She’s not as much concerned with the ‘what’s’ as she is with the who’s. But wait, because by ‘who’ she doesn’t mean me or you or that random guy staring puzzingly at the screen asking ‘WTF are NFTs!’ nope – she’s talking about the Other par excellence, that Thing of horror movies or existential breakdowns. The Other that is as alien to us as the NFTs are to some – hold on, I promise you I’ll explain what NFTs are in just a moment! – but first, I want to introduce you to Ashely Zelinskie, the thinker and artist extraordinaire behind this ‘othering’ aesthetic pursuit.
Ashley Zelinskie thinks and produces art with infinity, impermanency and immateriality in mind. She’s not concerned with the here or now – rather – she’s troubled by the there and then. The ‘there’ being a future in which me, you and her are long gone and a ‘then’ where all the here’s, now’s, who’s and what’s are condensed into one singularity: a sublime liquefaction of all our fears, amazements, anxieties, creativity, ideas – in other words, all that makes us ‘human’.
Zelinskie probes into a future where it’s not just humans who command and dictate knowledge but also non-human entities like machines. To achieve this, Zelinskie swaps the paintbrushes for the fine code of programming languages thus entering a world far less characterised by the temporary and forever-in-flux ‘I’ and a lot more signified by the cool, immutable forever-universality of the binary code ‘1’. If the post-structuralists had rejected the rigidity of Sasseure’s language in favour of the freedoms exerted by the signifiers, Zelinskie asks for a return to the binary, but this time, to accommodate the non-human into the equation!
The language of code may not seem very artistic at first. To be fair, the sharp edges of the binary code may even appear harsh against the backdrop of poetic licence. After all, how could the glacial austerity of coded language transpose the insincerity of metaphors, the ambiguity of metonymy, the messy playfulness of similitude? If you’re envisioning the tyranny of zeros and ones coding what amounts to the sentence “off with their heads” as their code guillotines serifs, accents and apostrophes with virulent conviction then you’re not alone! This may not be the language of poetry, but it surely is the language of universality – that which everything can be condensed into. Just like the ancient alchemists used to condense magical potions into alchemical flasks, Zelinskie is condensing human thought and creativity into a universal binary via the creation of art.
But if some are worried that the flattening of language into the banality of binary will mean the dissolution of poetry, perhaps here’s where the challenge begins. What is art? Is art and artistic practice defined by its ability to mean different things to different people or entities? Can the subjectivity of art transpire through to the machine via the coded language of noughts and ones? Zelinskie has taken on the job of not just making the binary creative but also extending the artistico-democratic pledge to cover non-humans!