Lindsay Howard, curator and Head of Community at Foundation, has interviewed Signe Pierce, represented by Annka Kultys Gallery since 2017, to coincide with the groundbreaking launch of the Foundation platform, for which Pierce has created its first-ever NFT.
Signe Pierce thinks it’s time to take a 360-degree approach to generating value around art
By Lindsay Howard
You might know Signe Pierce from her series of videos that went viral last year, from her award-winning short film American Reflexxx, or from one of her many solo exhibitions and gallery shows across the US and Europe. A hyper-real multi-media artist, Signe is insanely hard to put in a box. Her work spans performance, installation, digital, and physical media. She is an absolute force—an energy frequency in her own right that shows up in lurid technicolor, pulsing for us to wake up.
With Foundation, Signe is dropping a collection of still life images from her “Jangular Lilies” series, in which hyper-reflexive approaches to classic tropes reveal something divine. Here, our Head of Community, Lindsay Howard, spoke with Signe about making art in the current moment, journaling as a creative practice, and the need to give artists more control over how their work is experienced, bought, and traded.This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When people ask you what you do, what do you usually tell them?
The quick answer is that I’m an artist. The next answer is that I’m a multimedia artist. And then if they really want to get into it, I tell them that I’m a reality artist.
What does “reality” mean to you?
When I talk about reality, I’m always hit with the paradox that reality is different for everybody. But overall, it’s our individual perceptions that come together to form our collective experience. So, part of what I explore in my work is how completely subjective the notion of reality is, and all of the different paradoxes and paradigms that create our perception of what’s real within an increasingly virtual reality.
How would you describe the world that your art inhabits?
In my art and in my life, I lean into ideas of the hyperreal and the supernatural. I am deeply interested in the whole spectrum of perception. I think about the electromagnetic spectrum all the time. I’m obsessed with quantifiable data that’s grounded in science, in physics, and in principles that allow us to measure and understand lived experiences.In my work, I try to fuse all that very real, quantifiable information about the way that we emit energy—the way our interpersonal interactions all play out with and within each other. And I deal with the spectrum of perception between the natural universe and man-made constructs. Between the natural and the technological. And how consciousness drives all of that.
Do you have any rituals when you’re creating new work?
Different kinds of journaling have become an essential part of my practice in the past couple of years. I’ve been keeping a serious log of my thoughts, ideas, and visions. I want to author new languages to help us better decode the extremely overwhelming aspects of living in a hyperreal era, and what it means to be human in an increasingly digital sphere. Journaling is how I’m starting to do that. One of my rituals is what I call “digital streams of an uploadable consciousness.” This is essentially just logging and capturing my consciousness through video. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or when I have a big idea that I need to get out, I press record and start talking to the camera. And I have a dialogue with myself, a back-and-forth to record and capture the essence of the ideas.
What do you think about the attention economy? Would you describe your work as being in dialogue with that?
The attention economy is an unquestionably huge part of how everybody operates in this social media age. It’s so easy to get obsessed with likes and faves, and I always have that in mind when I’m creating something new.There’s clearly a trend of people molding their whole lives to fit into an algorithm or whatever is going to get them more attention. And it may be that art is taking a hit. But, I’ve been asking, “are you creating content or are you creating art? What’s the difference?” I ask myself that question in order to keep myself in check. And that’s a tension that I find fascinating. I would even be willing to say that I’m interested in blurring those lines.
What’s the significance of tokenizing your photographs via Foundation? What interests you about cryptocurrency?
I’m interested in working through some of the consciousness blocks that are making it difficult for people to understand how digital artwork can be collected. Art has always been a physical, tangible thing, but we have so much happening in digital spaces that is of serious value. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be developing ways to profit and value and create some semblance of importance around digital artworks and art worlds. I see tokenization and cryptocurrency as a way to do that.
Do you have a dream project that you haven’t made yet?
I’m actually working on it right now. It’s HyperrealiTV. It’s a whole world; it’s 10 years of inspiration coming into form, with me operating as a hyper-reality artist, or a meta-media artist. I’m taking all of the different aspects of my mind and my practice and creating a space to bring them all to life where people can observe and consume on an almost daily basis. I’m inspired by so much of life and so much of reality. My brain works really fast and in really crazy ways. In order for that to come to life, I needed to start developing an architectural system for outputting all of this inspiration in ways that are consistent, organized, understandable, digestible, reachable, teachable for others—but that also allows me to plumb the depths of my imagination. The new world that I’m building is about creating space to use my voice in a way that’s funny, colorful, interesting, all of those things.We live in a hyper-mediated era. So I believe art should reflect that. When you think about what people spend all day doing in their free time, they’re watching stuff. School, your feed, your phone, YouTube. These are all just new places to create meta-media canvases. And that’s what I’m doing.
