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Consider the Chromie Squiggle
an exploration of the most contentious on-chain generative art NFT
We’re back with another special edition of Page One as our friend Ben Roy, an investor through NeonDAO, SpaceshipDAO & active crypto participant, provides us with our second guest post.
As a reminder, potential guest writers, project collaborations and sponsors alike can always reach the Page One team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first time I saw Chromie Squiggles I thought they were a joke. Someone tweeted out a video looking at the sales page for the collection on OpenSea, and they kept saying how stupid the buyers were: who in the hell is out here spending hundreds of dollars buying squiggly lines on the internet?
Pretty quickly as the price for these things went up, I became one of those stupid people & bought a few. FOMO is a hell of a drug.
Fast forward a couple years and my entire digital identity has been built around this blue Chromie Squiggle in the banner image. What happened? How did this collection go from a niche meme to a mainstay in the crypto art movement?
In the rest of this post, I’m excited to riff on these questions, share some personal reflections about my favorite generative art set, and explore what the future might hold for it. A primer about Squiggles for the uninitiated before we dig in:
Chromie Squiggles are project #0 on Art Blocks
They were created by Snowfro, the founder and CEO of the Art Blocks platform
The set size is 10,000 outputs, though several hundred have yet to be minted and are being held back in reserve for future use
All Squiggles actually move if you click them!
There are different types: normal, slinky, fuzzy, ribbed, bold, pipe (and hyper variants of each) as seen in the graphic below:
After the initial hype in the spring of 2021, it became clear that Chromie Squiggles had staying power and weren’t just a flavor of the month NFT project. I think this is for a mix of reasons.
First, Squiggles are fun. They’re visually memorable. They somehow manage to be both irreverent (who buys squiggly lines?) and endearing (but I want one) at the same time.
Second, they have a great genesis story: they’re among the earliest examples of on-chain generative art, you could mint them for ~$30, and the project didn’t mint out initially.
Third, Squiggles have a large set size. This creates a dynamic that is rare in the NFT space where on the one hand you see network effects because a relatively large number of people are able to own similar work (as with pfp sets like Bored Ape Yacht Club), and on the other hand you have the “nothing else is required” vibe of pure art (so there is no execution risk).
Finally, Squiggles act as a point of connection to Art Blocks as a platform and Snowfro as an artist. Both the brand and the person have been standard bearers for crypto, generative art, creator empowerment, the importance of community, among other things. These are values people want to associate themselves with.
Over the past two years, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, I think Squiggles have moved from being just a great collection of blockchain-based generative art to becoming one of the grails of the entire NFT category.
Normally, that designation of whether something is a grail or not is disputed since art is so subjective. But Squiggles - along with CryptoPunks, Autoglyphs, and some early work by people like XCOPY - are without a doubt in the upper echelon. How can I say this with such confidence?
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In my view, the best evidence for any work’s cultural power is its appearance in tribute work and in remix culture. This applies to music, fashion, sport, and so on as much as it does crypto. And if you stop to think about it, Squiggles are everywhere! They’re on murals, they’re on shoes, they’re in pfp sets. They’re simply one of the most consistent and iconic images across crypto.
The main critique Squiggles have had throughout their life is that they aren’t art: they’re too weird looking, too ugly, too stupid to be art. But in my experience this view is only held by people who are either new to the industry, or by those who don’t fully appreciate the beauty and complexity of blockchain-based generative art.
And to the contrary, Art Blocks as an institution has grown massively in stature over the past couple years in ways that very much suggest this type of work is in fact art. They’ve partnered with premier galleries like Pace. Art Blocks pieces have been sold in elite auction houses like Sotheby’s and collected by top-tier museums like LACMA. And I expect this is just the beginning of a rise in awareness about the art form.
Zooming out, what happens to Squiggles over the next decade and beyond? A couple thoughts in closing…
Some cultural items have gravity. They become a core part of a movement or representative of a time, place, subculture, etc. Think something like Pokemon cards for childhood in the ‘00s or Patagonia vests for Silicon Valley VC culture in the 2010s.
I think Squiggles are the crypto version of this: they’re a living, moving, rainbow capsule of crypto subculture, and a Schelling point for the digital art movement.
In my experience, early collectors and tastemakers already see Squiggles in this way, and as new people become aware of blockchains and generative art, I think we’ll see a growing appreciation for this early set in particular, both in terms of recognition and in terms of price. Onward and upward.
Thanks to Emmy, Derek, Sam, Patrick, Shant, DeGenData for feedback and review.