Glitch Artist Sparks Outrage with Pro-Riot NFT Creation

Exploring the Intersection of Art and Activism with Patrick Amadon

Exploring the Intersection of Art and Activism with Patrick Amadon

Patrick Amadon combines a passion for art and activism, and is articulate about how he intends for his work to have impact. Self-described as a “digital disobedient,” the Los Angeles-based glitch artist has been no stranger to controversy, having made international headlines for his “No Rioters” digital billboard displayed at the Hong Kong Art Week in March that was eventually taken down for its political undertones. He also made headlines when he pulled out of Sotheby’s first glitch show, taking a stance against a lineup of artists that featured no women or non-binary people.

Like many other artists, Beeple’s historic $69 million NFT sale in March 2021 caught Amadon’s attention. He had been making digital art for over a decade prior but had no way to attribute value to it. “When I saw all the press from the Beeple sale, I kind of brushed past the $69 million figure, that wasn’t that interesting to me, but I do remember thinking, ‘wait, somebody sold digital art, how does that work’,” says Amadon. “I’ve been doing it for a decade but I got stuck in kind of no man’s land. I would make physical work but I liked making digital work more. My audience liked the digital work a lot more but there really wasn’t anything you could do with it in the art world.”

Digital Disobedience

Amadon is a deep thinker and puts an incredible amount of effort into making his art purposeful. He also embraces much of the crypto ethos and believes those who are along for the ride are all in some way a little digital disobedient. “I mean, if you’re in crypto, it’s because you’ve rejected something. You’ve rejected something in the financial world, you’re embracing sovereignty, you embrace self custody, self reliance. There’s some social element that you rejected, that got you here to begin with.”

“I think we’re really disrupting a lot of these existing structures. We’re causing hell for a lot of gatekeepers. We’re opening up the doors for a lot of artists. None of us here are obeying what we’re supposed to be doing.”

“I feel like all of us really have embraced disobedience in a lot of ways because nobody in traditional finance wants you to think that crypto is valid. Nobody in the art world wants you to think crypto is valid. By virtue of us being here, we’re all disobedient if you look at what society has deemed normal and acceptable.”

Art as Activism

Art is a medium that Amadon values as a way to voice his passion for activism and for its ability to point out societal issues he cares about. He puts an incredible amount of effort into making his art have a purpose. “I like doing something that has a purpose for doing it. Often, I like using art as an outlet to comment on some socio-economic or political situation. Or cultural nuance or just something to needle the space a little bit,” Amadon says.

“I think that the story of the narrative is the art and I think that the aesthetic is really just the voice that you tell it with. That’s why I think concept is kind of the most critical element of an art piece. It has to be saying something a lot of us can say the same thing. I mean, the aesthetic kind of becomes the voice of it again.”

“No Rioters” at Hong Kong Art Week

Embracing his digital disobedience and desire to use art for more than aesthetics, Amadon brazenly had his piece “No Rioters” displayed on a giant digital billboard above the Sogo Causeway Bay store during Hong Kong Art Week. The glitch art is centered around a surveillance camera oscillating side to side but the primary provocation was showcasing the names and prion terms of activists in the pro-democracy movement from 2019.

“It was a billboard the size of the city block in the middle of Hong Kong Art Week which is sponsored by the government. I thought, let’s be a little disobedient. I’d followed the Hong Kong protest in 2019 pretty closely. I’ve been a news hawk since the dawn of the internet so I wanted to put up something to honor the protesters,” says Amadon.

“I put a giant security camera up there and then every 10th frame or so just flash protesters names, their sentences, and instances of the government beating up protesters, throwing them in jail. It’s all illegal under the Hong Kong national security law to put that in public and I had it on the biggest billboard in Hong Kong during Art Week for three straight days which was great.”

With the names being subtle and difficult to see flashing up in real-time throughout the artwork, the billboard stayed up for 72 hours before Art Innovation Gallery — the gallery that Amadon had worked with to display the piece — informed him that the owners of Sogo were concerned about the hidden political content behind the work.

“The free Hong Kong press found out about it so they wrote an article about it and then the next day it was the BBC and the Global Press covering it, and the Chinese press counterprogramming it, saying I’m pro-rioter — which I love because I am definitely pro-rioter.”

“So it got taken down by the government and I joined the list with Winnie the Pooh in terms of free speech expression being ripped down.”

Gatekeepers Get Out

Amadon believes that the Web3/crypto space has a long way to go, but he’s equally optimistic about the potential of the technology to democratize the art industry, for both artists and collectors.

“From a collecting standpoint, from an experiencing art standpoint, from a creation of art standpoint, it’s massive. You no longer need a brother, sister or cousin to be working at the Gagosian to get a shot at selling physical and be sitting at the main table of the art world,” Amadon says.

“It’s really tough to participate in the art world if you’re coming from a marginalized community or from a third-world country. What we’ve done with the technology is we really have flattened the space tremendously and we’ve allowed people like Osinachi and Ix Shells to participate meaningfully in the art world that would have been very difficult to access before. We are very accessible and very inclusive.”

Doppelganger Innovation with Smart Contract

In May this year, Amadon launched something unique with his Doppelganger drop in conjunction with Transient Labs. As an artist who is fascinated by the convergence of art and technology, Doppelganger explores what it’s like to link a nonfungible token to an array of art rather than point to a single image.

“Because we’re just beginning to scratch the surface on what’s possible in digital art and what’s possible in digital art when it’s paired with smart contracts on the blockchain, I reached out to Transient Labs and had them build a token that points to an array instead of a token that points to a single link. Doppelganger was built on that.”

The contract is artist-owned and essentially can include multiple images into one NFT. Users can pick which artwork to point to with the artist having the ability to add new pieces of art but can never subtract.

“Essentially consider them frozen metadata. They will never change and only the collector has control over what it points to. As the collector you get to select what art you’d like to be displayed. I think we’re up to around 12-13 different pieces right now. I’m going to add another very shortly. I’m just going to keep expanding it because I can keep adding to it, but I can…

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