As a Millennial who remembers the world before digital devices and the internet were everywhere, Sarah Zucker — aka The Sarah Show — is fascinated by the accelerated transition society at large is going through.
“I feel as a Millennial that I’m part of this generational cohort that’s in this very unusual experience of having had an analog childhood and now living a digital future,” says Zucker.
“I’m specifically using tools of the recent past like analog TVs to take people out of our present moment and create this different experience of time and sense. I would say my work really is about time more than anything.”
The Los Angeles artist is considered an OG of the NFT art scene, having started way back in 2019 (her first mint was on April 4 that year) compared to most artists who arrived on the scene in the last 12–24 months.
Her art seems to resemble something you’ve seen before, all while feeling like something completely new, telling stories with a dose of humor while tapping into cutting-edge and obsolete technologies.
Having been featured at Sotheby’s and more recently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Zucker’s love for art started with film photography.
“I’ve always expressed myself visually. As a teenager, I got very into photography and specifically working with film photography. We’re talking about the early 2000s when everything was going digital,” she says.
“Vintage technology has always been of interest to me. It’s not necessarily about nostalgia, it’s more that I find the physicality of vintage technology really interesting.”
She was an early convert to uploading pics on Tumblr and Instagram and spent about a decade pursuing photography before her master’s in screenwriting saw her embrace narrative filmmaking on video.
The Sarah Show takes inspiration from German expressionist art, which emerged in a similarly tumultuous period to today around the end of the First World War.
“There had just been this World War that made everyone feel like the world was suddenly getting a little more global than felt comfortable. There was a pandemic. There were all these things in society, and yet the artists of that time were so expansive, emotive and free,” she says.
“They were breaking forms and creating things in a way that said, ‘We don’t care how we’re supposed to do this; we’re going to do this the way that this expression needs to come out of us’. I can’t get enough,” says Zucker.
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“I’ve always been something of an outlier in my artwork. I would say it’s not easily defined. You could call it glitch art, you could call it video art, you could call it GIF art, or, more recently, NFT art as it gets called now. I don’t think those terms are incorrect, but they miss the big picture.”
“I describe it more like a multiverse that I’m channeling through. I’m channeling through myself and through these vintage broadcast devices into a body of work that gets referred to as The Sarah Show.”
With technological advancements like AI happening at a breakneck pace, Zucker says she’s trying to address the “big universal existential questions” about the fact we’re on the “brink of a completely new way of living as human beings.”
“I view my work as a way of depicting what it’s like to be this sort of silly, scared, happy, manic, dreadful little creature strapped to this rocket ship going into the future and trying to make sense of what this life has been and what it’s going to continue to be.”
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Zucker is a big fan of performance art and has two specific artists to put on your radar.
Edgar Fabian Frias — 2022 MFA Art Practice at UC Berkeley.
“Edgar works regularly in the contemporary art world and is a bit of a shapeshifter, bringing such a unique perspective from their background. There’s a high weirdness approach to art-making that I certainly connect with. Admittedly, I turned them on to NFTs in mid-2020.”
David Henry Nobody Jnr — New York performance artist, reality hacker, NFT artist.
“David is someone who I’ve followed for years and years. I’ve always found his work to be just irresistible. He has a huge following on Instagram; he has a lot of visibility there.”
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Zucker creates her distinctive style using a mix of old analog devices and new digital tools, such as Adobe After Effects.
“I start with sketching or writing things out, essentially conceptualizing things. From there, I generally begin in some sort of digital way, either animating in After Effects or Photoshop. I often shoot live video in my studio.”
“I also have this analog video rig I’ve built out in my studio that’s made of vintage broadcast devices. I have custom glitch hardware, with different devices and capabilities that allow me to apply all sorts of different analog effects. In addition, I have a number of different TVs and cameras for creating feedback loops for creating texture.”
“With some of my work, you’re often seeing screens within screens because that experience of the screen is a big part of what I’m aiming to convey through my work.”
Making work in an analog system can often mean making multiple versions because there is no easy way to save the work.
“There’s no saving in the analog system. It all has to be done with immediacy. An example would be laying it all down on VHS tape, and then I bring it back out to digital and have basically two ways to convert it to the digital realm.”
“One is to film it in 4K, essentially like filming it in high definition digital video off of the vintage screen because often that’s the look I want, the screen within the image itself. The other option is to use a transfer system that basically digitizes the analog signal. It brings it back into digital signal where I can record it digitally,” says Zucker.
Artnome’s influence as a collector:
Zucker has been collected by a lot of people over her four years in NFT land but singles out Jason Bailey — aka Artnome — as someone that’s played a pivotal part in her journey.
“I have a great relationship with a lot of my collectors. I think collectors and artists do this great dance of symbiosis,” she says.
“I think Artnome had been checking out my work and recognized that I had a number of pieces just sitting there on the market, and he swept them all. More importantly, it’s not just that he bought my work — it’s that he wrote a very thoughtful thread on Twitter about my work.”
“In the thread, he drew attention to my work and video art in general. He really did this service to me by contextualizing my work for people. Plus, Jason is an arts writer; he’s very knowledgeable and told everyone about what my work was.”
“This was January, in 2020, when he showed my work off, and from that day on, it has snowballed into an increasing amount of visibility and appreciation. I can always point to that one moment of that one person bringing a little bit of spotlight to me and it has continued to echo out through my life over the past three years,” says Zucker.
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