NO MILADY NFTS, NOW NOW: THE RETURN OF 'SIYUAN ZHAO' AS THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING EXTINCT
Will the Milady Wave create even more New Slaves? Is the Vibe Shift now cosmically fallen off? Why so serious?
Cotton was often likened to white gold.—Anna Arabindan-Kesson
The Internet epoch, we learn, is the Golden Age of masks.—Nick Land
Watching an hour of Netflix is estimated to be around 36 gCO2. That’s 6000 times lower than an average single-edition NFT.—Memo Akten
NAH MILADY TWEAKIN (ERRONEOUS, BUT INEVITABLE)
Earlier this year I wrote an essay called ‘NO NFTS, NOT NOW: THE RETURN OF POST-INTERNET ART AS THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING EXTINCT’. Its argument was relatively simple and consisted of two parts:
NFTs are already the very worst thing that can happen to art and so need to be resisted (the sunken eco-cost argument).
NFTs are inevitable, will accelerate, and cannot be resisted (mitigation/transition to Web3 argument).
Anyone who read the whole essay might have recognised both parts of an impossible complaint. Taken together, they amounted to something like a non-negative critique of the extinctive momentum of all digital-aesthetic tropes and alibis.I meant to register the genuine shift that NFTs present but also the internal (not subject to correction, for reasons that can be demonstrated) challenge to energy continuity. As regards Neochibi or Milady NFTs—which I find deeply alluring—one might say the contradiction is even more acute.
Instead of adding an endless debate on the specifics of NFTs as drain (‘gas prices’), here is a quasi-random series of ‘classic’ Twitter threads/discussions on the subject: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Feel free to peruse. This issue of ‘gas’ needs to be assumed as at the very least contentious for what follows.
KANTIAN ANGELIC MIND
A further paradox in the original NFT essay was that according to one of the most evolved theorists of crypto in its philosophical aspects—Nick Land—the release triggered by digital money inside technological signatures and rationality is itself angelicist in mood.
In his Crypto-Current text, Land writes:
AI is thus positioned, implicitly, in the place of a Kantian angelic mind, liberated from the anthopomorphic proscription upon direct self-modification of its own cognitive processes.
In other words, though we may expect the achievements of crypto-intelligence to consist of release from theogenic tropes, some of those tropes—specifically, angelicism—are already the height of what any digital shift can achieve.
Pure money as achieved rationality is also pure angelicism. There is nothing to update beyond angelicism as rationality itself. Angelicism is the unupdateable. We are already as artificially intelligent as we can be. It (angelicism) is it.
The implication for NFT production is as radical as it is superfluous. That is, it will be—radically—ignored.
And yet, the implication cannot not be named. It cannot not be iterated, just as NFTs cannot not be produced—both momentums, if you like, are part of the same essentially entropic ass vibes of aesthetic ‘history’ rn.
The implication can be stated in terms of poetic cognition. Paul de Man said that when you see beautiful poetry it’s almost impossible to resist, and not your fault for going ahead and (not) doing so, but it doesn’t mean beautiful poetry is not lethal.
The same can be said of the spread of NFTs, and their latest ‘Milady’ manifestation—the beauty, fun, and unsummarisability of this Neochibi trend may be pictured in the context of a water cooler in Treblinka. It is itself—holocaustically, impossibly, glossily—fun.
This perhaps sounds like nothing (everything) but it is probably everything (nothing) that nobody wants to think. We are saying that this argument about the extinction-costs (see links above) of all art right now will—by definition—be ignored.
The brain of history does not and cannot read this as what it sees more than anything else in 2021. It is addicted to its indifference. NFTs are the summation of an indifference to indifference (‘fun’) and little else.
Tom Cohen—the only real theorist of extinction—calls this lethal implication the literary character of climate change. That is, instead of culture being the exception to industrial civilisation’s extinction drive, it is the central motor. It is culture—and online culture especially—that above all will soon have killed us all.
This connotes that all great art is now—intensely, and not just contingently—more-than-lethal. Which is to say, profoundly pedantic. That is the angelicist position, if there is one. And it is what makes angelicism a claim on the nonpedantic zone (pending, lacking, time).
