2023: A Retrospective Journey Across Technology, Society and Art

As the year draws to a close, I find myself looking back on 2023 as one filled with diverse and profound experiences that have shaped my perspective in meaningful ways. From exploring the relationship between technology & human trust in my musings to co-hosting thought-provoking digital art spaces alongside esteemed figures to being 3 miles in the sky on top of the Andes, it’s been a journey of discovery and growth. Each moment represented another step in understanding our rapidly-evolving digital age and how we can contribute positively to its impact on society and culture.

Creative Endeavors: From Children’s Tales to Digital Artistic Commentary

On the creative front, I embraced varied forms of storytelling this year, each resonating with different aspects of my observations on life in an increasingly digitized world. 

My children’s book “Who Moved My Banana?” marks my first foray into early readers’ literature. This vibrant, heartwarming adventure follows young me (Aaron) through the bustling grids of New York City as a quest to find his missing banana turns into a journey of connections, courage, and joy. I sought to infuse the story with the magical sense of exploration children often innately carry, weaving together themes of curiosity, community, and the serendipitous bonds that arise when we open ourselves to the unknown. As an aside, I also utilized a new feature from Crossmint allowing me to create digital collectables for those who purchase a signed copy from my author’s proof run.  Only 10 were made!

On the other hand, my digital art collection “From Selfies to Satire” represents a plunge into artistic social commentary on modern internet and culture. Living our lives increasingly through screens, I used AI to transform my personal selfies as a conduit to broader statements on digital representation and infusing our world into the binary. Infusing the familiar form of a “selfie” with layers of satirical messaging through post-editing techniques and an accompanying article, each piece becomes a statement on how internet trends and SEO culture shape worldviews. This work captured my evolution as an artist while serving as a cultural artifact that interrogates and subverts digital modes of self-presentation. 

In between travels this year, I made time for creative projects blending physical and digital art forms. One highlight was the mixed media painting “A Canvas of Clarity” crafted using spray paint, acrylics, pine needles and bananas as brush substitutes. Inspired by witnessing my father contend with encroaching dementia, this textured piece utilized a decaying banana and paint to spell “A is 4 Aaron,” on a canvas that will one day decay, symbolizing perseverance amid life’s unpredictability. Preserving the final artwork photographically allowed me to preserve the fleeting memory of expression and recall of something as important as my name.

I also explored integrating my self-portraiture with AI art in works like “Man Holding Still Life,” a pop-art mashup composite. Behind-the-scenes (“BTS”) photos and videos surfaced periodically too, chronicling pieces of my creative process.

Explaining Humanity’s Ledger: Explorations of Technology, Society, Ethics 

If my creative works captured cultural shifts through an artistic lens, my written explorations in 2023 delved directly into issues of innovation, ethics, and convergence. With new technologies rapidly reshaping social fabrics and institutions, I sought to spark meaningful considered dialogue on these seismic changes.

My overview piece “Humanity’s Ledger: The Trust Protocol Overview” sets the stage by probing how emerging innovations like blockchain and AI are redefining trust, transparency and personal identity constructs in ways we are only beginning to grasp. I wove philosophical insights together with technological perspectives to outline core issues for readers on the relationship between digital transformation and human connection. 

Developing this thesis further, my book “Humanity’s Ledger: The Trust Protocol” provides a deeper examination of decentralized systems like blockchain and their potential impacts across institutional and social spheres. As innovations drive rapid shifts across finance, law, and culture, I tried to illuminate not just practical applications but larger questions around digitally-mediated reformulations of societal interactions and public infrastructure. 

These works represent my effort to ignight considered, nuanced dialogue on the growing intersection of breakthrough technology and enduring human values principles. I believe these conversations can help seed essential thinking for anyone interested in the complex interplay between rapid digital change and the social contracts we hold dear. Understanding and consciously navigating this terrain will shape our ability to harness technology for good.

Amplifying Voices: Public Engagements on Technology and Society 

Beyond writing, 2023 also offered opportunities to engage with broader audiences on technological change through public speaking and interviews. 

Participating in spaces like the live YouTube chat with Joyn.xyz about their writing platform as well as interviews across an number of X.com Spaces, allowed me to give some highlights to the work I’ve done prior to venturing into Web3. Such conversations illuminated nuances around innovations like AI and its impacts on human creativity and mimicking thereof. 

Similarly, speaking at the BREATHE! 2023 summit on the convergence of the digital expanse and human cognition helped debate ideas on the narrowing boundaries between organic and artificial intelligence. As digital systems grow more fluidly embedded within human thought flows, how might we maintain philosophical continuity in this shift?

These public engagements offered chances to crystallize and debate profound questions on technology, ethics and society with those experiencing digital change first-hand. They served as springboards for further dialogue and exploration.

Recognition from the Academic Community  

I was also humbled this year by the academic community acknowledging concepts and frameworks I have developed in my work. Being cited in two scholarly articles – Weiss et al.’s “The Social Effects of Entrepreneurship on Society” and Amanda Sharp’s analysis of generative art ownership models in “Head in the BitCloud” – was an honor that underlines the relevance of my writing to complex issues around innovation. 

