Wildxyz is one of our favorite platforms for NFT artists. In recent months, they’ve been quietly making their mark on the NFT art space through carefully curated drops like Mitchell F. Chan’s ‘Boys of Summer,’ which sold out in a matter of minutes.
Their most recent project is the first group showcase of young artists who were part of the Wild Residency program. It is called ‘MATERIAL’ and features work from Loucas Braconnier, who goes by the name Figure31, Jeffrey Scudder, and Sten.
Last week, I caught up with Figure31, a rising artist from Montreal. He told us about his journey as an artist into the Web3 space, his upcoming project, and what he thinks Web3 can offer artists. Check it out.
The following interview has been edited for concision and clarity.
Nate Kostar: To get started, What got you into art? Why do you make art?
Figure31: I’ve always been doing this kind of thing. Since primary school, I’ve never done anything else but culture, art, and work in that field. I’ve always built little random things with my grandpa and my parents and it started from there.
But also, I think, I’m not really perfect for working in an office from nine to five. I need another type of lifestyle, and art suits me very well. I love being able to define my own time and work on different things with different people. And it gets to a point where you do this and you sort of can’t go back. Because you study the arts and then after that, you can’t just go back into business, science, or design or whatever.
What’s your Genesis story with Web3? How did you get into it?
Remember the first bull run in Bitcoin? At that time, I was about to go to university and my family didn’t have money put aside for me, and I didn’t have any money either. So, I was joking around that we should have put money into Bitcoin to finance my studies, and every time the price doubled, I mentioned it to my family to just remind them that it would have been helpful.
I paid attention to that for a while, and then I worked as an assistant studio for Nicolas Grenier, a painter in Montreal, and he was already into digital art and he had me do a bunch of research on different subjects of how artists use technology.
As I got more into crypto and Web3, I found it really easy to approach different people. And it was a very welcoming space versus what I’ve come to know as an artist in the traditional art world. And I really loved that.
Also, for a long time, I didn’t have any money to rent exhibition spaces, so friends and I would do gorilla exhibitions in the countryside. We would just take a bunch of pictures and then run away and then do it at another spot. And the exhibition was sort of a photojournalism in a way.
Finally, when I graduated university, it was during the pandemic and I couldn’t exhibit my work anywhere. I was sort of forced into the field of Web3, and it was just much more convenient and I could leverage it in a much better way than what I was doing, which was normal physical exhibitions where a hundred real people come to your show and then maybe if you’re lucky, you sell one or two drawings to your close friends or family. But on the internet, it was a totally different experience. It was much more welcoming; you could reach many more people. And that’s really what got me to stick around in Web3.
Tell me about Wild. How did you find them and what do you think is special about this platform?
I got to know about them through networks of collectors who told me I should apply to their residency program. I had already worked with some other curatorial programs, like JPG, and I got interested in the idea of a program that could offer much more support than me just releasing work independenlty. They were like, “Hey, we’re gonna help you with your contract, if you need anything, and we’re gonna support you with contextualizing your work.”
These are things that when you’re an artist that work is very different than just making art. And for better or for worse, we don’t have galleries in this space and I don’t have an agent, so I’m just working by myself. Finding a partner like Wild that would support me through the launching process and my contextualizing, that was really great.
So, what about this new project you have in the works that’s coming out very soon? Tell me a little bit about it and what makes it special.
MATERIALS is the title of the exhibition that Wild is releasing. It consists of three artists releasing three distinct collections in one show. My project inside that exhibition is called “PROXY.” And PROXY is basically a series of portraits.
But they’re not portraits as you would expect them to be. They’re just abstract color fields, and the way I made them began about a year or two ago. I was searching for stuff on the internet like any artist does and once in a while when you’re searching libraries and looking for inspiration, you find something different. And for some reason I ended up on the United Nations website.
There’s a photo library on the site, and inside that photo library there’s a portrait of everyone who works at the UN. And if it’s not a portrait, it’s just classical pictures of politicians shaking hands and showing off in front of crowds and stuff like that. I’ve been a photographer for a very long time, and when you’re sort of sensible to how images are constructed and the story they tell, it struck me as very odd that they would make it public.
I found that on every image there was this row of colors. Basically, the UN website analyzed every image in their database, and they color coded it. So, you have this similar tone section and you can navigate the library through these tones, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a political database to do this type of stuff. It has no use in their own context, but for me, as an artist coming in and seeing that, it felt like an opening invitation to reuse whatever data was in that database and repurpose those images and try to structure a collection around it.
What do you think Web3 can do for artists?
Generally speaking, I think it opens up doors to a whole network of collectors and other artists to collaborate with and to reach that is much easier than what you would find in the arts normally. What strikes me as the most important thing, personally, I was recently having a chat with a photographer friend and we were talking about how much of our work people see around us as artists working on-chain. Everything I do is on the internet. So, I can always send a link to something and my work is always on display in a way.
And I found that it’s so different because in the traditional art world, I always struggled to find artworks of artists that I like. You’re going through Google, you’re going to different libraries, like gallery pages, etc. But I think for Web3 for artists, the fact that all of our artworks are on display all the time and they’re always available to anyone with an internet connection; I think that’s very powerful.
It’s very different from doing an exhibition or a show, when you do a lot of work to get it out there and then the next day when the show’s over, you’re like, “What now?”
Yeah, when I started making art, I was making these shows — it’s a lot of money, a lot of work, and a lot of time you spend installing your artworks, and it lasts for a week. But in Web3, we get a chance to have something that’s more permanent in a weird way because we don’t have this feeling of permanence with digital things yet. But it feels much more permanent, the way I share and create my art being straight digital.
It allows digital artists to imagine work digitally, and then the work also ends up digitally in the hands of the collectors, which is very practical. Because, if you do digital art, outside of our space, it’s like what do you sell? A USB key? Or you just send a file via email? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Okay, if you wanted to point someone towards one project that you’ve done in the past, which one would it be?
I think of one of my first collections “SALT.” It was at a really important time for me. It was like my first big project that I worked on with other people that I didn’t do independently on-chain, and SALT was one of the early dynamic blockchain art projects in a way. I worked with JPG and Oxmon’s on it.
It consists of 180 images where the metadata rotates around one hundred and eighty tokens. So, it’s like a really big carousel of images that rotates every day around the whole collection.
So, the collectors collectively own all of the images. And there’s this sense of impermanence and renewal and cycling motion through the work that I find very interesting. That project really opened my eyes to different ideas.
Okay, before we head out, what’s the origin of your name?
[laughing] Okay so this is a bit funny, but I’ve had many names online and I never committed to using my full legal name on the internet. I used to do fencing when I was a kid and I had this archival sort of fencing book with a bunch of maneuvers and moves in there, and there was one I particularly liked. It was a long and short sword move. And at the bottom, it was written, Figure31.
So, I just took the image description and used it as a username. That’s it, it comes from nowhere important.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with me today.
To learn more about Figure31’s latest project PROXY, which is part of the MATERIAL exhibition, visit Wild.xyz. Here is another interview with a Wild artist: