The metaverse space is growing, with games, non-fungible tokens, and contemporary performance art, all of which help create interactive and immersive digital ecosystems. “Welcome to the Lobsteropolis District of Lobster Land” is the welcome notice that greets Internet users when entering the city of Lobsteropolis.
Lobsteropolis exists in the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland and is a pure digital city based on the Lobster Universe by British contemporary artist Philip Colbert. The ambitious project arguably offers more than a glimpse into the emerging movement at the interface of art and blockchain technology, more precisely open-world spaces that enable people to interact with art in a computer-generated environment.
Colbert was born in Scotland and now lives and works in London. He is an alumnus of the University of St Andrews. Before Colbert developed the idea of Lobsteropolis City in a metaverse, he was already a name in the pop art world. Former Vogue editor André Leon Talley anointed him as the “godchild” of the legendary Pop Art figure Andy Warhol.
Colbert’s work, imbued with the pop art ethos of “high art” and “low culture”, has been praised by great figures in the art world such as the famous auctioneer and curator Simon de Pury and the Iraqi contemporary art businessman and collector Charles Saatchi . Fashion and style bible i-D Magazine once called him “the Crown Prince of Pop Art”.
All are welcome
Non-fungible tokens (NFT) have become significantly more popular recently, and NFT art is arguably a ubiquitous term, even for those unfamiliar with the crypto and blockchain space. Nowadays, almost anyone can “coin” a work of art and sell it on an NFT marketplace like SuperRare.
Disruption was and is an important catchphrase that always appears when blockchain is discussed. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that the novel technology serves as the basis for innovative approaches for gallery exhibitions.
Lobsteropolis City is home to Colbert’s first fully digital art exhibition featuring some of his popular works such as Lobster Fountain and Cryptofixtion. As part of the NFT art auctions hosted by de Pury, visitors are also treated to some unseen pieces by Colbert.
One of these invisible NFTs is a hybrid work of art and a musical performance entitled Lob-Ster De-Vo, which was created in collaboration with the American new wave band Devo. The rock band’s devolution theme has often relied heavily on multimedia expression, which may have become an integral part of the emerging narrative of contemporary art in the 21st century.
In Lobsteropolis, Colbert’s lobster persona is once again an “art protagonist” in a rendering that appears to be both an art show and an expression of the artist’s world. “Through my art, I have built my own art world in which my Hummer personality is the most important narrator, and digital space enables me to explore this narrative in new ways,” he explains in an interview with ..
Colbert calls the digital city, three years in development, a “work of love”:
“I have a great team helping me code and upload to Decentraland, and the Vegas City team have been a great help with programming. The digital side of my work is a matter close to my heart – I’ve been building this infrastructure for some time. “
Pop art goes digital
Lobsteropolis shows composite elements of Colbert’s work from several international museum exhibitions and exhibitions, including his famous exhibition at Saatchi Gallery 2020. However, the city is not just an art exhibition, but an interactive open-world space for digital interaction.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, advances in both virtual reality and augmented reality pushed the boundaries of digital interaction. Immersive game landscapes already exist where users can create avatars to experience and explore expansive digital environments that are feature-rich, ranging from real-life digital natives to even more fantastic elements.
Visitors to Lobsteropolis have a variety of options to explore the city. “One of the attractions is the Lobster Lounge: a concert venue for avatar bands and an event space where avatars can have conversations,” says Colbert, adding:
“There’s a strong aspect of gameplay in Lobsteropolis City, where avatars can interact with other people and create a level of imagination.”
In Decentralands Vegas City, Colbert’s digital lobsterland plays a casino, of course. “There is also a casino where avatars can get lobster coins and they can play blackjack and slot machines and buy digital products in my supermarket,” says Colbert.
Colbert says he is obsessed with the crossover of art and music. According to him, the NFT room creates a platform for the synergetic merging of both art forms in a “revolutionary way”.
In addition to helping to create the Lobster De Vo NFT piece, the music band will also perform a live DJ set in the Lobster Land Records Store, which is located next to the Lobster Land Museum – the venue for the de Pury auction.
Colbert’s collaboration with the band to create Lob-Ster De-Vo will be a central piece at the opening auction on June 30th. According to the artist, Lob-Ster De-Vo’s NFT artwork explores the role of digital ideology in the emerging, virtually-oriented era of human interaction.
For Colbert, the praise star De-Vo NFT is an examination of the role art plays as humanity appears to move towards a more mature digitized space. The piece also pays homage to Devo’s legendary 1981 hit “Through Being Cool” – specifically the theme of the three crucifixions.
Colbert remembers his early experiments with NFTs and how this experience led him to Lobsteropolis as a digital city: “The first NFT I did was called Cryptofixtion. I wanted to make a lobster crucifixion sculpture, inspired by studying Dali’s paintings and exploring the idea of technology as a new religion. “
Indeed, modern philosophy is full of thoughts about the entanglement of technology and religion, especially in the context of these advances, which perhaps offer an alternative transcendental experience.
“Given our obsessions with telephones as a way of consuming experiences, the idea of a cross of screens seemed very logical,” says Colbert, adding:
“I then realized that it would work better as a digital world: some things are more infinite, purer and more powerful in digital form. Since then I’ve been following my own process. “
Immortality and perfection
This pursuit of “infinite, pure and powerful” possibilities inevitably led Colbert into the digital world and inexorably into NFTs. “Forget about cubism. This is artistic expression and experience on another level. With the advent of the NFT, the digital art movement is now a tidal wave and so many ideas are possible. “
Colbert is in the camp of those who see new art forms emerging at the intersection of NFTs and contemporary art, with possibly even new art movements emerging as more and more artists interact with blockchain-based metaverse.
“The cross and the hybrid are very interesting – why should you be stuck in a box when you can interact between the two? Digital, in its perfection, has an immortality, and physical art can always be copied in ways that digital art cannot. “
With NFTs, artists now have the ability to incorporate metadata – unique digital attributes – into their work. This feature could add an extra sense of originality and authenticity to digital art. Colbert says, “There are always questions about authenticity. People are obsessed with authenticity, it is the core of our value system. “
Colbert’s reflections on the immortality and perfection of digital art probably also provide a lens for observing his artistic exploration of the idea of technology as a new religion. Art as a medium of philosophical commentary may acquire even greater socio-epistemic value in the context of the 21st century journey to total digital perpetuation.
Colbert believes that NFT technology will play an important role as digital art evolves, particularly with the advent of interactive metaverse environments. According to Colbert, working in a metaverse offers “the next wave of opportunity to change the way we view and experience digital art”.
“From an artistic point of view, the holistic idea inspired me. It offers a way to change the context. When you change the context, the way you look at something changes, and then that changes too. “
It can often be difficult to pinpoint the turning point – the point at which a particular technological advance occurred. This reality applies to paradigm-shifting breakthroughs such as the electricity revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the birth of the mobile internet age.
However, it seems likely that Metaverse has outgrown science-fiction-based reasoning and could perhaps become the next iterative successor state of the modern world.
If Colbert is right and changes perception and context with NFT technology as a basis, then the next iterative successor state of the modern world could be about to emerge. One thing seems certain and that is that Metaverse are here, but how long it will take to be fully realized will tell.