From anthropology to digitalogy, there is only one jump that Wade Wallerstein did brilliantly with his project: Silicon Valet.

YoungMi Lamine  | 20 August 2020

Who’s Wade Wallerstein? Wade’s got a couple of hats: Founder of Silicon Valet, Co-Director of Transfer Gallery, trader by day and networker by night, let’s find out more about him and his dreams.

YouTube-based solo exhibition of work by @ri292929 at @prokrub.space. Curated by @prochazka.jiri148 & @eulalie_1_1. © Courtesy of the artist.

With your background in anthropology, you are an observer of the human behaviour. What have you spotted recently online that worth sharing?

The thing that I think is the most exciting right now is social VR. There are a ton of platforms – such as VRChat and Mozilla Hubs – that don’t require a headset. I think it’s really exciting to see this more democratized access to virtual reality spaces. Not to mention, they’re really fun! I have a total blast hanging out with friends and colleagues in imaginative, online virtual worlds.

At the same time, a trend that I’ve noticed lately is the prevalence of screen fatigue. We’re now more than 6 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and folks are getting sick of seeing each other on screen rather than physically. This is disheartening, because a lot of organizations (particularly non-profits and community spaces) are only just now finally participating fully with online programming but finding that their viewership is very low. I’m quite invested in working on making virtual experiences that feel fun, engaging, and not draining like the average Zoom webinar can be.

© Courtesy of the artist.

You organise residencies, you promote daily artists on Instagram, you organise online shows that are featured in the NY Times … What is your vision for Silicon Valet? And, what’s the next step?

I want to see Silicon Valet become a global hub for the digital arts. My goal in founding the platform was to create a space that helped to break through filter bubbles and connect disparate spheres of the global digital arts community.

I want to see the Residency program grow, and become something that offers a fully supportive and holistic experience to young digital artists – helping them to achieve their goals from project conception, to social media display, to web archive, and then eventually to sale of the digital art object.

I want the platform to become a fully registered non-profit, so that I can financially support the artists who go through the program. Right now, I’m working with my residents on teaching them about sales models and how to edition digital art works. We just had a show at Barcu Art Fair, where I offered works for sale for the first time! All of the profits of anything that I sell through Silicon Valet go entirely to the artists, I see myself more as a facilitator or intermediary.

I still have a long way to go , but in the meantime I’m really  focusing on working closely with my Residents to develop their practices, whilst curating exciting new virtual art programming to continue to offer a centralized hub for digital artists all over the world.

“Piper in the Woods,” group show at @is_this_it_is_this_it, curated by @bob.bk1. On view thru 15 June. Available at isthisitisthisit.com/piper-in-the-woods. © Courtesy of the artists.

Are you using blockchain / NFT in your trade? Do you believe that those tools can save the art world?

I, personally, am not using any blockchain technologies through Silicon Valet, and, honestly, I’m unsure whether they can save the art world.

On the one hand, distributed ledger systems help to secure provenance and ensure that artists receive royalties every time their works are sold. This is great! At the same time, though, many blockchain technologies are non-sustainable. Every Ethereum transaction, for instance, requires 25 kilowatts of energy. That’s a lot of energy! For something to truly save the art world, it needs to be a system that is that is not only both environmentally friendly and transparent, but empowers makers.

Right now, I find blockchain systems to still be somewhat opaque, unsustainable, and in the hands of dealers and gallerists. I say opaque, because even though tokenized systems are trackable, their mechanisms are largely obscure for the uninitiated and technologically unsavvy.

One of the reasons why I use Instagram to showcase artwork is because, even though the platform is problematic in so many ways, most folks with a smartphone know how to use it. It’s easy, it’s accessible, and folks understand the visual logic immediately because it is so embedded in our contemporary visual digital culture.

“Who Do You Think You Are I Am,” solo show of work by the one and only @uncannysfvalley at @uscedu @uscroski. © Courtesy of the artist.

How would you describe the secondary market for digital artworks? Does it exist? Does it promise to be strong one day compared to auction houses? Are there a few digital art speculators yet?

The secondary market for digital artworks is hard to describe because it’s often not very public. It certainly does exist, and I know a few speculators personally who invest early. This occurs in the physical art world, but is just burgeoning in the digital art world.

The thing is, the primary art market for digital artworks is still so new! I would advise any speculators out there to get in now and get in fast. This world is heating up faster than you can say binary code. I’m very privileged to work with so many artists who are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible – the new contemporaries who will be lining the halls of the museums of the future.

In addition to running Silicon Valet, I work as the Co-Director of TRANSFER Gallery, which is based in Los Angeles. At TRANSFER, we specialize in simulation and computational art forms. We’re going to be the first gallery (I think?) in the world to offer augmented reality face filters for sale, on a model similar to how Rafael Rozendaal sells websites.

This is the beginning of a burgeoning market, so there’s little data to support sales or value just yet. I will say though, don’t sleep on these opportunities.

What’s the next project?

About the curator

© Courtesy of the curator.

Wade Wallerstein is an anthropologist from the San Francisco Bay Area. His research centres around communication in virtual spaces, new phenomenologies made possible by the digital, and the relationship between digital visual culture and contemporary art.

Wallerstein is the founder and Director of Silicon Valet, a virtual parking lot for expanded internet art, where he runs an exhibition platform and digital artist residency program. He is also Co-Director of TRANSFER Gallery in Los Angeles, which is an exhibition space devoted to simulation and other computational art forms. Wallerstein is a member of the UCL Multimedia Anthropology Laboratory, Clusterduck Research Network, and also serves as the Technology & Events Curator at the Consulate of Canada in San Francisco.

Most recently, he has curated an online exhibition alongside Faith Holland, Lorna Mills & designed by Kelani Nichole entitled “Well Now WTF?” featuring over 120 artists working with digital material. Wallerstein’s curatorial work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Dazed, Canadian Art, AQNB, Elephant, the Los Angeles Times, Elle, Vogue, 4 Columns, the Japan Times, It’s Nice That, and more.

About Silicon Valet

Founded in 2019, Silicon Valet is a virtual parking lot for expanded internet practice, serving as a global hub for artists working with the internet and digital materials. In addition to an online exhibition program and near-daily Instagram showcase platform, Silicon Valet offers a virtual residency program that provides one artist at a time the opportunity to experiment with algorithmically determined & feed-based display environments.

Website

I look forward to meeting this fizzy bloke during our next talk with the sumptuous Snow Yunxue Fu, Chinese US-based digital artist.

See you there.

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