MORE AND MORE NFTS
In the first ‘No More NFTS’ essay there was zero expectation that there would be . . . no more NFTs. The opposite was the case:
It is as impossible to heckle this development as it is to embrace it [our emphasis]. A degree of abstinence may, at this point, be the only form of deception that’s almost dignified. Art criticism’s rage at Crypto Art is no less empty than the worst of the art itself: passive nostalgia as the flipside of necrotic decadence, ass beating Priapus who kills it as reply.
A critique of Milady cannot be offered because Milady, no less than Beeple’s Dick Milking Factory (2021), is as erroneous as it is inevitable. The two sides cannot be separated out. Neochibi’s is Priapus’ secret flip.
Where Beeple’s art was priapic and therefore risible, Milady’s incoming wave will be as if well defended and hard to object to because of its cuddly post-ironic just-chillin cuteness. How can anyone want to trample on a tiny fairy factory, however invisibly canny and candied?
NFTS IN AUGUST 2021, OR, MILADY IN TREBLINKA
To recap, towards the end of August 2021 the ‘milady’ phenomenon which had been in trial-state for a while was launched by the approximate Network Spirituality and Remilia group. Milady is, simply, an avatar meme generator of supreme sweetness. Put like that, it sounds non-mysterious. Just some innocent Gremlins, this time without the tragic add-water fault.
The official description of Milady Maker is of ‘a collection of 10,000 generative pfp NFTs in a neochibi aesthetic inspired by street style tribes’.
At one level, these image-contracts are obviously the inheritance of the Miya Siyuan Zhao pfp proliferation that peaked between 2019 and 2020, but this time hooked up to what is ultimately already an obsolescent NFT technology. Last time, it was ‘Kaliacc’ that felt prohibitive next to the images, this time it’s ‘gas prices’. The confusion is itself the ideological selling point.
Throughout 2021 Network Spirituality loosely positioned itself as anti-paywall (when it came to Substack) and anti-deadnaming (when it came to avatars), but it has also developed an increasing nonhomogenous interest in NFT technology, now flourishing as the pfpNFT Generator whose results have already been adopted casually by e.g. Mat Dryhurst, a figure in mainstream crypto ‘interdependence’ theorisation and so on.
One may of course ask questions of how an anti-paywall ethos fits with the use of NFTs, but that’s not necessarily the most interesting aspect (everyone is contradictory, finance is infinite complicity, etc). De Man notes that the scopic manipulability of blindness in aesthetic zones is not really a human thing anyway. Its inevitability means that, however costly, it literally cannot be subjectively adjusted or seen (even right now, right here at this moment of reading).
Even if—or especially if—I know NFT technology can vastly accelerate the already prohibitive costs of global art, I am also incapable, as normative subject, of not forgetting this. In fact, the forgetting is the first thing that art needs to be art. Precisely what is exponentially ‘normal’ for art in 2021 is that art be indifferent to the extremity of extinction.
Here is how de Man expressed the bind:
Rather than putting it in terms that suggest deceit and duplicity, one could say that the poet, like the philosopher, must forget what he knows about his undertaking in order to accede to the discourse to which he is committed.
No one artist is responsible for the extincto-collaborative nature of contemporary crypto art—after, for some, ‘the vibe shift’—but this is not to say (some) one does not know what the cost is, and that there is no risk in calling it (as an empty allegorical IYKYK ‘joke’) ‘normal’. Since one can do nothing, the temptation is to treble down into the forgetting, as if the layer in which the art is made is itself amnesia.
But since one can only remain disturbed by the (un)consciousness of forgetting, it is a delusion to think one has entirely forgotten. This illusion itself—increasingly normal, so it seems—is also increasingly what is sold. The ‘normal’—HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, as the laughters low of neoMaladyKaliacc would admit—turns out to be the new holocaust to come.
HOW TO GET FROM ‘SIYUAN ZHAO’ TO NEOCHIBI TO TREBLINKA GOLD
It follows (in accordance with a priori synthesis) that a robust cryptocurrency will take the form of artificial gold.—Nick Land, Crypto-Current
It is impossible to think of digital art and not think of Gold at some point, for example Pindar’s holy Gold in Heidegger as a name for Being or what Land calls ‘artificial gold’. It is impossible to think of Gold without eventually thinking—at some obscure point in consciousness and its corruption—of the figure of ‘the Jew’. Perhaps deeper and more controversial still, the NFT market seems to create New Slaves. Kanye knew this by surmise, and it’s not a point that demands the pedantic detailism of examples. (In the zone of art as it is, detailism increases the everyday devil.)
