Lee Mason, known in the industry as Metageist, is both a digital artist and a collector. His work has been featured on Nifty Gateway, SuperRare, 1stDibs, Hic et Nunc, Rarible, and Mona. His Mona space, “The Spinnerette” was recently presented at ETH. Lisbon. Mason also curates for crypto-exclusive fund, Metapurse.
Mason’s avatar, Indigo Thornbug, is an exploration of biomimicry. The avatar is an insect pretending to be a human, with hidden features on her body. We asked Mason more about Indigo Thornbug, and how he came to be a self-proclaimed “Metaverse maximalist.”
What drew you to the metaverse?
I've been playing computer games and using digital art programs since I was a small child. So, for me, the Metaverse is not a new idea. It's a new buzzword to name that space that you inhabit when you share digital spaces in real-time with other people.
Has becoming a collector changed your work as an artist?
Being an artist and a collector are both examples of finding ways to create value in the art space. It's very rewarding to collect from other artists. And it's very important to understand what it is to be a collector if you want to sell your art. Over time, you learn that collectors really appreciate originality and integrity over everything else. That then feeds into your creative practice and allows you to sit back and think about what it is you really want to say. In the crypto art space, embracing your own weird idiosyncrasies is rewarded.
You say “reality is overrated.” Why is that?
We create our reality by telling ourselves a story about what is happening where we are the protagonist. A lot of the time, your most vivid dreams or nightmares are as easy to recall and remember as real things that happened in your life. You can remember some of the best moments of the movies you love, the albums you listened to, or the stories you read because they're held in the same part of your brain as all of your "real world experiences." Reality is everything you experience, whether on the written page, in a film, in a song, in a dream, or in virtual reality. We just tie all of these narratives together to create our experience of what it is to be alive in the world. The problem is there's this disconnect where people separate many of these experiences from what they deem to be reality. But then you're doing a disservice to your subconscious and to the storytelling and experiences you can gain from meditation, lucid dreaming, psychedelics, or virtual reality computer games. Just because it's tangible doesn't mean it's any more real. Everything that gets you through life and helps you understand where you are in the universe is real.
What is the role of an avatar in defining a user’s experience in the Metaverse?
There's a lot of power in avatars. People like to play computer games and have escapism by wearing the suit of another creature or another person. I'm fascinated with digital fashion and how we can augment appearance through digital means to express things like our heart rate or political leanings. I’m also interested in the concept of dynamic avatars of the future that allow us to manifest differently depending on who's looking at us, where we are geographically, or what the temperature is outside. As people start to use augmented reality and virtual reality, and those two spaces blend into one, people are going to be expressing themselves in the weirdest, most unusual ways. That's going to change periodically, on a whim. Physical appearance will be just as important, but it will be interpreted and computed in a very different way than we do now when we bump into our friends in the street, and we recognize their faces. It's going to be much more about that person’s character, and less about how they appear because you won't necessarily know. We are really underestimating how much these immersive technologies will change the world, and avatars are central to that experience.
Describe Indigo Thornbug. What was your vision behind the avatar?
I enjoy playing with the idea of biomimicry in digital experiences. I'm an ambassador for broadening our realities into all kinds of surreal digital landscapes. But I am also concerned that the metaverse will manifest like the internet manifested and end up being detrimental to humanity.
My avatar, Indigo Thornbug, is a female character. She's an insect pretending to be a human. If you look closely at the avatar, you will see that the real face is actually in the abdomen. There are eyes and teeth in the abdomen. My avatar also has this decoy growth that looks like a head on its back, sort of like a leafhopper. If you look closely at it, you can see that it's actually an insect balancing on its front claws, walking on its hands, pretending to be a human.
You made this in VR? What was that like?
I don't like sitting at my desk to do my work if I don't have to. With VR, I get to stand up, put music on, use expressive movements, and sketch. I end up having a connection to the artwork because the Oculus Quest has pass-through cameras. I can see my computer, desk, studio, and this six-foot insect monster standing next to me in the space. I just can't imagine why I would want to create something that is going to be an expressive avatar on a flat screen. I want to appreciate it for what it is, which in the future potentially could be somebody's 3D stereoscopic immersive vehicle for self-expression.
Walk me through your creative process.
I have my best ideas usually when I'm falling asleep or when I'm waking up. A lot of them disappear into oblivion and I never see them again, but the ones I remember generally start to inform Virtual Reality freeform doodle sessions. I sort of sketch in 3D, and I think about the image in my mind, and then I see where it goes. It often goes off on a complete tangent and looks completely different from what I originally imagined. But that's also that's where the most fun is to be had. Then I often have a very slow and somewhat tedious final stage of making these things sort of usable like with the avatars and Mona spaces. And by that point, I'm often excited about the next thing. I'm extremely lucky to have been able to find collectors that will buy my machinations. I'm just living the dream, to be honest. I'm full of gratitude for it.
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