Traditionally, trash art simply referred to art created from recycled materials. But, with the crypto art movement in the digital realm, trash art has taken a different meaning and has become a social movement in itself.
In the crypto art space, artists create trash art using existing digital images. The trash art movement questions the status quo and aims to prove that art can be created using anything. Most importantly, it asks some crucial questions: What is art? Who decides what is art and what is not? Are only carefully crafted pieces, worked on for a long time, art? Is something not art if it deviates from the norms?
Let’s dive deep into the movement and its origins.
The beginning of the trash art movement in crypto art
In the crypto art world, trash art was started as a joke to create art in a lazy way. Essentially, this means that artists would create simple artworks in no time. Often, they used apps like PhotoMosh, where you can transform images into glitchy pieces in a few easy steps.
The trash art movement gained momentum when crypto artist Robness was suspended from NFT marketplace SuperRare for his “Trash GIF” NFT called “64 Gallon Toter“. While most NFT marketplaces like OpenSea or Rarible don’t have a curation process, that’s not the case with SuperRare. The platform, SuperRare CEO John Crain told Cointelegraph, features artworks that are “original & created by the artist”.
Robness’ piece, however, did not fit the bill. 64 Gallon Toter was a re-imagined version of the Home Depot’s stock image of a trash bin, and hence, not “original” by the marketplace’s standards.
The trash art rebellion
Robness himself had created his Trash GIFs as “a type of expression.” “I would joke, if you don’t make it in under 5 minutes, it’s not a Trash GIF,” he told Cointelegraph.
“So I was having fun with it,” he added. “It was like punk rock, you know, I can make a song in under five minutes. It’s the same kind of concept.”
However, his suspension created an uproar in the trash art community. The trash can became a symbol of rebellion, with many artists creating trash art modelled on it. Soon, trash can NFTs of all types flooded the NFT market.
A notable NFT born out of this rebellion is Kamisama’s trash can wearable in Cryptovoxels. As a wearable, owners can use the artwork to roam around the Cryptovoxels metaverse. CryptoYuna, meanwhile, created “Illegal TRASH quarantined” as a humorous take on the whole controversy.
Trash art and copyrights issues
Trash art centres around “remixing” existing content to create new works. While this isn’t exactly copying another work, many – including curated platforms and collectors – were not pleased with it. NFT collector and Avastars’ creator j1mmy.eth, for instance, initially felt like artists were simply throwing “shitty tokens” on marketplaces like SuperRare, Rarible, and KnownOrigin.
“As a collector, it pissed me off at the time because I felt like it was devaluing my other tokens, and I also felt like it wasn’t art,” he was quoted by The Outer Realm. However, eventually, he came to accept these as a “beautiful form of art”.
On the other hand, some view trash art as just a quick means to make money. Furthermore, remixes come with many copyright issues and complaints, leading to artists’ suspension.
For instance, artist Max Osiris was banned from Foundation after another artist criticized his “Low Effort NFT”. The NFT features the artist’s desk on which he has written “low effort NFT”. He sold it for 1 ETH.
Similarly, Crypto Tonya’s BTC Bitch Remix #1 was taken off Rarible after Miss Al Simpson challenged the piece on Twitter.
Controversy and debate
The debate surrounding what’s art and what’s not has been around for aeons. Artist Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 piece “Fountain” featuring a urinal is a prime example of this. While Duchamp submitted the work to the Society of Independent Artists, it did not exhibit the piece stating that it was not art.
Currently, the same debate is ensuing in the crypto art world with the trash art movement. With collectors, NFT platforms, and even some artists gatekeeping, trash artists are facing not just criticism, but suspension from major platforms.
The weight of crypto art collectors and NFT whales
According to Robness, the crypto art movement started facing legal issues when some artists began copying art and making it into NFTs. Thus, NFT marketplaces started “policing” artists on the platform.
Furthermore, art collectors and NFT whales (individuals who hold large amounts of a particular digital asset) have a big impact on the platform revenues and can influence decisions on NFT marketplaces.
Robness stated that the collectors are influencing even curation on the platforms. One collector, for instance, had Osiris removed from KnownOrigin after they threatened to stop buying from it. The artist thus noted that the platforms should be “protecting” artists instead of “watching out for the collectors.”
Ultimately, trash art is questioning the gatekeeping that is rampant in the art world. As blockchain revolutionises digital art, the trash art movement is questioning the traditional notions of art and forcing us to look beyond it. Today, the trash art movement has a dedicated trash art museum in CryptoVoxels called $TRSH gallery. While the movement has developed a large following in the crypto art community, it still has a long way to go.
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