Who is ripcache?
Anonymous artist ripcache discusses their art, the surveillance state, NFT grails on their wishlist, what's growing in their garden, and much more. PLUS: Snowfro, chess, book recs, and more.
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This report has three parts:
surveillance - a brief commentary on the surveillence state
The state of surveillence
What questions does it raise?
ripcache - an overview of the anonymous artist known as ripcache
When they first appeared on Twitter
A history of their work
Why their work is resonating
Some thoughts from Erick Calderon AKA Snowfro
Our first interaction on Twitter (and how I stupidly wasn’t paying attention)
interview - my interview with ripcache
The meaning of their name
Why they choose to remain anonymous
Their art and process
The surveillence state
Books, music, and artists they recommend
Why they think more artists should experiment with gardening
….And much more!
p.s. If you are receiving this post by email, it is likely too long for your email provider. I recommending reading it in your browser, here: themontyreport.com/p/ripcache.
We are living through an epoch of mass surveillance, unprecedented in scope or scale.
When you are born, your arrival is immediately logged.
As you exit the hospital and breathe in your first gulp of fresh air, you are most likely being captured on CCTV — a grainy black and white video portrait as you squint at the bright sky for the very first time.
Before you can offer consent, you begin to appear on social media feeds - sometimes in the background, but very often the subject of photos posted by proud parents.
By the time you’re old enough to get your own smartphone (and how old is that, exactly, these days?) and create your first social media account, Meta may already recognize your face. Within minutes, you (freely?) choose to hand over your thumbprint and face scan to Apple.
In high school, corporations and parents track your location via your phone, smart doorbells gaze at you as you skateboard to school, and your decision to skip class and leave campus is carefully noted by the school security cameras.
Then adulthood. Your metabolism begins to slow down and for some reason, your sleep is less of a sure bet. So you get a FitBit and an Oura ring to help you track (and of course remedy) your problems. The state of your surveillance creeps beyond your image and location and extends all the way down to your very biorhythms.
Upon waking you check your sleep data, then you tell Alexa to turn on some music - she is always listening, so of course she hears you. When you leave the house, your smart lock communicates with your thermostat and lowers the heat to conserve energy. Your drive to and from the grocery story is captured by a multitude of cameras. Meanwhile, your robot vacuum takes advantage of your absence to clean your floors (oh, and possibly map your home).
Five out of seven days per week, you wake up and log in to work from your home computer. Your keystrokes and mouse movements are monitored by your employer to gauge your productivity. Over lunch, your search for a few things on Amazon, and during your afternoon cookie break, you notice those same things are being advertised to you on your favorite news app.
Depending on where you live, the status of surveillence may be more or less intense. China, for example, is the home of the world’s largest state-run video surveillance network, as well as a massive network of other data collection devices including iris and fingerprint scans. Beyond just collecting data, the Chinese Communist Party, with aid from private contractors, relies on massive amounts of AI processing to help parse and track that data, alerting authorities to notable movements, individuals, or discrepancies.
In the year 2023, in many places on earth, you are carefully surveilled from birth until death.
Those are the facts.
Behind the facts are the questions:
How much surveillance is actually happening?
Does it matter?
Should we care?
What are the costs? (and who pays them?)
What are the benefits? (and who reaps them?)
What is the difference between state surveillence and private surveillence? Is there a difference?
How can we “opt out”?
The surveillance state, and the questions it raises, form the basis for much of the art by the anonymous artist and occasional philosopher known as ripcache.
So…who is ripcache?
And why does their work seem to be striking a chord and breaking through the noise?
ripcache first appeared on Twitter in late 2021.
Their early timeline reveals that they were a fan of the anonymous artist Pak and the on-chain collection Larva Lads.
Fairly quickly after joining Twitter, in December 2021, ripcache released their first art project as part of the Pak-inspired and community-led movement to create and share projects that accept the ASH token as payment.
The collection, titled forest for the trees, was made availble to collectors for 1 ASH apiece, which at the time was trading for $30-$40 (as of this writing it’s at $0.83). Originally, there were 256 trees but ripcache burned the uncollected trees a few weeks after releasing the project. Today only 21 remain.
From early on, ripcache also displayed a propensity for thoughtful, even philosophical threads. In December 2021, for example, they shared their musings about the idea that “the medium is the message” and how this might apply to smart contracts.
This single thread demonstrates that ripcache has a more-than-passing understanding of ethereum, history, technology, and chess. Another thread from the same month reveals that they are also comfortable with art history and criticism.
In February 2022, ripcache released their first 1/1.
Titled stress, it established the trademark style and subject matter for which they would become known.
The collector of stress? None other than the artist Jake Osmun AKA Jake the Degen.
ripcache continued to put out 1-of-1 animated works in their collection ripcache, all of which prominently feature security cameras. At that point (Spring 2022), they quickly began to garner attention from more collectors, and notably from other prominent artists.
