MIAMI—Here are some phrases I would love never to hear again: Minting NFTs. Virtual Reality. Metaverse. These are the opposite of art — they are the tools of financial engineering. And they’re not just hollow concepts, they’ve actually hurt people. Billions of investment capital has disappeared into these vacuums.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, ask the 10,000-plus who’ve been laid off from Facebook amid its maladroit attempt to rebrand itself “Meta.” Ask the “investors” in the Bored Ape Yacht Club who watched hackers exploit a hole in OpenSea to buy NFTs out from under their owners. Or maybe just call a county prosecutor’s office, some of which have set up entire new divisions to deal with the flood of fraud emanating from this new technology.
It’s disgusting and it’s soured this crypto OG on the whole space.
So how do you reap something fresh and new from this charred earth, here in the world’s fraud capital, where crypto was going to remake this oft-remade city into “the next Silicon Valley” (as if the original Silicon Valley were a virtuous model).
Well, you can start with a beautiful woman singing her heartfelt songs with original choreography and a backdrop of bespoke VR films.
Coming off a performance at the Venice Biennale, Carrie Able brought her act to Art Week for “XR Music: The Miami Launch.” A room of 50 sipped Ghost tequila (phenomenal) and sported Members Only hats and jackets in what may have been some sort of ironic anti-fashion statement but actually looked pretty cool.
The event at Wynwood’s Somnium Space —one wonders how much longer Somnium will boast that FTX is among its sponsors now that Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto exchange has been revealed as perhaps the greatest fraud in history—was billed as “DIVE INTO THE METAVERSE: A real-life music, tech, and art activation with Carrie Able.”
NYC multidisciplinary artist, singer and songwriter Carrie Able performed a short set to accompany her recording Brighter the Burn while Weav offered an “an interactive minting NFT experience using stems of an actual song, and the first to invite fans to be part of the creative process through an opportunity to buy unique derivatives of the same song.”
The people in the lovely room were joined by who knows how many simultaneously watching a live, immersive experience of the show elsewhere.
A “virtual reality DJ” — a guy standing there with those heavy-looking sunglasses—spun records. And apart from a video screen depicting a skinnier version of him moving his hands about, it was exactly like a billion art parties before it. Seriously, what the fuck is supposed to be so special and life-altering about the metaverse? It looked exactly as interesting and futuristic as the file-snooping scenes in Disclosure, the Michael Douglas film from 1994.
But you know what holds up? Good songs, heartfelt singing and graceful dancing. On those scores, Ms. Able came through, with the opposite of VR — real heart and despite her rudimentary guitar chops, even a little bit of soul.
The tall, striking Able took the stage in high waist trousers and a gold suit jacket. She strapped on a bright red Fender Strat and only then did things get a little bit real.
Able sings in a low tenor and plucks out simple arpeggios. The subject matter is not groundbreaking—the struggles faced by female creators—but no less powerful for its familiarity. And even then, the audience, looking to party during a week that’s become as much about the scene as the art, barely knows how to behave.
Able’s ultra introspective songs are so personal they can almost feel like parodies of self-important artists. But the frat guy element that shows up for an art show can’t help itself. During one song that laments “women work twice as hard for half as much,” several guys were literally yelling and chasing each other. It’s tough to break through.
All this takes place against an extremely online backdrop of virtual reality movies Able created. We were told she has her own filter on Instagram that suspends femme fatale characters in space, which actually sounds pretty awesome and it was a compelling backdrop as she played. The dancers, Pink Supakarn and Kate Griffler, were another highlight of the show–powerful performers who brought a ton of kinetic energy and live visual appeal to a scene that otherwise might have been weighted too heavily in favor of the video elements.
I admit that I’m not the intended audience for a performance like this. I’m literally too old for this shit. At 54, I was 10 years older than the next oldest person there. If my ideas about art being an unmediated connection from creator to audience are hopelessly passé, I accept that. But to me, the proof that EM Forster’s commandment to “Only Connect” hasn’t quite outlived its usefulness is the fact that the show’s high points had the audience fully focused on Ms. Able’s words and melodies, with the dancers providing powerful context and even some acting chops as they fought and struggled to accompany her plaintive lyrics.
Ultimately, art is about connection. If earthlings of the future feel better able to connect through dumb-ass headsets, I guess that’s fine with me. But for now, I think good songs sung well by strong performers still works best.