Everyone at least knows that in some point in the past—so long ago!!! like 2020—an absolute value was attached to something called ‘anti-capital’. The strange fact is that in America, under Biden, the power of such a ‘resistance’ is less than ever apparent. The artificial Gold Rush is slaying the normative tribe.
Can we imagine a Milady in Treblinka and should we? To do so is to place art in a proximity to genocide so obtrusive that it begs the severe hopefree question. In the first ‘No NFTS’ essay, the comparison of an artwork with a ‘watercooler in Treblinka’ was just that egregious display. But NFTs are already acutely historical, so how not so serious? Or why and how pause entrapped inside the beauty of normative oblivion?
The camps are meant to be an exception, even now, even given a world of constant forgetting of ‘never forget’. Where Siyuan Zhao had an aggressive relation with art itself (Miami, and so on), Milady is almost all cute amnesia and its fun-law, the indifference to indifference and shine shrine. No blood this time.
To say Milady cannot be pictured in Treblinka or at Miami Beach because it is offensive is to make it impossible to ever again take total human genocide seriously as a category. If angelicism is a formal gesture, it is the gesture of pushing back against the illusion that anything can or should be put ahead of what Grothendieck calls the ‘infinite quantity’ and pricelessness of the current species on earth (humanimal). Angelicism places itself, at almost all costs, between the human and the ‘something else’ of absolute niche finality (cosmic burn-all). It counts holocausts (impossibly).
To be nonpedantic, this means having to bear the thought that Jewishness and the Holocaust cannot be at the centre of any contemporary account of pain. On the contrary. Moreover, this would be the point of imagining Milady in Treblinka, to bring up that immense problem of relativisation. The problem is not just that there is more than one holocaust depending on who you ask culturally, but that the threat of total extinction is in fact a greater matheme. Besides, surely little Milady is ready.
Even if it is inevitable that we increasingly ignore the following fact, there is, according to at least one market pitch, nothing more worthy of speculation than the holocaust to come.
By 2035, demand is expected to double for germanium; quadruple for tantalum; and quintuple for palladium. The scandium market could increase nine-fold, and the cobalt market by a factor of 24.—Guillaume Pitron
So, what is network spirituality? Will it turn out to be a value? Or, conversely, are all the angels of heaven a spoilsport distraction from falling in love with Digital Christ’s actual eyes?
Let us say there is such a thing as nonminting, both in life and art. There is radical purity, perhaps, and radical emptiness. There is Angelic mind and there are non-networks. Land makes a reference to Mou Zongsan and ‘the East’, crucially, in the section of Crypto-Current that discusses ‘Kantian angelic mind’. Here is what he says:
The practical actualization of intellectual intuition is modeled—spontaneously—as an explosion because it is comparable to the withdrawal of graphite rods controlling a nuclear fission reaction. An inhibitor is removed. In the East, the catalysis of ‘enlightenment’ through methodical subtraction of an obstacle is no less pointedly thematized, even if it is approached from the other side, and in the opposite direction.
In effect, Kantian angelic mind (angelicism as pure time and purchase and price) is available without the support of Western method-objects. As Land puts it, ‘enlightenment’ is valorised from the other side, that is, the side originally with no (‘digital’) network as such. The subtraction of an obstacle (the nonpedantic) does the thing we want beyond or before what AI or the internet yet can. The true internet, let’s say, is ancient, and the only thing of great price.
28 August 2021
A really expensive hyperlink with an absurd carbon footprint, etc.
I call this nonpedantic rendition of overness ubilapse.
A more detailed description is found here: ‘Milady Maker is a collection of 10,000 generative pfpNFT’s in a neochibi aesthetic with randomized cosmetics inspired by 00’s Tokyo street fashion. Under the vision of digital artist Milady Sonora, Milady’s are designed to be fashion-minded and genuinely good social media avatars, and an invitation into their personal aesthetic world.’
Thank you for another splendid essay on the subject. Your voice is indispensable.
have I commented on this already