Furthermore, the possible opportunity to co-develop course modules on strategic management at a University inspired me to distill key technology strategy insights for the next generation of leaders. Structuring academic content on digital transformation for such a renowned institution was a privilege and I’m trying to find ways to provide this material online as well.

Art and Technology: Curations, Discussions and a World Record Attempt  

My engagement with the fine arts also led to memorable highlights in 2023 at the intersection of creativity and technology.

Firstly, I was privileged to receive early access to the Joyn team and Joyn.xyz’s new blogging platform, allowing me to pen profiles illuminating standout talents before their public access launch in 2024.

My initial piece dove into Lindsay Kokoska’s recent collections, “Cosmic Gold,” “Technicolor Universe,” and “Fallen Star”, where extensive surreal, cosmic explorations collide with AI to form otherworldly animations.

A subsequent article shed light on two artists leveraging organic elements in self-portraiture: Violet Bond’s ephemeral performances integrating the Australian wilderness and Maria Fynsk Norup’s introspective botanical photography. While wildly divergent in style, I aimed to spotlight their shared ingenuity honoring nature’s imprint on personal narratives and identity.

My most recent piece, an unpublished draft, delves into the riveting emotional turbulence within Victoria West’s acclaimed photographic composition “Exsanguinate.” Her meticulous digital reimagining of a classical painting took on added layers of significance in light of her mother’s cancer diagnosis, mirroring that profound personal challenge. I felt privileged to write about amazing humans and their masterpieces of fine art within Joyn’s literary canvas.

Secondly, co-hosting Spaces on X.com alongside artistic behemoths Victoria West and Lesile Spurlock was always a fun adventure with never a dull Talk about Tez. And there’s the artist and esteemed actor Steven Morse, whose show ArtHouzzz let us spend the morning dribbling on about ourselves and art as others listened patiently to laugh at his next joke or Leslie’s trademark giggle. (Oh, did I mention Leslie was also rocking alongside me as co-co-host on Steven’s show too! ????) Our free-flowing yet substantial discussions on NFTs, AI-generated art, augmented reality, art in general, and other boundary-pushing thoughts remain treasured memories.

Likewise, the BREATHE! 2023 summit featuring AI robot Sophia and other technology pioneers allowed me to curate a vibrant showcase of over 100 digital artworks in collaboration with the team at Joyn.xyz and multiple renowned galleries/curators such as Rebecca Rose’s Haus of Collage, Black Box Gallery, The Hug, Goat Studios, Tezos Pepe Dao, and others. My attempt to set a Guinness World Record captured the event’s spirit of pushing creative frontiers with a shoutout to Tezos Commons for sponsoring this communal attempt.

Finally, I was honored to have both traditional and avant-garde pieces curated for galleries in 2023. My whimsical black and white selfie with friend Lindsay won a spot among global talents in the ITAP World compilation on Foundation, curated by eminent web3 photography advocate Sloika. Additionally, a digitally manipulated AI self-portrait I created was chosen by artist Ivan Tau for her Nifty Gateway collection interrogating technology’s impact on identity. Least, but not last, was the curation of my work for the genesis launch of the Vitruveo blockchain focused on exclusively supporting artists and their works in Web3 world.

A Turning Point in La Oroya, Peru  

A profoundly moving experience this October was witnessing the ceremonial reopening of the La Oroya metals refinery in Peru, an event I was honored to be invited to attend. This marked a major turning point for the nearby town of La Oroya which had suffered severe environmental and economic devastation over recent decades due to corporate and governmental negligence.

Attending the ceremonial relighting of the smelter’s flames – signifying the plant coming back online after 13 dormant years – was incredibly powerful. While live music echoed optimism, one could still palpably sense the decades of corruption and pollution that had scarred the surrounding Andes mountains and local population. I reflected on the years of exploitation by foreign corporate owners like Doe Run Peru and Cerro de Pasco Cooper Corporation, which ravaged both the land and people’s health through rampant contamination.

I recounted these complex emotions in a WIP article titled “Rebirth of La Oroya: A Tale of Hope Amidst History of Neglect,” which chronicled the journey of this town. Once one of the most polluted places on Earth due to metals contamination affecting over 90% of inhabitants, La Oroya has cautiously embraced the promise of economic and environmental revival. However, with outstanding debt still owed by past owners and health impacts that may take generations to fully manifest, the path ahead remains complicated.

Attending October’s ceremony drove home my responsibility to keep spotlighting La Oroya’s story – both the resilience of its people and the sobering lessons at the intersection of globalized industry and local communities. Beyond the speeches heralding progress, I reflected on the human toll technologically-driven development can exact without conscious stewardship by all stakeholders. Through writing and remembering, I aim to honor La Oroya’s difficult journey while advocating for a just, sustainable future built on restored trust and mutual accountability.

Artistic Revelations in the Big Apple

My creative journey took an exhilarating turn in the spring of 2023 during a trip to New York City coinciding with the NFT NYC conference. This proved to be not just a blockchain technology mecca but also an artistic reawakening that culminated in a nine-piece photo-literary art collection dubbed “Aaron Went to New York.”

