Interview with Anna Dart by Art Talk Magazine, 2022
1 - Tell us about yourself.
Hello everyone. Delighted to be at The Art Talk Magazine.
I’m Anna Dart. I am a multidisciplinary artist working at the intersection of innovation focused on cultural preservation, and ecological and social sustainability. I am a guest artist at the tech couture house The Fabricant and Gaudí´s ambassador. In 2022 I was nominated as the Best Traditional Artist turned NFT artist at NFT.NYC Global Awards next to Trevor Jones and Takashi Murakami and became the Winner of Claire Silver's first AI Art Contest. I am also a co-founder of Exquisite Workers since 2020 promoting conciliation between new-gen tech and culture through the best surrealist practices. With hundreds of artists, Exquisite Workers co-creates the largest shared digital artwork of all times, the artistic representation of the blockchain, inspired by Surrealists. Exquisite Workers is the first to exhibit NFTs in the iconic Burj Park, Dubai at the Alternative Reality show, and the United Nations.
2 - What brought you to art?
Since a young age, I have been practicing traditional and digital art. Nonetheless, professionally speaking, it all started in 2012 when I began showcasing around the world. Over the last 10 years, I have been working on cross-pollinating the disciplines of visual and performing arts, fashion, high-tech, and artists' collaborations to explore the place of human emotions and memory in the challenging process of global virtualization. With the power of Blockchain and machine learning, we can make exciting encounters between the creators, art styles, and events from different places and times and bring the best of cultural heritage in the Metaverse. I am interested in two things here: What can we do to be better ancestors and give the human dimension to our virtual “tomorrow”? What would the great Surrealists have created if they had experienced virtual realities?
3 - Where do you find your inspiration?
As the great masters used to dive into different art styles, now we have an opportunity to use different mediums for self-expression. AI, blockchain, and NFTs grant us incredible potential for experimentation and open the door to eternity. In this crucial moment of history, as our daily lives have become more interwoven with tech than ever before, it is up to the artists to take a step back and observe it as if we were the gatekeepers of the new consciousness driving waves of cultural change.
We are going to face lots of challenges entering the Metaverse and it is important to make a statement about what kind of future we want. Every morning I wake up and dedicate my life to awakening in people the connection to the emotions because this is what makes us receptive, empathetic, and humane and what will eventually help us steward our physical environment and keep the balance in the new era of phygital.
In times of change, we will have to challenge the status quo by developing fresh models, novel forms of collaboration, and new sources of creative thought, and the Surrealists were skilled at it. They crashed the process, jammed the timelines, experimented, and explored. The Surrealists created the Metaverse long before the term took shape.
In 2020, with award-winning Roger Haus we established Exquisite Workers, a tech spin-off of the Surrealist’s “Exquisite Corpses”, showcased on Instagram. In the last two years, we received over 2,700 drawings from this digital collaborative project which make the perfectly interconnected neverending sequence of images. From this, we gradually created and minted across different marketplaces a highly curated series that became the mirror of the unique moment we live in.
Exquisite Workers is a hub for the cultivation of the next generation of innovators, to celebrate their artistry and voices shaping new understandings in pursuit of a better, more just world. Interestingly, nearly 95% of our artists had never worked with NFTs beforehand. We are creators for creators, creating a space of opportunities.
4 - Exquisite Corpse as a game goes back a long way! Can you share what it is, and how you have put a spin on it??
Since digital media is the predominant way of communication, it is essential to express the best art traditions and what it means to be a modern-day person with a digital vocabulary. At Exquisite Workers we referred to a timeless “Exquisite Corpse” game whose name is derived from a phrase composed when the Surrealists first played it: "Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau." ("The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine."). Among the Surrealists who played the game are André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Valentine Hugo, Yves Tanguy, Frida Kahlo, Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara.
The exercise of “Exquisite Corpse” consists of drawing sections of a body taking turns and then concealing each contribution, starting from the head, then passing to a torso, and so on, without knowing what the previous part looked like. The way they did it was by using sheets of paper leaving marks on the border of images before passing them to the next player. We do this by using the Instagram grid as a reference and unifying the pieces by the colour palette selected by an invited artist each month.
We fully adopt the surrealist technique, since in no other movement, from Romanticism to Futurism, we may produce together with the favor of luck that sort of fugitive works, possessing such a profound meaning and allowing our artists to project a shared ideal and setting the criteria of the convulsive beauty we search to express.
