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Ben Haley on Queer Crypto Art, Parasocial Relationships, and True Value of Craft Arts
BY ERIC P. RHODES - Eric is an award-winning Crypto Art artist, renowned Trash Art artist, and creator of the iconic NFT collection, Unofficial Punks. Working exclusively in the Web3 space since 2019. 💬 Follow Eric on Twitter
Ben Haley is a unique crypto artist that combines sculpture, performance, and digital art to create really charming creations.
Ben was born in Sunderland and their upbringing mainly focused on finding traditional employment, despite their artistic nature. You can see a lot of their early life in their work today. Especially in performances, which analyze economics and entrepreneurship.
They’ve performed at institutions such as Cobalt Studios and Bowes Museum as Miss Penny Press. Recently, Ben’s been using the Ethereum Blockchain to produce provably-rare crypto art. Their art has been exhibited at the Nifty Pride Foundation.
If you know anything about Ben, you probably know that you’ll never get a linear conversation out of them. But that’s a part of their charm.
What was Ben Haley like at 8 years old?
At eight, I just started primary school and let me tell you something about British primary schools, they aren’t designed all that well. The one I went to looked like a sprawling brutalist complex. Inside, it was absolutely gorgeous, don’t get me wrong.
But from the outside? It looks more like a prison than it looks like a school.
Even back then, I was an active kid. Talkative. I always went for it, you know? I’m an extrovert. The only time I was a little introverted was at the end of primary school. Back then, you can catch me in the corner playing Animal Crossing on my little Nintendo DS.
But I reverted to an extrovert as soon as I became a teenager.
You had some online issues during your teenage years?
Oh yeah. I played a lot of Minecraft back then. I was always a gamer. At one point, I was really into Minecraft multiplayer. At a certain point, one kid I was playing with got mad at me.
He ends up sending something to my house, because you know, like an idiot, I gave away my address to everyone. After that happened my parents recognized that something was off.
My father shut the whole thing down.
Did that incident affect the way you do things today?
I learned a lot from that situation. Still, I’m very, very, very open with people. At the beginning of our relationship anyway. I’m like that because it’s disarming. It always puts me in a position where I have a bit of power, especially with people that are trying to get to know me.
Like, in the NFT community, all of us know each other to a certain extent. But a lot of us are strangers. Creators that constantly have stuff trending always have people supporting them, trying to be their friends.
Even if you’re not an Internet celebrity, there are people out there trying to meet you.
What do you think about parasocial relationships?
They’re scary. There’s a level of parasociality where someone might want to start stalking you. The scary part is, with the amount of information you leave online, they can easily do it.
Do you know about the video game developer Toby For who created the Undertale game? He’s just a guy who created a really popular game. But his ex-wife deliberately tried to become his partner, way before he knew who she was.
She manipulated him by pretending not to know who he was. But she used the information she knew about him to get into his social circles. Before he knew it, he was married to someone who’s been manipulating him before they met.
That’s one of the biggest worries I have.
How do you know so much information?
Well, I have a reputation for being a know-it-all. You can see that in my art. Before I start working on a piece, I usually do a deep Google search first. Everything I ever made comes from Google and Wikipedia. At the bottom of the page, you can find a lot of interesting things.
Like my Hanafuda Cards, for instance. One of my friends loves Portugal so I was looking at the history of the country on Wikipedia. There, I discovered that Hanafuda cards originated in Portugal. They only came to Japan when Portuguese travelers brought them over from Europe.
That’s how I learned a lot of stuff, including everything about parasocial relationships.
What would you tell people getting into crypto art?
I have three really important things to tell them.
Number one, if you’re a traditional artist and you want to get into NFT space, bitch do it. Now, there’s such a low barrier of entry that it would be crazy not to do it. Even if you’re trying to get into photography, try it. If you own a decent phone, you can create crypto art.