What world are you trying to create with your still life photographs? How do you approach the process of making them?
I’m interested in taking classic tropes and bringing them into new forms and new dimensions. What I like about these pictures is they are kind of sci-fi futuristic versions of traditional paintings or classic flower images that you see in big museums. I’m also very interested in ideas of reflexivity and hyper perception. The images are hyper-reflexive in that the flower can see itself in the image because I kind of inverted it on itself. In a sense, some kind of divine symmetry popped out of the pictures while I was taking them, which was unexpected. To me, it spoke to the strange patterns of the natural universe that make flowers look the way they do, and make them the gorgeous symmetries that they are. When you reflect them back onto themselves, a whole new dimension of symmetrical reflexivity pops out. I find that to be beautiful and profound, like the crossing of dimensions between nature and technology.
What is it like for you to bring the still life photographs into a cryptocurrency space?
I work with what I call the spectrum of perception. The spectrum that we operate within isn’t just left to right, which is very limiting. It’s actually a whole 360 multi-verse. It’s the X, Y, and Z axis. I’m interested in breaking out of just the left to right dimension of capital or profit and thinking about 360-degree ways of generating value around my work. Sometimes I’ll operate within the physical art market, which has more traditional sensibilities of collecting. Sometimes I’ll operate within crypto, where people trade with tokens, or even within streaming platforms. I’m interested in the ways that artists can have more of a hand in the way that our work is owned, experienced, and traded.At the end of the day, when we think about art collecting and the art market, my work is the product. And so, if I’m thinking like a true entrepreneur or business owner, I should be in charge of the capital and the flow and splitting that with my business partners in ways that make sense. From an entrepreneurial perspective, I see so many opportunities to straddle a lot of these different spectrums of perception and of market value.
Why is right now the time to launch this new project in this way?
I’m interested in exploring new ideas and trying to make sense of new realities. I believe that artists should work within our time to develop new answers and new solutions, and crack open new perspectives and perceptions. It makes sense to be getting into crypto and getting into new avenues for art valuation because these are things that are really core to my idea of what it means to be an artist. It’s about uplifting and upholding value for art, as well as creating new spaces within our era, which are reflective of what’s happening right now.
What would you want to say to people who are being exposed to your work for the first time through Foundation?
I think that in the development of technology there’s a lot of serious evaluation around what people need, and that has created all these amazing platforms for social connectivity and communication. Art needs to be a central part of this. We live in a crazy world and everything can feel very doom-oriented when we don’t create space for color, light, energy, and ideas to flow freely. That’s something that art can do. Art can uplift people, energize people. When I’m feeling depressed about the state of the world, I look at art to pull me out of my sadness. And when I say art, I don’t just mean paintings in galleries. I mean music, I mean looking online and getting inspired. We can use that to push into the next phase of the tech industry’s value systems. To push tech to take more of an artful approach.
What message do you most want to get across right now?
Even before quarantine began, I had this idea of “2020 Vision.” It’s essentially that we need to start looking at reality through a clearer lens. We need to be thinking about what’s going on in the world within the hyperreal spectrum of perception. When the coronavirus hit, it forced everybody inside. It’s like reality put everyone in a “time out.” I’ve had so many important moments of clarity throughout the last few months. Like, “Wow, healthcare is completely not working in this country.” These are things that we’d already been talking about, but we were put into direct conflict with it. Then, watching the way the Black Lives Matter movement has surged with power and possibility. All of these things, I think, are the result of 2020 Vision—we’re looking at things more clearly, really seeing them for what they are, and not being passive about it. Not just saying, “Oh my god, everything sucks. It’s so crazy.”I don’t think we actually want to be passive. I think there is a collective shift happening in the world. People are saying, “let’s pay attention to what’s going on. Let’s take accountability for the way things are, and let’s show up and create solutions for the pollution.” We’ve been spiraling in a vortex for a long time, feeling like everything’s fucked. And something about the 2020s—the 2020 Vision—is saying, “No, let’s take new actions. Let’s actively create new realities.”With this release on Foundation, I want to try something new. I want to take new approaches to my art-making and to the ways of valuing art in the 21st century. And I want to be thinking about ways that these new ideas can be put to use to elevate the collective consciousness. We need more art. We need more education. We need more care and empathy and humanity in this world, and I feel like our “2020 Vision” is going to turn these ideas into action.