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Is NFT artist John Karel the next Beeple?
Episode 130th May 2021 • Floor is Rising • Floor is Rising Podcast
00:00:00 00:16:16

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Everyone has heard of Beeple, but not many people have heard of John Karel. The hottest NFT platform currently is not on Ethereum but on Tezos. is the platform. We talk about Karel and his move from Ethereum to Tezos and how climate change plays a crucial role in the move.

We also discuss the aesthetics of John Karel's artistic style. What influences we see in it.

We talk about how John Karel has in such a short space of time become influential within the artists that make up the HEN collective.

Transcript Below;



Welcome to the Floor is rising podcast. We talked about NFTs I'm sabretooth with me is Kizu.


So today's topic is really about another artist that has been very active in generating a lot of attention. For his art on a different platform. And that artist is John Karel.

He has basically been the, hot new property on the block. I think his artistic style is one of the things obviously, but I think a lot of, attention has also been paid to the platform that he's active on, which is a Hic Et Nunc, which is Latin for here and now,

hic Et Nunc which has been abbreviated to hen or hen. And specifically the blockchain and the token that it's being active on is, Tezos.


Tezos, is one of those OG layer, one blockchains. They did their ICO, you know, ancient like six years ago to 2015, I believe raised around $500 million. And basically since then, no, one's heard a peep about. basically anything happening there. Most people have kind of written them off. And lo and behold, in sort of Feb, March of this year, 2021, this sort of platform, Hic Et Nunc, just comes roaring on the scene.

Basically out of nowhere. And as of today a lot of people say that it's sort of, up there with open sea as the largest NFT platform in the world, essentially. And a very unlikely story to come out of Tezos. No one knows exactly how and why it became so popular, but the topic for today's conversation, John Karel I think personally is somewhat responsible for that popularity. I mean, he was. Quite early on the platform.


I think that there's a bit of a deja VU element I think, in, in Karel's work. That's not to say that, you know, Beeple's work isn't derivative or doesn't have references to, you know, early two thousands, 2010s internet culture, which it does, obviously.

I think that's very much foregrounded and I think it's a big part of. The way that it's resonated with particular than slightly younger gen YZ demographic. And I think there's something similar in John Karel except that I think that the kind of timeframe that's referenced is a little bit earlier.

Specifically, if Beeple is more like a 2010s meme based kind of, aesthetic, I think Karel's is about 10 years prior to that, I think there's a, there's an early two thousands Y2K kind of like retro computer graphics. Very strong style to that. Obviously a lot of the works are animated, kind of GIF like things.

There's obviously some similarities with Beeple but there's a little bit more of a hearkening back retro element specifically I would say. And I think that he's mentioned this in interviews. He's very cognizant of these references and specifically this timeframe at the same time, he does seem to be very aware of pop artists that have dealt with similar material specifically pop art from the sixties, like Warhol, Oldenburg.

I think the color palette is pop, it translates well on the screen. The more vital elements, I think with any NFTs, it's obviously a visual medium, specifically it performs well on a screen as opposed to obviously like a canvas .

There's a flatness to it. Perspective wise, it's quite flat and it's pixilated. All of those things identify it, as a kind of like internet native or screen native medium. He's known for the series with a skeleton .

That's just one of his main characters. The color scheme skews purple light blue, pastel green. It reminds me a little bit of the Vaporwave aesthetic, which was actually also tied to specifically pop music that was slowed down to half, three quarters.

Its original speed. A lot of it was eighties, nineties, dance music. Like Y2K, not so much the anxiety or the paranoia element, but the dominant style and the resolution and the visual limitations and quirks of that time.

So I think these are all coming together in a very familiar way.


He is now, undoubtedly the best-selling artist on HEN. I dug into sort of that history and his first foray into crypto art

it wasn't actually on Tezos or HEN. He was an artist that was selling on Ethereum based platforms, Rarible. He was successful artists on Ethereum and then sometime in early March there was criticism of NFTs as beings not climate friendly.

There was a narrative going around. And I noticed his Twitter on John Karel's Twitter that nearly every single post that he made, there would always be one or two people there in the comments, reminding him about the anti climate factor for the minting NFTs on Ethereum, as of right now is still a proof of work blockchain.

It took him a week or so and he basically made the decision to stop minting NFTs on Ethereum and move to HEN, Hic Et Nunc, which at that point was a very, very niche, very small NFT platform on Tezos.

His first mint was about the two thousands NFT that was Minted on the platform. And right now that's sitting around 90,000. So it was very, very early on. Looking at the prices that he was selling for. On Ethereum versus what he was selling for on hen at the time, I think he definitely took a monetary hit in the beginning to, to do that.

I think , a huge part of his popularity or due to his art, of course, but also, you know, the fact that he brought some of these existing fans from Ethereum into Tezos. And the fact that he kind of took that political stand. On the clean NFT Issue, I think had a lot to do with galvanizing , his popularity.

He just took off


Would you say that was primarily. The reason for his popularity, or do you think that it was very timely that he kind of jumped on the hen bandwagon at a time when Twitter discourse was very conscious of energy and environment related issues.


No. I mean, I wouldn't say that's the primary reason. Because he was a pretty successful artists. I mean, he wasn't like the most successful artists on ethereum, but he was a pretty successful artist on ethereum and he was selling his one-to-one work for around one to two ETH he's editions going for like 0.1.

So it's pretty respectable prices. Not like Beeple level prices, but pretty respectable prices. What made that move better in hindsight is that it wasn't jumping on a bandwagon because at that stage, HEN wasn't really a Bandwagon and it was a Go Kart. He made the switch. I think definitely contributed to HEN's sort of increasing popularity. The narrative of the clean NFT even though it wasn't started by him definitely was enhanced by the fact that he made that switch.

