Lauren Lee McCarthy, an associate professor of design media arts at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, has focused most of her career as a media artist and educator boldly exploring how technology has become so interwoven into our lives and society and what that means. In her unique practice, McCarthy has: turned her apartment into an experiment in artificial intelligence; examined the concept of what “later” took on during the pandemic, by creating “Later Date,” in which she conducted a series of online chats with people, discussing plans for a future when everyone can go outside again; and created a service called “Follower” that provided participants a real life follower for day. They signed up, downloaded an app nd waited for their follower, who stuck around for one day. At the end, they were left with one photo of, taken by the follower, who remained out of sight.
With that track record, the renowned Southern California public broadcast show “Artbound” talked with McCarthy about her recent work with non-fungible tokens, more commonly known as NFTs. They work as public ledgers, using blockchain technology to track digital transactions, essentially ensuring that when a collector buys an NFT, they’re essentially acquiring a tamper-proof digital receipt. That also allows the artist to retain a percentage of the revenue each time their work is sold.
As McCarthy says in the interview, technology is never neutral. It’s based on the premises and assumptions of its creators. And as the world of NFTs and the pandemic transform the art market, she explores how human beings can meaningfully connect with each other even through technological and social upheavals.