On April 6 2020 we initiated the first digital Exquisite Corpse on @exquisiteworkers with artists of 2 up to 94 years of age from over 50 countries. May 1 2021 was the beginning moment of a 12-month imaginary interstellar journey under the hashtag #NFTTOSTAY, aiming to support creators, the Global Sustainable Goals and remember the greatest Surrealists. The background of the NFT edition is black which refers to space exploration and makes it recognizable.
Although the artists strictly follow the rules, the drawings' continuous figures in the shape of a snake always culminate in unpredictable micro verses which are ultimately a single object, in which one piece would not exist without another one. This motivates the collectors to create their own collection and create their exclusive “Corpse” by matching their favorite pieces from 12 editions.
The snake is known as one of the oldest and most widespread mythological symbols. There are infinite amounts of references to the snake in literature and art, folk and fairy tale traditions. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, the “Exquisite Corpse” is indeed a symbol of transformation, rebirth, and creative force.
Our digital and crypto version of the “Corpse” became the longest-breathing piece of art and the biggest library of Surrealism in the Metaverse. It is also a space to make a creative exchange and to heal from the trauma of a pandemic through the positive experience of a game, so important while we are shifting from analogue to cyber-human.
If you have our Website or Instagram page in front of your eyes, I invite you to make a zoom out. Each artwork here is an intimate world of an artist communicated in their unique style. It is also a part of a much bigger perfectly orchestrated artwork that is ever-growing since 2020. It is also a piece of the story of Surrealism and takes us back to 1925.
The Exquisite Corpse reminds us that every step we take adds up. It is the perfect representation of life itself. There is nothing more powerful than the visualization of interconnected blocks in one chain and how they build the future, like the steps of a monumental staircase, always moving forward, yet in the most unexpected ways. “Exquisite Corpse” game is here to meet the universal longing of experiencing the sublime.
5 - How would you like your art to affect the viewer? Any new projects to share?
I am focused on triggering liberating experiences and active positive engagement. My recent project is the collaboration with the female-focused community World of Women and with the decentralized digital fashion house The Fabricant, which builds a new collaborative, sustainable, and more equitable ground for the Fashion and Art Industries. The Fabricant creates fashion for the future which in addition to being body-, gender-inclusive, three dimensional, and eco-friendly, provides limitless possibilities for self-discovery and invention.
As any fashion garment has style, materials, colours, the e-garments are not the exception. For The Fabricant Studio I have created several material designs based on the traditional art forever externalizing my colours in digital dresses. I regarded this opportunity as a chance to break free from the constraints of normality as virtual clothing is created from the most fantastic materials.
For the digital fabric, I picked up the airy “Turn” painting from the ethereal collection on canvas “The Verb I am” first exhibited in Barcelona in the home of eco-fashion “Friday´s Project” and interpreted by Lydia Ayllón and Jaume Viñas in a live performance. “Turn” takes you into depths of imagination and Barcelona melting architecture, and fills the world with vibrant colours and warmth of the Mediterranean sea.
Second is the acrylic collection “Detachment, fall in love again with everything” with a bold, saturated, and vivid mood. Hypnotic “My Life is a Circus” canvas captures the magnificence of human nature in dynamic abstraction. "My Life is a Circus" digital fabric is made to open the senses to the opportunities to break through each day.
In a span of 3 days at The Fabricant Studio the participants had a chance to choose between 24 colours, 20 materials, 27 looks, their unique combination and customize their master dress. Everything has happened online in real time: out of possible 300K variations, 2665 have been picked. The collection now is closed and is limited to an edition of one making the items scarce and highly valuable. With our contribution at Exquisite Workers we wanted to exhale the extraordinary and I am so pleased that my fabric designs have been chosen 555 times making them the most popular in Season #2.
Like beautiful roses, now these exceptional collaborative digital dresses have opened their petals to shine to the world. 10% of the primary sale revenue will be donated to a charity that supports women.
6 - You have now also started working with A.I. and art. This is a very controversial topic, from whether it will replace artists, to the deeper question of is there such a thing as Artificial Intelligence or is it just Artificial Copying and Mimicking. What do you think??
We are standing on the edge of a new era with AI being a grand invention as photography or even writing centuries ago. Every time an artist collaborates with AI, we tap into a higher level of intelligence and find ultimate understandings through shared neural networks. Free, nonjudgmental, and unpredictable as watercolour and unbounded as space, AI helps us expand the imagination, create in a very pure way and focus on the concept, experimentation, and curation.
AI-Collaborative art is indeed a healing experience that goes hand in hand with NFT technology. We are digitally reimagining ourselves, with AI we will see fewer people getting distracted by negativity and self-obsession, and more people choosing authenticity and admiration towards themselves and the world.
