MIAMI – Here are some phrases I’d like to never hear again: Minting NFTs. Virtual reality. Metavers. These are the opposite of art – they are the tools of financial engineering. And they are not just empty concepts, they have even hurt people. Billions of investment capital have disappeared in this vacuum.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, ask the more than 10,000 who have been fired from Facebook amid its poor attempts to rename itself. “Meta” has shaved 2/3 of the company’s market cap. Ask the “investors” in the Bored Ape Yacht Club who have been watching hackers exploit a hole in OpenSea to buy out NFTs from their owners. Or maybe just call a county prosecutor’s office, some of which have been set up completely new divisions to deal with the flood of fraud coming out of this new space.
It’s disgusting and it soured this crypto OG on the whole space.
So how do you pluck something new and new from this charred earth here in the fraud capital of the world where crypto would go redo making this oft-remade city “the next Silicon Valley” (as if the original Silicon Valley were a virtuous model).
Well, you can start with a beautiful woman singing her heartfelt songs with original choreography and a backdrop of custom VR movies.
Fresh from performing at the Venice Biennale, Carrie Able brought her XR Music to Art Week for “XR Music: The Miami Launch.” A room of 50 sipped Ghost tequila (phenomenal) and wore members-only hats and jackets in what may have been some sort of tongue-in-cheek anti-fashion statement, but actually looked pretty cool.
The event at Wynwood’s Somnium space — one wonders how much longer Somnium will boast that FTX is one of its sponsors now that Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange has been exposed as arguably the biggest fraud in U.S. corporate history — was billed as “DIVE INTO THE METAVERSE: A real-life music, technology and art activation with Carrie Able.”
NYC Multidisciplinary artist, singer and songwriter Carrie Able performed a short set to accompany her recording Brighter the Burn, while Weav provided an “interactive NFT experience using stems from an actual song, and the first to invite fans to participate part of the creative process through the ability to purchase unique derivatives of the same number.
The people in the beautiful room were joined by who knows how many people watching a live, immersive experience of the show elsewhere at the same time.
A “virtual reality DJ” – a guy standing there with those heavy-looking sunglasses – was spinning records. And except for a video screen showing a thinner version of him moving his hands, it looked exactly like a billion art parties before. Seriously, what the hell is so special and life-changing about the metaverse? It looked just as interesting and futuristic as the file-snooping scenes in Michael Douglas’ 1994 film Disclosure.
But you know what holds up? Good songs, sincere singing and graceful dancing. On those scores, Ms. Able came through, with the opposite of VR – real heart and despite her rudimentary guitar chops, even a little bit of soul.
The tall, striking Able took the stage in high-waisted trousers and a gold jacket. She strapped on a bright red Fender Strat and that’s when things got a little real.
Able sings in a low tenor and picks out simple arpeggios. The subject is not groundbreaking – the struggles women creators face – but no less powerful for its notoriety. And even then, the audience, looking to party during a week that has become as much about the scene as the art, hardly knows how to behave.
Able’s ultra-introspective songs are so personal they can almost feel like parodies of self-righteous artists. But the frat guy element that shows up for an art show can’t help it. During a song lamenting “women work twice as hard for half as much,” several guys were literally yelling and chasing each other. It’s hard to break through.
All of this takes place against an extremely online backdrop of virtual reality movies that Able has created. We’re told she has her own filter on Instagram that suspends femme fatale characters in space, which actually sounds pretty cool and was a compelling backdrop while she played. The dancers, Pink Supakarn and Kate Griffler, were another highlight of the show: powerful performers who brought a ton of kinetic energy and live visual appeal to a scene that might otherwise have been overweighted in favor of the video elements.
I admit I am not the intended audience for a performance like this. I’m literally too old for this shit. At 54, I was 10 years older than the next oldest person there. If my ideas about art as an unmediated connection between maker and audience are hopelessly outdated, I accept that. But to me, the proof that EM Forster’s commandment “Only Connect” hasn’t quite outlived its usefulness is the fact that the highlights of the show had the audience completely focused on Ms. Able’s words and melodies, with the dancers providing powerful context and even some acting chops as they fought and struggled to accompany her plaintive lyrics.
Art is ultimately about connection. If Earthlings of the future feel more capable of connecting through dumb headsets, then that’s fine with me. But for now, I think good songs sung well by strong performers still work best.