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Last weekend, hundreds of digital art devotees descended on Marfa, the tiny West Texas artist’s oasis, to partake in what’s rapidly become a can’t-miss cult favorite in digital culture circles: the Art Blocks Marfa Weekend.
Art Blocks, which curates and releases generative digital art collections minted on the Ethereum blockchain, first invited community members to the desert town in 2021, when the company opened its physical gallery just off Marfa’s main drag. Last year, the event ballooned substantially, into an all-out three-day party that illustrated the resilience of the crypto culture scene amid a devastating crypto bear market and the collapse of industry titans.
The third annual Marfa gathering again blew past expectations, drawing ever-larger crowds that tested the sparsely populated town’s capacity. As with last year, increased interest appeared to shift the event’s identity, this time from a boisterous gathering of Art Blocks artists and collectors into a full-fledged pop-up ecosystem of myriad on-chain and digital art projects seeking to connect with live audiences and promote the cutting edge of art and technology.
Here’s a peek at a few captured moments from the weekend, which saw over 50 official and unofficial events take over Marfa’s galleries, homes, event spaces, bars, and restaurants.
Photos by Vincent Roazzi, Jr.
Artists in the Art Blocks ecosystem showcased 10 experimental projects involving generative design components to kick off the weekend in a lighthearted, science fair-esque demonstration for visitors.
Projects on display included “Stitchables,” a generative embroidery pop-up from Luke Shannon and Matt Jacobson (pictured below) that invited passers-by to adorn their own shirts with algorithmically crafted patterns and patches. Shannon and Jacobson are set to soon launch a Stitchables platform using Art Blocks Engine infrastructure.
Other projects included “Lumina,” a mesmerizing show of generative, shifting “lightscapes” from Jason Ting (pictured below), and “Mycorrhiza” (also pictured), in which the artist Jimmy Herdberg demonstrated the automated, generative engraving of fungi-inspired designs into thin pieces of wood.
Later in the afternoon, attendees gathered just a few streets over at the Art Blocks gallery, to hear from artists behind the company’s latest projects and collections.
Listeners in the gallery’s backyard hid under any shade they could find to dodge the beating desert sun as artists Harvey Rayner and Shane Richardson detailed their collaboration on their latest project, “MarfaMESH”—the latest installment in Art Blocks’ Explorations series, which encourages artists to tinker with less formal artistic experiments designed to delight and engage.
Rayner and Richardson, in collaboration with experiential tech startup IYK, created a digital art project designed specially for the weekend’s in-person attendees. Every visitor to this year’s Art Blocks Marfa Weekend received a physical badge upon check-in, which, when tapped by another user, digitally altered an on-chain art piece minted at the weekend’s conclusion. It served as a unique, collectible record of social encounters for each attendee.
Mad Pinney, Art Blocks’ artistic coordinator, then took the stage with artist studio Beervanger and platform DECA to discuss “Collēctīvus: Computation, Consciousness, and Collective Memory,” the exhibition currently on display in the Art Blocks gallery. The Art Blocks community voted to determine what pieces would be selected for the series, which examines the potential for collective curation and the nature of group artistic preference.
Later that night, crowds split up to attend various official and unofficial Art Blocks weekend events held across Marfa, including a series of immersive shows at the Crowley Theater.
Poet-technologists Nathaniel Stern and Sasha Stiles first performed a live rendition of “Still Moving,” a full-body, interactive AI-powered poem that explored the daily dance humans perform in transitioning from analog to digital and back.
Then, digital artist Steve Pikelny delighted audiences with “Dopamine Machines,” an immersive audio-video experience.
One of many independent digital communities to show up with a physical presence in Marfa over the weekend was Bright Moments, a globe-spanning on-chain art project working to establish permanent hubs in 10 cities around the world. On Saturday morning, over coffee and pastries at Glitch Gallery, the Bright Moments team teased at plans for its final three city activations: Buenos Aires, Paris, and Venice, Italy, all to come in the next year.
Later on in the afternoon, die-hard generative art enthusiasts gathered to compete among themselves for the coveted title of Art Blocks trivia champion, testing their knowledge of signature works from past collections and other artistic details.
The evening culminated with the weekend’s signature event: an open-to-the-public backyard cookout back at the Art Blocks gallery, where out-of-towners and Marfa locals mingled, exchanged ideas, and reflected on the state of the global digital art scene. Despite the enduringly dismal state of the NFT market, it appears to be humming along just fine.