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Art: NFT; From 1,000 years to 10 seconds

7 October 2021
Art exhibition: Ernest Pignon-Ernest
21 August 2021
Hokusai’s artistic intricacies at the British Museum
13 October 2021

Profile with Pipe

Ansel Krut, with music by Jem Finer – 6pm Thursday 7 October 2021

A t 6pm on 7 October 2021, on the SuperRare NFT platform, Ansel Krut’s animation, with music by Jem Finer, will go to auction. Following his celebrated 1,000 year composition, Longplayer, Jem Finer has composed a 10-second piece of music for Ansel Krut’s animation. The disappointed trumpets and cartoon whistle add to the absurdity of Krut’s comic pillory of inflated self-esteem. And the necessity of composing for 10 seconds rather than a thousand years accentuates the absurdity of our relationship to time.

With NFTs reaching the headlines in early 2021, contemporary artists have begun to think about reframing their work in this new context. The new processes and new materials have led to an extraordinary array of possibilities and outcomes. The artists began to find that more than offering digital versions of previous work, they were able to completely reimagine their practice. NFTs, and SuperRare in particular, became a forum for experimentation.

The painter Ansel Krut began to animate his compositions and found that bringing these characters to life not only democratised their understanding, but also gave them an alternative life. As he explored the possibilities of 10-second animations, he began to consider the possibilities of sound and collaborating with a musician. The constraints of the file size were fascinating – it was a little like being in at the start of vinyl and the 3-minute pop song. Following conversations with Jem Finer, Profile with Pipe was born.

'An experiment with sound: The image is of a military man; we know because of the cap and the beard and the pipe. But also because of his fixed stare and rigid attitude; his profile is emblematic not just of him but of everything he stands for. He’s actually taken from a drawing made by the Italian Futurist Filipo Marinetti in 1918. Marinetti intended him as ridiculous even then but here he is made doubly so with the addition of a red nose that pulls itself forward and snaps back onto his face, over and over again as the animation loops on itself. His conflicted dignity and abjection, his comic militarism, is played out in the music, composed and performed by Jem Finer. You can hear allusions to the distant sound of martial music, the clanking of war machines, the melancholy notes of the battlefield, overlaid with the slapstick sound of the slow stretching out of his elasticated nose followed by it whizzing back at speed to slap onto his face.' Ansel Krut

The music is composed and performed by Jem Finer. Well known as a founding member of The Pogues, his millennium project, Longplayer (realised with Artangel) represented a convergence of many of his concerns, particularly those relating to systems, long-durational processes and extremes of scale in both time and space.

While Longplayer is most often described as a 1,000-year-long musical composition, the preoccupations that led to its conception were not of a musical nature; they concerned time, as it is experienced and as it is understood from the perspectives of philosophy, physics and cosmology. At extremes of scale, time has always appeared to Finer as baffling, both in the transience of its passing on quantum mechanical levels and in the unfathomable expanses of geological and cosmological time, in which a human lifetime is reduced to no more than a blip. In Profile with Pipe’ the blip is of particular poignancy as it talks to our self-importance and short-sighted preoccupation with only what is under our noses.

Click here for a link to the NFT on SuperRare.

Ansel Krut was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1959. He studied medicine for two years before switching to Fine Art and he graduated with a BA from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1982. After a scholarship to the Cite des Arts in Paris he completed an MA in painting at the Royal College of Art in London. He was the Abbey Major Scholar in Painting at the British School at Rome in 1986/87 and then stayed on in Italy for a subsequent three years, returning to London in 1990. He now lives and works in London interspersed with extended stays in Los Angeles.

Krut’s work remains informed by the years he spent growing up in South Africa, his art retaining what Ed Krcma in a catalogue essay called 'an unapologetic will to insubordination' with imagery that has 'arisen from a ferment of intermingled sources: from the enchanted collective narratives of folklore, to the differently dark ruins of history.'

Writing in the Brooklyn Rail in 2019 Alfred Mac Adam said: 'Ansel Krut's extraordinary paintings take us back to 20th century existential angst and its unending inquiry into identity, fate, and self-determination. His painterly style may seem casual, crude, and ludic, but this is work of high seriousness and deep moral content.'

Jem Finer is an artist, composer and musician with a background in mathematics and computer science, dating back to the ICL 1900 mainframe computers of the early 1970s. An enduring fascination with deep time and space, self-organising systems and long-durational processes has been the impetus behind much of his work including his Artangel commission, Longplayer, a thousand-year-long musical composition playing since the last moments of 1999, Cosmolog, a two-year-long artist's residency in the astrophysics department of Oxford University and the 2005 PRSF New Music Award winner, Score For a Hole In the Ground, a permanent, self-sustaining musical installation in a forest in Kent, which relies only on gravity and the elements to be audible.

Recent work focuses on these interests and includes Kung Fu Pinball, a pinball machine modified to auto-compose music, Slowplayer, a 3 r.p.m. sound system and Spiegelei, a 360-degree spherical camera obscura. Supercomputer found Finer's 'post-digital' thinking come full circle in the form of a sculptural machine of a computational process, indebted as much to Jean Tinguely's Métamatics as to John Conway's Game of Life. Current work includes Sonic Ray, the music of Longplayer encoded in a beam of light and projected across the Thames from Trinity Buoy Wharf lighthouse to Richard Wilson’s Slice of Reality.

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