Number two, if you want to make something, but you’re not sure how to do it, don’t worry too much. You will figure it out quickly. Have some faith in yourself as an artist.
Number three, if you’re looking for a community of crypto artists that can help you with your art, I got a community for you, which I’m starting thanks to CreateBase. Craft & Crypto Art is a live event hosted by me and a bunch of other artists in the community.
Whether you’re looking for inspiration, comradery, or financing, we have it!
What’s your Craft & Crypto Art project all about?
Ok, CreateBase is what’s called a NEAR Guild. The NEAR protocol is a separate blockchain, like Ethereum, where a lot of wallet stuff is conducted over Omnia. They’re very well-funded.
Unlike other side-chains, CreateBase has a lot of backing from traditional businesses. And If you know anything about the business world, then you know that this is great for stability.
Every member of our community is open to conversation and is ready to help others learn about NFT, crypto, and things like that. Especially BruceTheGoose. If you need to talk to someone, just message him. He’s always available.
What kind of content will you feature on Craft & Crypto Art?
All kinds of stuff. Both 2D and 3D art. The biggest draw is that Craft & Crypto Art allows you to watch someone create art in real-time. You can observe their entire process and watch them work with their hands on a piece.
After they’re finished, you can ask them questions, and they’ll be happy to answer them and help you learn. That’s the goal of crafting crypto. It’s all about getting artists into the crypto space and help them craft and publish their work.
It will also help crypto artists get back into making stuff with their hands.
What’s it about craft art that makes it so attractive?
Honestly, there’s no single art more disrespected than craft art. For instance, there are so many fantastic fiber artists. A lot of artists are criminally underpaid for their work because a lot of time and effort goes into creating these pieces.
To make a minimum wage, a fiber artist would need to charge between $200 and $300 per piece. But just go and look on Etsy and you’ll see that most hand-knit stuff goes for $30 to $50. However, crypto art could change this situation completely.
How can crypto art help craft artists?
In the crypto space, a piece is usually seen as a product. Something that you can buy, keep or trade. It’s scarce and collectible. There are also royalties from your work, which means that craft artists would be able to have passive income from their work.
When someone buys craft crypto art, they get both an NFT and a physical piece When the NFT gets sold, both the seller and the creator get money. The average piece on a platform like Open Sea sells for $150, which is significantly higher than what craft artists make on Etsy.
Is there anything you dislike about crypto art space?
For me, the biggest drawback of the crypto art space is that it’s click-ish. The people aren’t all that accepting of other people’s so-called shortcomings. If you’re not accepting, you’re going to miss out on some of the best talents out there.
For example, by holding meetings late in nightclubs you’re risking missing out on people with chronic fatigue syndrome and accessibility issues. Even websites make it too hard for certain groups of people to register and sell their art.
As a community, we need to take strides to make everything more accessible.
You’re passionate about marginalized groups, right?
Yes, I am. That’s because a lot of people have reached out to me to share their stories. Most of these people are non-binary. While I’m not going to name any names, I can say that a lot of people in the NFT space aren’t very friendly.
As I said, I’m not going to name any names, but I’m going to say that I know that you’re an abuser. Many people know but it’s kept under wraps from you. That’s a scary thing because we as a community need to make things friendly to anyone.
Of course, no matter what you do, you’re going to have a few chefs to spoil the broth, you know?
What can people do to support queer crypto art?
Let me start by saying that it’s on all of us to find a way to help a queer crypto artist out there. If you know how to do it, it’s on you to make sure that information is passed down.
I’ve learned more about queer art and queer history in general by watching videos on TikTok than from people explaining stuff in any type of education system.
Here’s my challenge for anyone out there reading this, go and follow a queer artist on Twitter. It’s not our fault that bad things happened in our history. But it’s our job to make up for what people who came before us did.
If you want to stay in the loop and learn about exciting NFT artists, make sure to follow The Outer Realm on your favorite podcast app. Do you like our talks? Leave a rating and a review!
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