He took a risk you know, it pays off because you're not really a bandwagon jumper. You're more sort of the Vanguard of the movement. So I think that definitely helps him because you know, art is very political. And I would say like that is a political statement that he made.

And, you know, people love political statements, especially if it's at the expense of money , you certainly couldn't say that you know, he did it to make more money.


What are the parallels between this kind of behaviour or the kind of shift of Karel towards the idea of Clean NFTs what a clean art work in the traditional art world would entail.

We distinguish between commercial and non-commercial platforms. So obviously, even though, you know, Open sea and so on are considered better or more insidious maybe because of environmental load compared to hen. And you know, that's not the discount.

The fact that yes, there is a political statement being made by artists like Karel that are shifting over. They're both essentially marketplaces. So I think the parallel in the art world, a traditional art world would be. Auction houses and galleries, for example. So I think there's some awareness of which galleries are the big and better ones and which are the more not to say non-commercial, but I think the ones that are more, you know, the support of underdogs, they take on artists that make work.

That's less commercial, not very sellable prices are lower but that are critically acclaimed and that get into the big festivals and be an right. Entry and alleys and things like that. So I think within, so within that commercial ecosystem, I think there's definitely some awareness on artists on the part of artists when they choose which galleries and dealers to work with, or if they choose, you know, specifically auction houses to, to consign their work to, I think there is some kind of field pick and choose there.

Allowing artists to make a political statement is when I think the best example would be when artists withdraw their work from exhibitions or events that they find politically objectionable.

So for example, if you have you know, a scandal with the board, or if there was some evidence that the chairman of that. Particular event or be an ally had made a racist or sexist misogynist statement


John Karel's made a lot of different stuff throughout his career. The dancing skeleton is just one of these more well-known sort of older works. But on HEN, he's a famous for his windows still life series, which is basically all his posted on HEN up to this point.

And it's become, I think almost like a blueprint for success. You can see a lot of other artists. Emulate not so much the windows, but the collectibleness of his decision for what to mint. Emulate the style the similarities from one artwork to the other emulate the descriptions and. Something that I've, haven't yet seen with other big artists, but essentially the whole platform of artists have paid tribute to him by minting their own window series. It was started by an artist by the name of Shvembldr.

Who's a Latvian generative artist one day decided to window tribute to, to John Karel and it just kind of took off and nearly every single artist. On the platform, has done their own John Karel tribute art work. And it, it really works because I've noticed that for a lot of these artists who are struggling to sell a lot of volume, that if they put out a good John Karel window tribute, that usually their best selling work.

Because all of John fans now want to collect it. And then. Pay for it. And John usually likes to support artists by re-tweeting it. And so it's become like this sort of initiation rite. For artists on the coming on to HEN to basically do a John Karel tribute.


The first thing that comes to mind actually is not necessarily art related. It's more fashion. And I speaking specifically of like knockoffs it's a bit early for Karel to be knocked off , granted he has a sort of yeah. Fan base and demographic who and who enjoys work.

But we're talking about an artist that has a very niche market and you know, more than that, the fact that he is. Popular artists with, you know, in a very circumscribed and limited context, which is that an NFT space, right? Granted before he was, as you mentioned before, he came onto hen, he was already quite popular, but still this is quite a it's quite a minority phenomenon, I would say.

So I think the fact that an artist of his stature within this limited space is. Being paid tribute by artists with this window phenomenon. I not sure that really speaks to the power of his brand rather than maybe the fact that because of the nature of NFTs, it.

lends itself very well to memes and kind of imitations and quotational , works that.

Kind of riff off other things. It's very referential. And if you look at say I mean, you look back at Beeple, a lot of the motifs and the characters were kind of insider jokes, particularly surrounding various aspects of internet or a meme culture. So I guess let's go. Yeah. So to answer your question, I think that, you know, we're seeing.

In fashion, you see brands being knocked off because they're so big. And that, you know, people who want a piece of that action, but can't pay the full price for all these branded goods. The goal for the knockoffs. And this is something a bit different because he's not really being knocked off, he's being referenced and paid tribute to and there's, you know, I think a similar, but yet very different dynamic going on there.


It's kind of a phenomenon called trash art which the term itself came from crypto art. The artistic concept it's quite a bit older, he music especially with the rise of hip hop music where no, the entire genre is based on resampling other forms of music to create some new music. And the trash art movement is basically about re sampling, you know, existing art to, to make some new art.

And I think this, you know, John Karel has at various times has been called a trash art exponents. But I think this sort of resampling or remixing of John's still life windows motif is kind of like a classic sort of trash art genre pieces.


I think that's definitely true in the sense that It's happening independently of his mainstream appeal or recognition because a lot of this

Hip hop is a bit maybe different no hip hop artists is going to sample you like they want an additional credit or feat

on their byline . And that's how in general, I think mainstream recorded music works. You mentioned trash art. I think it is based on the fact that anything can really be remixed or be sampled and regardless of its mainstream endorsement or status .

That's something that I think is particularly more specific to internet native forms of expression, where there's no major and minor anymore. There's not really a sense that someone is mainstream or marginal or alternative. There's a flattening of value

for this windows phenomenon, the way the momentum that's built around certain artists and movements and aesthetics, has the potential to, propagate itself in a very different way it's quite distributed and it doesn't require the kind of official recognition from the establishment.

These movements seem to have a certain autonomy and if you have that momentum, then you can kind of operate independently. The windows phenomenon does speak very eloquently to the potential and the kind of media native aspects of NFT


Kizu there's so much more we can talk about, but we're out of time. So, until next time

was a good one


Have a good one.