We caught up with Sarah Zucker to talk paradigm shifts, parallel dimensions, and turning her art into crypto.
Artist Sarah Zucker uses futuristic and obsolete technologies to make work with a distinctly unique flavor. As she prepares her new digital artwork to release as an NFT, our Head of Community, Lindsay Howard, chatted with her about her creative work and process.
The first thing that comes to mind is my obsession with transhumanism. About 10 years ago, I was very into Ray Kurzweil, an advocate for futurist and transhumanist movements. I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am right now, versus where I was when I was a bright-eyed young adult imagining a new and better future.
At this point, so many of Kurzweil’s predictions have turned out to be right. But I’ve realized that I’m not a dystopian. I believe it’s much more difficult to continue to foster a sense of possibility, especially when everything around you seems to be burning. So I’ve been thinking about how important it is to envision positive outcomes, especially at times like these, while the future keeps hurtling at us.
I want to create my own dimension, and possibly my own multi-fractal parallel dimensions. I like to use vintage tech in combination with very modern technology as a way to counter the shininess of everything feeling updated and new. We’re starting to approach an uncanny-valley kind of place where digital things can look extremely “real,” but I like to bring in some texture, grit, and more physicality to my screen-based work. There’s also an inevitable mystical component for me in creating art, and I think of that process as channeling another realm. I turn off my executive brain in that moment of creation, and get into a mindset of prophecy and just pure intuition.
I’ve created what I call a “video altar,” with different devices, doo-dads, knick-knacks, and things that I've put together. It’s become my command center. I bedazzled my TV and encrusted it with plastic gems. I can channel energy when I work there. I sit down. I turn on each of the devices, flipping this switch and that switch like I’m an astronaut in a spaceship. I have a snack and a glass of water. I have to prepare to dive into something completely immersive.
Most of the time when I sit down to create, I have no idea what’s going to come out of me. I put my trust into the symbiosis I have with these devices I know so well. And then I embrace the chaos and experimentation, not knowing what will emerge. I almost feel like an alchemist or magician, working on different elements and seeing how everything is going to coalesce.
Collaboration is essential, and so is independent work. When I was younger, I lost myself to some of my collaborations because I didn't have an identity as a solo artist. But that helped me keep my ego at a healthy level. Relationships are like plants, sometimes people grow together and sometimes we grow apart. I think you have to be really intuitive when it comes to collaboration, and feel out whether or not a project is still serving you and your collaborators. Sometimes it can make everyone feel more special to know there’s an end date for a project.
The thing that I love about having a strong internet community is that it allows me to move so much more freely than I could have in the small place where I grew up. It’s helped me grow and expand and change, and I’ve found people who now really know me and care about my work. I give a lot to my community and it comes back to me, whether it’s virtual or in-person. We really do need one another.
I make work for myself. Actually, I often feel like I’m making things for myself as a child. It would’ve delighted me to know that I would eventually grow up and have this amount of play in my life. Initially, I fell for the notion that life is supposed to be hard—but art has always been easy for me. It just flows. As a child I thought that if something felt easy that meant it was trivial, but it's the opposite. I'm getting back to a place of allowing myself to do whatever satisfies me at my most essential level.
When I’m ready to share my work, I put on my publicist hat because I like to keep the work itself untainted by those concerns, and let the pieces become whatever they’re going to be. But then I become a publicist, thinking about how to title the piece, price it, create a hashtag, and contextualize it around the rest of my practice. I’m my own manager as well, which allows me to go back to the work and be as playful and creative as I can be, knowing that my “other team member” (me, as a manager) will share it out later.
I'm unafraid to experiment with how I disseminate my work. I know that I’ll always be creating art, so I’m really open to trying things out even when I can’t see an immediate payoff. I have faith that if I get it out, it’ll find its place.
The ability to tokenize digital artwork is a complete paradigm shift. Before I worked in crypto, my model was to make cool stuff and then wait for emails. The greatest hope I could have was that something I made would go viral, and then I’d be inundated with commissions and offers of commercial work. I was able to cobble together a career that way, but it wasn’t easy, and it’s given me some increasingly complex feelings about consumerism and capitalism.
At first I was like, "Wow, someone's going to pay me to make this advertisement?! That's amazing." But after a few years of doing that I got tired of using my skills and vision to push corporate products. I mean, I’m not knocking it for everyone. We all do what we have to do. However, as a creative person, I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks that can’t be the only way to be compensated while bringing our work into the world.
The thing that excites me most about the blockchain is the impeccable provenance. Its ability to clarify ownership and rights really legitimizes the kind of work that I, and so many other artists like me, create in the eyes of the art market. The validity that the blockchain gives to digital art in the eyes of the market frankly can’t be overstated. And it’s growing exponentially - it’s absolutely bringing new collectors into the space.
My biggest advice would be to get involved with the crypto community. I’ve learned a lot from following other artists, seeing who they’re following, noticing how they’re promoting their work, and paying attention to what ideas are getting traction in the space. They helped me develop my own best practices for releasing work in the crypto space, which we’re all building together in real time.
Another key thing I’ve learned is that it’s really important not to feel overwhelmed if you don’t understand cryptocurrency. Stick with it, pay attention to what people are saying, and you’ll pick it up over time. Just take it slow and find people you trust. I’m always looking to other artists—some who I know from outside of the crypto space, some from inside of it—to vouch for the credibility of a buyer or a platform. If you’re not sure what to do, or have questions about something, it’s important to reach out to someone in the community for a gut check. People are so willing to help each other in this space, because we all benefit from more people getting involved, and we’re excited about what’s possible.
Lastly, come up with your own voice and your own flavor. Some people like to create drama as a way to promote their brand and that’s fine if it works for them, but many artists are sensitive people who are loath to get into pointless fights on the internet. So just do your best, take note of your boundaries, and foster relationships with the people who are excited about your work.