A CAPTCHA that filters out humans. An app for deepfaking yourself. Damjanski’s artwork delights and intrigues at the intersection of art, culture, and the internet. Here’s what he’s diving into now.
Last year Beeple was dominating your feed. A couple of months ago it was The NFT Bay. And this time last year, “Humans not invited” was snowballing on the internet after grabbing attention
on Hacker News and Reddit.
The artist is Damjanski. He has been launching his products on Product Hunt since 2015 and last year he received a Product Hunt Maker Grant for his contributions to the community following the launch of his latest work, MEH Camera
Get to know the digital artist; we asked Damjanski about his favorite projects and in the process learned about his newest launch, a decentralized app (dapp) called ‘Unhuman Compositions
Damjanski, inspiration, and app store rejection:
Hi, my name is Damjanski
and I am an artist living in a browser. I was really fascinated by the DIY ethos of the early internet. Early on, the idea that anyone could publish what they were into was intoxicating for me. I’ve spent most of my time online in weird surf clubs or on message boards. Coming out of that phase, creating art that lives online just felt natural. Today, I am still absorbed by the performative aspect (others might call it engagement) of art that lives online.
My inspiration comes from all kinds of different sources, including blogs, books, and online interactions. For example, when I launched the Bye Bye Camera
, a camera app that automatically deletes people from the photo, I spent a lot of time reading and researching the environmental state of our world. During that time I felt quite helpless and overwhelmed and channeled those feelings into this piece of work. That’s why I also call it the camera for the post-human era. During the pandemic, I've tried to apply the technology to movies. Here is a trailer of a movie I am working on: https://vimeo.com/412148295
but tbh more people liked these dogs: https://www.instagram.com/p/CAIZguIFyX0/
Compilation from Bye Bye Camera
I like the idea of application as artwork. Usually, I create apps because I want them as a tool for creating new art but I also like that anyone can use them and see what they are creating with it.
In the last one to two years, publishing apps in the app stores has become a bit harder for me. They get rejected quite a lot. LongARcat
, for example, was rejected 12 times before the app was finally approved. So this is why I am very interested in the idea of dapps rn.
On process and “minimally viable artwork”:
The process is very collaborative. In 2014, together with a bunch of friends I met online, I co-founded Do Something Good
, which we call an incubation collective. A lot of my projects are collaborations with members of the collective. Some of them are also active contributors to Product Hunt like Vasco Barbosa
or Andrey Sulin
, for example. It starts with the idea and then it moves quickly into the prototyping phase. We jokingly refer to it as MVA (minimally viable artwork). Once it's working as intended, we're close to the launch. I like prototype aesthetics like, for example, the Computer Goggles
app, an app that captures the world like a machine sees it. It’s a nod to the DIY look of the early internet.
Compilation from Computer Goggles
On Damjanski’s artwork around...
The Damjanski App
was inspired by the fact that I don’t like to take pictures of myself. So creating an app where people can deepfake images with my face felt like a great solution for my problem. After launching the app a bunch of people were requesting a face upload, so that's how the MEH camera
started. Now you can deepfake any image with your face ツ
Damjanski App and Meh Camera
Yeah, that was fun. Anika Meier
& Johann König
curated the group show ‘THE ARTIST IS ONLINE’ with the König Galerie
. And Manuel Rossner
built the space. At the opening it was fun to virtually hang out with a bunch of artists that I know the work of. I’ve also participated in some shows in Cryptovoxels
. Overall I like the energy. At this stage, it reminds me of the internet in 98 probably.
In 2018, together with a good friend, David Lobser
, I started MoMAR, an unauthorized Augmented Reality gallery within the MoMA in NY. It started with a conversation about why most of the art that we really enjoy is not shown in the museums. So we created MoMAR
and our first group show ‘Hello, we’re from the internet,’ and it took place in the Jackson Pollock room within the MoMA. Here is a video from the opening: https://vimeo.com/258568920
. We’ve also made it open source so everyone could use it and show the art they like wherever they want to. Four years later, we’ve just finished our fourth show called ‘Augmented Species
’ that started in MoMA’s sculpture garden and then went on a world tour taking over museums in Berlin, Paris, Hokkaido, Tel Aviv, & Belgrade for example. Each year we’re trying something new and updating our tech stack. This show was about digital sculptures. Now the MoMAR team includes four people and we’ve just kicked off the conversations about what we would like to do next.
MoMAR 'Augment Species'
I still really like the software performance of ‘Humans not invited
.’ It’s a CAPTCHA that filters out humans and only lets programs pass. Product Hunt was the perfect place to launch this as it includes a bunch of makers and developers. Immediately, people tried to hack the CAPTCHA or build bots to make it through. That feedback helped to make the system more robust. Plus I believe it helped bring the project onto Reddit's frontpage. One thing that I totally underestimated was the way people approached it as a game. But that’s the beauty of the internet. I also want one of these shirts
'Humans not invited'
On Damjanski’s outlook on tech and art:
I am optimistic about it. The pandemic accelerated the appreciation of art that lives online. Finally, online shows are taken more seriously and more & more people engage with them. The rise of NFTs has added an even bigger spotlight to this. Plus it also gives people a way to make a living from their art.
On makers to watch:
I love all the obscure products on Product Hunt like ‘Doom Captcha
’ by Miquel
or everything that Dom Hofman
creates. Check out his project ‘Corruptions’
. I am a big fan of the whole PartyDAO crew. They built PartyBid
– a product that lets groups of people combine their capital and bid on NFT auctions together.
Start creating and don’t overthink it. It will snowball into something you weren't thinking about before. And collect weird gifs – as many as you can!
On his newest work: Unhuman Compositions
” is a participatory generative photography (PGP) artwork. People are invited to explore the abstraction of our physical world through a generative algorithm. Each captured photo will be translated into a geometric arrangement of vivid colors on black. These compositions are based on an algorithm detecting objects within the photograph. The reduction of information creates an abstraction that reveals a synthetic structure underlying our natural surroundings.
‘Unhuman Compositions’ builds on top of my previous works like ‘Bye Bye Camera
’, ‘Computer Goggles
’ and ‘LongARcat
’ where I use apps as an artwork. I use these apps as tools to create new pieces like the ‘Nude Studies
’ series, for example. At the same time, anyone has access to these apps and can create whatever they like. In ‘Unhuman Composition,’ my first dapp (decentralized app), I am merging these two streams and include the audience into the making process of a new series called ‘Unhuman Compositions’.
Every participant creates their own ‘Unhuman Composition' that will be added to the collection & is fully stored and rendered on the Ethereum blockchain. The blockchain gives each composition permanency and each creator ownership of their creation. It ties everyone together in a wider performance that is recorded on the blockchain. For this piece, I’ve collaborated with Steve Snygin
, also a steady Product Hunt contributor.