of the crypto art space has seen artist Murat Pak and me as rivals with very differing opinions. Of course, I am not guilty of being adversarial on some outlooks on where the NFT/Crypto art space should be heading, and we’ve had our disagreements. I do think that a collaboration like that would be interesting and controversial.
We are curious 🙂 Would you be willing to share any plans of upcoming projects?
Robness: As far as plans, I would share them. However, I usually am very quick on the draw with where my creative output goes and sometimes I will move quickly and declare it on the day of. Most in the space are aware that I consistently change styles, so it’s usually expected of me to announce and then quickly deploy. My new series at the moment is delving into abstracts that have 3D, glitch, and ‘Trash .gif’ (Photomosh) elements all used together. Reception has been great thus far, and I have donated a piece to MOCA (Museum of Crypto art) for an upcoming show in Paris this month!
Who or what are your biggest influences or sources of inspiration?
Robness: This is an excellent question because I actually now have an answer after all of these years in the crypto art space. I’ve found that my best sources of inspiration are usually quick and reactionary, filled with emotion to express quickly. My most notable works, including the ‘64 Gallon Toter’ and burning a cryptopunk, were filled with either rage or an absolute distaste for some sort of establishmentarianism sprout ups I would see in the space that I deemed necessary sacred.
Is there something specific you are trying to express with your art?
Robness: Love it or hate it, cry or yell at it, be in awe or in utter distaste by it. The main goal is to express my true self, and I feel that the most adverse reactions to my work are closer to the truth than works fleeting to a wandering eye.
What do you feel when you are creating new art?
Robness: I feel youthful energy every single time. That’s how I know I’m on the right track. It’s usually there when I find a new technique or a combination of them, which is producing something that I haven’t seen before, maybe some others have, but it is a new journey. That venturing into the unknown and seeing what pops out on the other end is the magic.
Do you remember the first time you heard about NFT Art?
Robness: I’m so ancient in this space I predate the term NFT! I love saying this, but yes, I am proud to say that I and some other meme nerds on the internet were at the birth stages of this beautiful new renaissance, and it’s been an absolute blessing to witness. If I share something funny, I will say the first time I heard the term ‘NFT’ was when the cryptopunk project was created. I feel the very sparing crypto news cycles needed a punchy term and out popped ‘NFT.’
How do you enjoy the NFT Art you have collected? Do you have a way to display it for example at home?
Robness: While thinking about the answer, I have a Netgear Meural canvas behind me with all of the artwork I’ve either created or collected on a huge playlist! I can’t wait until everyone begins to enjoy having digital artwork ‘playlists’ in their houses, conversing on what artworks they’ve collected and having it enrich their lives. Just like walking into somebody’s house and inquiring about their music/vinyl collections, people will also be asking about their digital art that will be ‘playing’ on their walls.
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?
Robness: Quite simply, we need more writers to document the unfolding changes and movements that occur in the crypto art scene. So many beautiful events have already occurred and the drama as well!
We would really like to know, where do you see the NFT Art scene in the future?
Robness: The NFT Art scene will be as vast as the music industry is. Instead of only a handful of artists getting chosen as some sort of winner by old auction houses or galleries, we will have that construct wholly shattered, and the roster of digital artists worldwide will be immense. The entire world will have an art school crash course, and I, for one, can’t wait to see this.
Which tools do you use to create your art?
Robness: Photoshop, After Effects, offbeat phone apps, Blender, Photomosh, Google Search(ripping photos for collages), Generative Adversarial Networks (A.I.), Twitter (for performance art), Opensea, and sometimes I will try and use the blockchain itself as a medium. It is a timestamp and event record keeper, after all.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Robness: It’s only failure if you quit.
Is there something aside from art or NFTs you collect?
Robness: I collect vinyl records from time to time.
What do you feel the moment a project you’ve created dropped?
Robness: I feel relieved that I got out of my previous art blockages and finally produced again!
Where do you like to travel?
Robness: Currently, my last trip to Tokyo was absolutely amazing.
- Full Name: Robness
- Date of Birth: 25th of February 1983
- Current hometown: Culver City, CA, USA
- Languages he speaks: English
- What did you want to be when you were a child: Rock Star
- Education: High School, only did one semester of college then dropped out.
- First Job: Mercedes Benz car porter