The trip’s catalyst was co-organizing the Tez Art Connect satellite showcase of over 100 curated Tezos NFT artworks alongside the ideator and event producer, Victoria West. Held at The NFT Gallery and sponsored by Tezos Commons, our event embodied the vibrancy of the Tezos creative community.

From curating selections titled “Humanity in AI” to displaying my own commemorative event piece, I sought to highlight digital art’s unique capacity to spotlight human individuality even when employing AI’s illusion of perfection. Meanwhile, Victoria and I co-hosted a boisterous live X.com (formerly Twitter) Spaces as we meandered around the captivating attendees as Leslie dropped wine glasses as her impromptu venture into performance art. Our bumpin’ space was saturated with connections between metaverse Spatial gallery, X.com Spaces, and IRL while amazing decentralized art gazed from the walls – a web3 salon come to life. Finally!

This marked only the trip’s launch, with a string of serendipities to follow. Attending an event featuring renowned performance artist FoodMasku was a well of inspiration only due to the invite from my dear friend, Andressa Furletti. Andressa was showcasing her slow-motion “Take a Selfie on Me” performance piece involving a body-covering mirror ball sculpture as she silently wove through curious onlookers. Before focusing on the art, I had to become part of the art by eating a piece of cake from FoodMasku’s face! Afterwards, I drew inspiration from my photography of FoodMasku and Andressa, “serving” as raw inspiration for my art pieces titled “Food Snafu.” Exploring connections between physical encounters and digital preservation, I rendered the fading moments into preserved works on-chain. (*This was also where Lindsay and I kicked it at the entrance with some dance moves, voguing, and mirror photos. Sloika curated our selfie in their ITAP World gallery on Foundation.)

Another unexpected avenue emerged through playful experimentation with a banana prop I introduced. I grabbed a banana from a bodega on the way to an event early into the arrival to NYC. Yes, it accompanied me for days in some shape and color of a banana (though I did have to rotate fresh copies throughout the week! ???? ) This handling of pre-wrapped food led to a three-day stunt documentary chronicled in “The Banana Lives” as well as the leading short “Only Living Banana in New York” rendered in pop art pastiche style. Part performance, part social commentary on internet viral formats, the banana’s comedic cameo tied back to themes of physical objects creating placeholders in our minds.

I did carve out a moment to indulge in some sticker-enhanced tomfoolery at the otherwise extravagant SuperRare party during NFT NYC. Despite their repeat rebuffing of my work to date, I simply couldn’t resist mischievously using their stickers in my signature upside down selfie and a banana.

Finally, my NYC memories took written form in “AARON – The April 2023 Issue.” Serving as an irreverent arts magazine, this digital booklet playfully documented my April 2023 adventures through photography, articles, and stream-of-consciousness. The magazine itself mirrored the essence of the trip, becoming a vivid tapestry that intertwined NFT art displays, exhilarating performances, backstage adventures, and introspective late-night discussions into a singular, electrifying bundle of creative expression.

This New York whirlwind adventure proved memorable not just for the artistic fruits it yielded, but also the realizations it spurred on connections between digital innovation and enduring human creativity. Web3 platforms like Tezos offered conduits for visual artists, performers and writers alike to transpose physical experiences into new non-fungible artifacts, preserving ephemeral moments through blockchain’s permanence.

Experimentations with mediums like photography, AI-altering techniques, animated gifs and interactive literature echoed my explorations into needing humanity’s imprint on the coming digital age. Emerging from this creative cascade further convinced me that art and culture have pivotal roles in anchoring technology’s best intentions. This trip reaffirmed my commitment to exploring digital frontiers not just as novel playgrounds but as springboards for that most enduring and connective of human languages – art.

Looking Ahead: CES, NFT NYC and Exploring Innovation

As January 2024 approaches, my anticipation builds for the exciting opportunities ahead. I am particularly enthusiastic about the upcoming event at Worre Studios during CES, where I will have the privilege of engaging with pioneers in the field of AI and emerging technologies, alongside the innovative team at SophiaVerse and others! This soiree promises to be a convergence of groundbreaking ideas and cutting-edge technology, offering a platform for profound discussions and insights on the future of artificial intelligence.

Additionally, I eagerly await NFT NYC 2024, where I will not only speak on a panel but also showcase my art, further contributing to the vibrant world of digital creativity and blockchain technology. My panel participation represents a chance to exchange perspectives with artists redefining ownership models and rights in the age of non-fungible tokens and programmable art.

As a wonderfully absurd dream opportunity, I have a banana and a mic reserved in my name all the way in Estonia for the gleefully offbeat BananaCon 2024 conference. Securing sponsorship for this journey to speak at a gathering celebrating everything from fruit frolics to blockchain innovation would perfectly encapsulate the winding, surprising terrain I’ve traversed this past year at the intersection of technology, culture and consciousness. LFG! ????

As another year rich in diverse engagements across technology, culture and business draws to a close, I am filled with gratitude and anticipation for the road ahead. 2024 promises continued evolution in my understanding alongside opportunities to build thoughtful dialogue around our collective digital future. 

Images from the year

AaronV profile on Revel.xyz
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