Blockchain and AI will question how mindful we are. Just like in life, one word can change the outcomes, the person can stay or leave forever. Introducing the prompts to the AI and reintroducing them - changing the letters in capitals and adding several commas for instance - can shift things with no way back.
In early 2021 I discovered Jenni Pasanen who I invited to join the “Exquisite Corpse” co-creation fascinated by her exceptional AI-Assisted art combined with hand-made digital painting. It was a fantastical Tiger illustration for the Mars Edition titled “Roarwave” #300, Jenni´s first NFT on Ethereum. I learned from her that AI art is really about collaboration with the mind of the machine.
AI grants us a fascinating multiverse of options through the accessible no-code tech and lets the barriers to entry for becoming an artist vanish for the lack of technical skills. However, after working with AI for several months full-time I can say that it requires a great amount of curation and post-production to get the desirable aesthetics.
What I do is integrate the machine's final output within my existing creative process. I also sharpen the prompt engineering skills to achieve my magic recipe. While technology is changing at the speed of light, my very personal “poetry” will stay the same, and I will be able to come back to it as if it was a good old book that always surprises me.
Recently my AI-Collaborative piece "Fu Mar AI" 2022 became a winning entry at the First AI Art Contest among 1753 art submissions organized by a pioneer in generative art Claire Silver. This highly meticulous work is about enduring love and its power to encore us in external chaos. There is a contrast between the old love and realness and the new solitude and alienation the virtual world brings, represented by the watercolour core and multilayered intricate roots generated by AI.
“Fu Mar” is one of the most emblematic watercolour works created in 2012 which went viral across social media. It was inspired by JamArt Photography and exhibited in Victor Lope Gallery, Barcelona, Spain in 2013. In “Fu Mar AI” myself from the past meets my future version expressed through collective intelligence whose truth is spoken by an all-knowing mastermind of AI. This inventive piece speaks in a new global language and is a symbol of the reconciliation of the human condition and AI. It is to be released on SuperRare marketplace as a non-fungible token.
The choice of color perfectly represents my vision of the decentralized future. Ushering in an always-online era, we have the opportunity to create the extension of the physical reality which is warmhearted, accessible, beneficial, and collaborative. Gray as a space where everything is possible is the color of choice, inclusivity, autonomy, and self-empowerment. It is empathetic, noble, non-judgmental, and fluid and fulfills the craving for sophistication.
7 - How do you see the part art plays in the world? Its role?
I am inspired by those artists who revolutionized human experience and influenced the way we see the world today, such as Gaudí. His masterful work, denied by the people of his time, is greatly appreciated nowadays. In the early 20th century Gaudí's world, like ours, was developing fast and unpredictably. As we delve into the always-online era, Gaudí grappled with the transition from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles living in the new industrial landscape. The challenge in both realms is the same: how to move with the times and manage the unknown.
Gaudí teaches us that art should be passionate and disruptive and created with people in heart and mind. It is a communication of a human with a human beyond time. There is nothing better than being comprehended, if not now, but sometime somewhere. There is nothing better than doing each of us our labor the best way we can. This is the path to making the world a better place.
Today I am delighted that the wonders of virtuality transform my colours into the architecture of a more just and healthy reality for the generations to come, and that I can continue imagining Gaudí´s world in the limitless spectrum of innovation.
8 - if you had to choose one book, one song, and one piece of art, what would they be?
The book is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953). Any song from “El Mar Querer” album by Rosalía (2018) is interesting to explore. And the one piece of art is the co-created across millennia La Sagrada Familia by Gaudí (est. 1883).
Thanks to The Art Talk Magazine for these great questions. I hope more of The Art Talk Magazine readers will be inspired to participate in this history-making moment with awareness, excitement and a sense of global connectedness.
Anna Dart is an artist, curator, and dreamer. She dreams of a future that belongs to the artists, which is warmhearted, beneficial, and fair to all people. The future in which we gracefully connect the past, present, and future. Anna Dart dreams of a Metaverse. “One day without a painting is a day without a date”, - she made this statement in 2012. Today her canvas is a Digital Dress. And her colors fulfill the virtual reality with the magic of Gaudí and Surrealism. Surrealism as a concept came to prominence in the 1920s when the world, like ours, was developing unpredictably fast and was facing the unknown. In 2020 Roger Haus and Anna Dart founded Exquisite Workers. They ask: “what would the Surrealists have created if they shared the experience of virtual realities?” They established the dialogue with the genius masters and hundreds of modern-day Surrealists in a form of NFTs to create the longest-existing piece of digital art. Their work is a communication of a human with a human beyond time.