First it was Jake the Degen, and then in April 2022, ripcache sold a piece to none other than XCOPY. (Later that year, in an interview in December 2022, when asked “Which artists are you most excited about right now?” XCOPY named ripcache.)
Following their success with hand-drawn animated 1/1s, ripcache continued to push their craft and in June 2022 they dropped their first fully on-chain collection, closed circuit.
Very quickly, they followed closed circuit with the launch of network mythology, another fully on-chain collection featuring more detailed pieces.
Much to my surprise, as I scoured through ripcache’s old tweets, I discovered they were (humorously) engaging with me as early as May 2022!
Stupidly, I don’t think I was following them back until September or October 2022, and I didn’t get serious about trying to own one of their pieces until November (I finally got my paws on one in January 2023.)
So why is ripcache’s work resonating with people? And why do ripcache’s collectors seem to feel so passionate about their art?
I decided to pose these questions to one of ripcache’s better known collectors, Erick Calderon AKA Snowfro AKA @ArtOnBlockchain. Calderon is the Founder and CEO of Art Blocks and an artist best known for his pioneering on-chain generative art collection Chromie Squiggles.
Recently, Calderon traded a newly minted Chromie Squiggle for a special piece from ripcache’s closed circuit collection.
“What first caught my attention was the on chain nature of the work and bold graphic style,” Calderon told me. “I’m of course a huge fan of on chain art work and have dedicated a significant amount of my time since entering the world of web3 to on chain content. Also I’m a huge fan of pixel art! And there’s something about these cameras that captures my imagination and having one sent to me with a Squiggle is super special for me.”
When I asked him to tell me more about the context for the trade, Calderon shared a delightful backstory:
“I have had the opportunity to interact with some wonderful people who have shared stories about artists they knew in the 80s and 90s and early 2000s trading art with each other. Something really resonated with me from those conversations, building on this crazy deep rooted concept of community that we thrive in in web3. And I got a tremendous urge to trade art with artists that I had identified over the last few months as having made a positive impact on my timeline, both with their art but also their attitude.”
Right now, both ripcache’s art and their attitude seem to be hitting a nerve.
Their style is instantly recognizable. Their subject matter, in the words of Calderon, “captures your imagination.” Their presence is thoughtful, kind, and serious in an “I’m here to stay” kind of way.
For ripcache, art is “a lifelong pursuit.”
I have a feeling we’re just at the early dawn of what will be a long and fascinating career. I, for one, can’t wait to watch it unfold.
And now…it’s time to hear from directly from the artist themself.
How’d you choose the name “ripcache”?
It took a while to find a pseudonym. When I began my search, I had 5 main criteria:
it had to mean something
the meaning had to be relevant to the work I wanted to create
the Twitter username had to be available
the ens domain had to be available
if I’m being honest... it had to look and sound good, too
‘ripcache’ is short for ‘raster image processor cache’, which refers to the storage that holds data for faster retrieval during the process of converting a digital graphic into the 1s and 0s used by a printer to produce a physical copy.
The name stuck and now I consider it to be a part of the art itself.
I also think using a pseudonym acknowledges the lineage of anonymous artists throughout history while paying homage to the artists like XCOPY that pioneered the cryptoart scene. It’s a nod to the crypto ethos.
Are there other reasons why you choose to remain anonymous?
Given the focus of privacy in my practice, remaining anonymous reinforces the content of my artwork. I consider it an extension of the work.
How many people IRL know that you are ripcache?
I think I can count them out on one hand.
How would you describe your art? What’s your process like?
I’ll leave the description up for debate.
As for my process, I draw my work digitally – recycling and introducing new elements I’ve drawn, pixel by pixel, with my mouse in hand before re-working it all over again with new research and information.
Could you discuss any specific influences or artists who have inspired your work?
In no particular order, some recurrent influences include:
Jenny Holzer’s billboards
Atwood’s Oryx and Crake
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell
McCarthy’s The Road
You have shared this quote by Julian Schnabel a few times. It speaks to the process of making art. The “creating” part begins way before you first put pen to paper, so to speak. The quote acknowledges that everything leading up to the moment of creation is actually part of the creative process because it informs the creation.
Why does this quote resonate with you, and how does it relate to your life and work?
I consider an artist to be a filter and interpreter of the world they have experienced. All of the moments they live through are then frozen in time and preserved in the work they create.
When the artist steps away from the artwork, they leave behind their impressions and discoveries of a specific place in time.
So far, you have had a very specific and consistent subject matter across almost all of your work - surveillance, security, networks. Tell me about why you’ve chosen to focus on this theme.
The level of surveillance we face on a daily basis is unprecedented in human history. From a psychological perspective, people tend to behave differently when they are aware that they are being watched.
I take issue with the argument that if a person has nothing to hide, they should have no concerns about their privacy. As an artist, I believe that taking this stance is short-sighted.
When it comes to blockchain tech, the same values and concerns around privacy are also relevant. Public ledgers like Ethereum make every account balance and transaction visible to everyone on the network, which can raise concerns about privacy and security.
