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Insert Crypto to Play

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  December 8, 2019

Artist Description: An Arcade Crypto Pop piece made for the XERO gallery intended for charitable causes.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Ah, ROBNESS. Where to begin with the Clown Prince of Trash Art? There’s really no way to spend substantial time discussing ROBNESS’ individual pieces without discussing the character himself, his style and his influence. That’s because the works are oftentimes so momentary and reactionary as to appear aesthetically unimpressive. This is generally not dense and technically intricate work. But that’s okay, art of that type isn’t really ROBNESS’ arena. ROBNESS is a conceptual artist, or at least has become one in hindsight. I’ve talked at some length about Trash Art in other artwork analyses, so I’ll spare us here more than the broad strokes, but ROBNESS’ specific kind of Trash Art is special; it isn’t just relegated to the momentary, it’s almost conversational. He responds to comments from collectors. He responds to individuals and institutions. His work, as sprawling as any crypto artist and across every single crypto art hub, is indelibly tied to certain moments and interactions. I suppose you could say his works live on-chain, connected to the people and places from which grew the inspiration for his pieces.

Insert Crypto to Play is actually a rarity among ROBNESS’ collection. It is, itself, responding to the crypto market in general, not to a specific occurrence. It has neither glint nor glisten of glitch styling, and does not make use of lowbrow Photomosh graphics. It is among the rare ROBNESS’ which are calm. It is among the rare ROBNESS’ which have a meaning that is not linked specifically and conservatively to a given moment. Insert Crypto to Play is, unmistakably, a rare ROBNESS. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less potent or reactionary. And like all of ROBNESS’ pieces, one might have to dig a little bit to see what was happening at that moment in time to spur its creation. 

ROBNESS helps us out with this piece, saying in the Artist Description “An Arcade Crypto Pop piece made for the XERO gallery intended for charitable causes.” The XERO gallery, opened and operated by glitch superstar and OG crypto artist XCOPY, exclusively raised money for charity through the sale of crypto art pieces. It also hasn’t been heard from in almost two years preceding this writing. Insert Crypto to Play itself was created in December of 2019, well before the crypto art boom and when the price of Bitcoin was at a paltry $7,000. If any future civilizations should be reading this, the entire crypto world seems to be ending at the moment (bear market) and Bitcoin is holding a value of roughly $24,000. But back then, the current ecosystem of mega billionaires and crypto hedge funds had not yet really solidified, especially not within the still burgeoning world of crypto art, and yet ROBNESS put Insert Crypto to Play into the world and prophesied the feelings of financial superiority or gatekeeping that would plague the crypto art space to come, things which —and this is gleaned from formal interviews  with ROBNESS— the artist could never just sit idly by and watch.

Within the simple black and orange composition of the piece —styled after a video-arcade poster, “Insert 25c to play,”— is a rather savage attack on crypto art superciliousness. The crux of this piece is, of course, the Bitcoin logo beside the “25,” an implication that, just as a child would need to put 25 cents into the machine to play a round of Pac-Man, crypto investors would need something in the ballpark of $175,000 (at the time) in order to get a turn playing within this world. ROBNESS has long been critical of collector culture as well as crypto influencer culture, two related subcultures which have definitely put a focus on finances, money-making, and investment strategies over the crypto art of it all. Despite the low-brow aesthetics of many of his pieces, ROBNESS is all about the art, channeling Duchamp’s famous Fountain (the upside-down urinal, ensign of the “everything is art” mentality) in his every piece, blurring the lines between traditional high-effort artistry and low-effort work, meme culture nods, and simply putting a filter over a picture of a trash can.

To fully appreciate ROBNESS’ work, it’s necessary that we put aside any preconceptions we have about artistry and just say, “Yes, this is art, now lead me wherever it is you want to lead me.” In the case of Insert Crypto to Play, that seems to be a takedown of cocksure crypto personalities (for charity!). It also reflects how a lot of wealthy and powerful individuals within the space either see crypto or encourage others to see crypto. ROBNESS has long championed the multifarious uses of the blockchain, but Insert Crypto to Play denigrates those who use the crypto arena as if it were a casino, placing bets and making gambles and existing here merely to collect their winnings, make a buck, and worry not about the implications of the technology nor the communities built within its cocoon. To gamify cryptocurrency, and NFTs especially, has led to serious pain not just for individuals but for the crypto art world as a whole, especially looking back from our perch in 2022, when so many digital artists and graphic designers have flocked to the space as a place to make adequate money for their talents in a marketplace that values their skills. To treat it like a gambling hall —blowing cigarette smoke in the dealer’s face, ordering the waitress around— is to disrespect not just the institution of blockchain itself, but the very sincere, very relieved masses who have found higher companionship in the crypto art world. Unfortunately, we don’t have pit bosses here to deal with such activity. Fortunately, we do have ROBNESS. 

Perhaps ROBNESS is criticizing this class of person, or perhaps he’s fed up, consciously raising the bar for entry. “You better have the goods if you want to come in here,” he seems to say to the gambler. “Make your time here worth our while.” From that perspective, Insert Crypto to Play isn’t just a criticism, it’s a command. It’s a warning. For charity! 

sloanf.eth has reacted to this post.

Beautifully written Max!

I think this piece is stunning alongside ROBNESS' other works in how starkly it stands out in it's simplicity. This is definitely by design and the low-resolution or glitch overlay pays a nice little homage to ROBNESS' other works.

I agree with the message you get about how the piece is a warning about treating crypto and NFTs as gambling. Additionally, I think this piece has a playful and inspiring message as well with the use of the classic coin slot design. This usage of such an iconic symbol really shows an example of what gaming and user engagement in the crypto space should be all about, having fun and making a purchase to get some enjoyment out of. This is a stark difference from the gambling hall win flippers who use gaming as a tool to receive a monetary benefit. What someone would "get" out of this piece is also that sense of enjoyment in which they are helping out a charitable cause!

CohentheWriter has reacted to this post.

"Fun" is totally the key-word. That kind of playfulness is what I think most attracts me to ROBNESS' work. Such devil-may-care, I'm-going-to-do-whatever-I-want joy.

Aah Robness ... We can write books about that one can't we 😉
I must admit, it took me a while to adapt to the "trash-art" movement since in the very beginning when I entered the NFT zone, for a long while I thought very little of it.

But after wading through many "my caps lock is jammed" UN-IGNORABLE ROBNESS SHOUTS on my twitter wall and browsing rarible in the earlier of days ( beginning 2020 ) it started to dawn on me that some trash artists truly take it a bit further than just smashing collages together and walking way beyond the 'first base' of what an art visitor might be looking for.

So a couple years ago I invited Sir ROBNESS into one of the group exhibitions I was organizing in Somnium Space VR back then ( to which he agreed ) and from that point on my love to the true trash-artist had begun.
My eyes were opened and the messages behind the many concoctions started to come through.

These days I'm very much honored to have been welcomed in the NFT movement and looking forward with great enthusiasm to see the MOCA, trash-art, crypto-art and many other genres live on in an unlimited, interoperable and uncensorable metaverse.
One where messagers like ROBNESS absolutely have a voice to be heard.

CohentheWriter has reacted to this post.
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