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Interview with Gavin Shapiro

Gavin Shapiro, also known as "shapiro500," is an artist who primarily creates playful conceptual artworks that examine how digital tools can challenge traditional expectations in the physical art world.

He has lived in New York, Osaka, and Paris, working on a variety of projects including TV shows, commercials, and outdoor displays. His personal work has been used as visuals at music festivals and concerts around the world and has been displayed on digital billboards in art exhibitions in New York City, Paris, and Tokyo.

In Web3, his artwork has been released on platforms such as Nifty Gateway and SuperRare. We’ve been especially excited to learn more about Gavin, as we are huge fans of his work.

Gavin incorporates a comedic element in his art, often in the form of birds dancing or walking in silly ways. He believes that humour is crucial, and he’s always trying to do something that will make people laugh or smile. Gavin also strives to create something technically flawless and acts as a puzzle for the viewer to decipher. He wants people to look at his work and wonder how he achieved it.

Optical illusions and math has been a big inspiration for Gavin, and he uses his skills and experience as a motion designer to create something new for viewers. Thus his style emerges from the absurdity of combining something silly or cute with something hyper-serious or overly complicated.

When he was developing his personal style, he took inspiration from things that were meaningful to him, including penguins. He has always loved penguins and they often appeared in his art projects and ideas of the past. Gavin first shared his dancing penguin loops on social media and set them to music by Yung Bae. When Yung Bae was going on tour in New York, Gavin reached out and asked if Bae wanted to use the dancing penguin videos as visuals at the concert. Yung Bae and his manager requested that Gavin make some artworks using flamingos instead, which then became a part of his aesthetic for several years.

However, Gavin eventually felt like he was doing too much of the same thing and decided to return to using penguins, which resonated more with his identity. He also wanted to experiment with taking his work in a more conceptual direction and changing from flamingos to penguins seemed like a good way to indicate a shift.

The birds in his work represent himself or other people to some capacity, allowing him to tell universal human stories without using a human subject.

Other inspiration comes to him from various sources, including nature, math, art, books, contemporary and conceptual artists, art museums and gallery exhibits, traveling, and nature documentaries. 3D looping animations by artists like Andreas Wannerstedt, Oscar Pettersson, and Arben Vllasaliu are also a favourite. Furthermore he draws inspiration from contemporary and conceptual artists like Walter De Maria and Olafur Eliasson. Browsing mathematics articles on Wikipedia is also an unexpected but useful source of ideas for his work. Ultimately, he believes that inspiration can be found almost anywhere.

When working on a project, Gavin often starts with an experimental phase where he is trying to figure out how to achieve a certain animation or make something look interesting or convey a message in a creative way. Eventually, he reaches a point where everything clicks and he gets into a flow state where he can work on the project effortlessly for hours without realizing. This is when he feels like he is truly being himself.

The penguin and flamingo animations changed his life by showing him that it is possible to have a career as a digital artist, and it enabled him to leave his full-time job as a motion designer, he says. They also made him think more critically about his work and pushed him to constantly improve and evolve. Despite the challenges of running his own business, Gavin is grateful for the opportunities and experiences it has brought him.

Gavin attributes NFT NYC, where he had the chance to meet artists and collectors in person, as one of the highlights in his Web3 journey thus far. These were people he had been talking to and working with for over a year without ever meeting in person, so it was special to finally meet them face to face.

Past creations that he is particularly proud of include his "Wingin' It" series, which he considers one of his more cohesive collections. He put a lot of care and detail into the concept and execution of this series, even creating a physical information pamphlet and a scavenger hunt to introduce people to the inspirations for the collection.

Gavin also mentions his piece "VLZ" as a conceptual work that fits into the “real-art-world" as he calls it. He also appreciates "Lazy River" from his Yung Bae collaboration series, which captures the essence and good vibes of his "flamingo period." Furthermore, Gavin’s "Something for Everyone" series is one of his favourite examples of his math-based work.

As for what’s next, for over a year Gavin has been working on a series titled "Power vs Meaning," which is his interpretation of a conceptual artwork that uses the technical capabilities of NFTs to tell a story.

He was inspired by a quote from Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari: "Modernity is a deal: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power." This quote made a significant impact, and he often thinks about it, particularly as new technologies become more prevalent in our lives.

Essentially, Harari suggests that any increase in power will result in a loss of meaning. For example, the power to enable cheat codes in a video game makes a high score feel meaningless.

The product of this inspiration is Gavin's new series "Power vs Meaning", an interactive artwork that allows the viewer to experience firsthand the trade-off between power and meaning. The series consists of two animated looping NFTs, each with an edition of 8. Collectors must decide whether they want to bid on Power or Meaning.

Power is an NFT that grants the user utility, allowing them to reward themselves with a new edition of Power whenever they wish. It is designed for collectors who are interested in utility and receiving airdrops and collector rewards from NFT collections. Power gives the user the power to decide when to receive a collector reward. Meaning, on the other hand, has no utility and is just a piece of art. It should only be bid on if the collector likes the art.

The shape of the collection will be determined by how the collectors interact with it. Power holders can activate the utility whenever they wish to receive rewards, but if they abuse this power, the number of editions may reduce the Power side of the collection to meaninglessness. Some collectors may find that the interactivity and opportunity for community with Power provide more meaning than the static Meaning side of the collection.

Ironically, Meaning has the power to maintain a small collection size, while Power, without this power, could become meaningful if it also maintains small numbers.

Gavin views "Power vs Meaning" as a social experiment and is not sure yet what to expect. He hopes that it will encourage viewers to think about the balance of power and meaning in their own lives and is excited to see how the audience shapes the story through this unique interactive mechanic. The series is set to be released in early January 2023!

We look forward to seeing how this project unfolds, and how this exceptionally talented artist continues to manoeuvre through the digital art space as an innovator and leader on his craft!


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