With that said, technology like Ethereum also provides transparency and accountability, which can be beneficial for various use cases.
“I take issue with the argument that if a person has nothing to hide, they should have no concerns about their privacy. As an artist, I believe that taking this stance is short-sighted.”
As an artist, I find the duality between privacy and transparency in regard to both traditional surveillance methods and blockchain tech to be worth exploring in the content of my work.
I've focused on the imagery of a security camera because I think it is a powerful symbol that can be used to express the tension between privacy and transparency that has escalated during our time.
This question comes from someone in your Discord: Do you think it’s too late to move away from the surveillance state of things?
It would take substantial collective action to change course.
Why are you attracted to on-chain art? [Editor’s Note - some, but not all, of ripcache’s art is stored entirely on the Ethereum blockchain]
In a time of censorship, it’s interesting to share work on a censorship-resistant network like Ethereum. It’s also beneficial to create fully on-chain art because it requires fewer dependencies.
But that’s not to say there’s anything wrong with IPFS or Arweave. It’s unrealistic and wasteful to commit large multimedia files to smart contract storage, for example.
So I think on-chain artwork, as a novelty, shouldn’t be pursued. But if it makes sense conceptually and pairs well with the content of the artwork to put it fully on-chain, then I think that justifies the use case.
“In a time of censorship, it’s interesting to share work on a censorship-resistant network like Ethereum.”
What do you hope to achieve with your art?
To try to understand and critique my place in time.
How do you think your art reflects your personality or worldview?
Much like a 1-bit palette, at a young age I thought a lot of decisions could be black or white. But then over time and through experience, those dichotomous decisions compound into an aggregate array that, in hindsight, creates many shades of gray. Nuance. Subtlety. Different ways of seeing one pixel--one moment--in the context of a longer time horizon.
Tell me about your career journey and how you made the decision to become a full-time artist.
I always considered art to be my main focus. Every other job I’ve held (while excellent experience and definitely contributed to my outlook and abilities) was just a means to an end.
“I have an oak sapling that is very dear to me. And as for vegetables, I tend to gravitate toward nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes.”
Do you have any long-term goals or aspirations for your art and your career as an artist?
For now, my goal is to focus my research and practice on exploring and working through the concepts of privacy, surveillance, and digital permanence/impermanence in relation to the blockchain and our day-to-day lives, both digitally and in the real world.
Beyond that, it’s hard to know where all of this will take me but I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself along the way.
Can you preview any of your upcoming drops?
I’m dedicated to the concept of using the blockchain as a medium for my artwork and prefer that the first instance of the artwork uploaded to the internet is attached to a token. For this reason, I don’t share any previews or works-in-progress.
You recently allowlisted people who replied to your tweet with links to past tweets of them sharing security cameras. Do you have plans for future allowlists? If so, can you share anything about the potential mechanics?
I do have plans floating around to keep allow lists enjoyable but it’ll be a lot more fun if I keep those ideas under wraps. I think they’re more fun (and more fair) if they’re a surprise.
When you feel unfocused or overwhelmed, what do you do? Do you have any routines or practices that you use to help yourself relax or focus or reset?
If I feel overwhelmed, I go for a walk outside.
If I need to reset, I try to get a good night’s sleep.
You once tweeted: "every artist should try their hand at gardening, even if it's just growing something on a window sill" - What is the connection between art and gardening in your mind? And what is growing in ripcache's garden this year?
They [art and gardening] both require persistent effort and you have to react to uncertainty.
I have an oak sapling that is very dear to me. And as for vegetables, I tend to gravitate toward nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes.
OK, now let’s move into some more rapid-fire questions.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
If you could have dinner with any living artist past or present, who would it be
Aphex Twin, Mozart, or XCOPY
What is a book or books you often gift or recommend?
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
High Rise by JG Ballard
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
The Red and the Black by Stendhal
You once shared the following quote on Twitter: "From my close contacts with artists and chess players, I have come to the conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists." What is an underrated chess opening?
Chess is a lot of fun. I'm always up for a game amongst friends but I have no aspirations beyond that. I'd consider Bird's opening to be underrated.
What music are you loving right now?
It really depends on the day.
What music was playing in the background during your last focused art session?
To be honest, I let the algorithm choose the tunes whenever I'm in the studio. It knows me better than I know myself.
What are 1 to 3 pieces that are on your grail list to acquire if you get a chance
Finally, would you be willing to provide a ripcache Discord link for the first 10 people who read this and then reply to me with interest?
Yes for sure.
Editor’s Note: If you are interested in an invite to Rip’s discord and you were a subscriber to The Monty Report PRIOR to this interview being published, simply reply to this email with the phrase “Discord Invite” in your response - I will send a link to the first 10 people who reply.
Thank you for reading!
I encourage you to follow ripcache on Twitter: @ripcache
You may find links to ripcache’s artwork on his Linktree.
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