I was collaborating with a couple of different artists I met through discord or twitter who both had a lot more clout than me, Latent Dream and Mueo Art. Working with their art, two small bits of lore made themselves up in my mind: an arcade machine possessed by “Zeus” (recalling the Matic Daemons) and gates to the underworld like they supposedly have in New Orleans voodoo. I had a dream one night in the midst of working with Latent Dream where I had to rescue a kid from these kind of gates underground in Chicago. So I wondered and searched about different gates to the underworld people believed in or shared superstitions about, and then combined that concept with some of the flavor of Santeria (just to make it distinct from flat-out copying the voodoo concepts). Santeria is a “syncretic” religion that, in my estimation, plays some of the same kinds of games that gnostics and hermeticism plays with symbolism and combining identities. That is, in Santeria you have to appease the Orisha – and combining the idea of the seven gates and the Orisha meant just kind of riffing on that idea. Alan Moore’s Promethea was really interesting to me when I was younger, and so an artistic flight of fancy on occult themes didn’t seem as dark and moody as some people like to make it. So two collaborations were created – “zeus_sentient_arcade” with Mueo Art and “first_gate_of_chicago_oya” with Latent Dream fit kind of a new theme that had a lot more drawn splashes and energy coming out of them.
In some of the later forms this series took on, there were references to drug culture or just general high-energy nightlife type things. I think it’s always been kind of a perpetual failure to communicate when the supposedly more mature advisors of young people pretend that drugs aren’t fun or exhilarating or whatever even if they cause things like addiction or reduced dopamine uptake or whatever. Being dishonest about it just means that you don’t really believe young people will choose more lasting pleasures or resist temptations that lead to destructive hedonism. For the sake of the art – these pieces aren’t so much singing the praises of drug abuse as they are trying to aesthetically stimulate some of those same neural pathways: fast burn, exhilaration, speed: people who like to listen to club music in the comfort of their own home, people who like the idea of violence and danger more than the reality of it. Why not? We tell stories about all kinds of things we might shrink away from actually doing, but drug abuse is still one of those grey taboo areas.
The choose_the_pill series from Makersplace is about this uncomfortable area of sentiment. I still get excited about it from time to time. The description for those pieces runs like this:
The night is on fire in your brain, your clothes are electric flashing black and it feels like your eyes illuminate anything you look at. Your head feels light as a feather, you’re strong enough to take on anyone – fast enough to fly if you ran hard enough. It takes all your concentration just to keep from melting into the neon around you.
Lots of people talk about how art can make us feel joy, feel sorrow, feel an appreciation for the slow glacial beauty of nature or ideals of mankind or of romance or whatever. What about art that gives you a shortcut to the kinds of feelings people spend a lot of money on, sweet illicit-feeling high-energy feelings that are too raw and immediate to feel like art has anything to say about? Just when I was getting to the kind of age people settle down, I got addicted to Hotline Miami 1 & 2 and it re-ignited my passion for the immediacy of art that taps into that kind of feeling of sticking a fork into the socket of creativity – tricking your memory into creating neon landscapes that you live in with a pill on your jacket and rays of color streaming from your fingertips. That’s the kind of energy I want to tap into.
Laser Show Last Will and Testament of Myron Starets
This kind of glowing energy look had been a constant since Jesse Cathode, and adding the crackling energy made me want to experiment with more uses of it. While still head-down coding for artblocks, I built another little simple script just called “zap” – and used the wild lines and angular shapes it generated to start a new series called “laser_show_last_will_and_testament_of_myron_starets.” This has its own whole lore – an employee of a planetarium secretly crafted binders full of CDs of his last will and testament in the form of laser shows. He disappears and the staff discovers the binders, and this art is what it’s like to watch them (not literally the shows). This series marked a more traditional return to Known Origin stuff, having taken a break from that since the Brother Melon series. “Starets” is a Russian concept of a spiritual leader that is non-clergy, and I liked the idea of the surname of Myron (may he rest in peace) hinting that maybe Myron knew something we don’t – that maybe his series is meant to unlock something.
Coding the program for that series made me want to experiment with some more scripted pattern creation – and I worked on a series for sickvibes.xyz based on a program I made I was calling melon_slush. It’s not complicated, but it created detailed patterns that I loved, and I made a series of those for screensaverworld.com that were infused with $VIBES.