By ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST, October 2021
Artworks by Julia Morrison based on her experiences with Armie Hammer, the now burnt-out star of The Social Network, are in an NFT auction which began on September 27 and ends tonight at midnight BST. The auction, NFTism: No Fear in Trying, has been put up by Institut, the first art-world focused NFT platform, created by a gallery, Unit London. Curated by Kenny Schachter it showcases the work of both digital and old school artists and can be seen online in the metaverse via Arium. Brooklyn-based Morrison’s works include Armie DM TMI NFT: Caligula Triptych, which she built around a message to her from Hammer in which he compared himself to the ultra-decadent Roman emperor, telling her “I'm basically Caligula.” In another, Armie DM TMI NFT: Dibs on Ribs, she focuses on Hammer’s lipsmacking suggestions of cannibalism, shared with at least one other female target. She has fabricated these into LED lightboxes. “I minted them on April 20th,” she says.
The 911 SOS WTF NFTs, another of Morrison’s series in the auction, include Violations 1 and 2 , glass sculptures built around Morrison’s notifications to the police that the day after she published an artist’s statement detailing such Hammer experiences as the Caligula message a man had pulled up in front of her outside a café close to her house and thrown punches at her. Over the next few days she was followed on streets near her home by other men "in a threatening manner." That generated a second report and a second NFT. So she moved. “I was homeless,” she says.
Morrison sees these NFTs as both blockchain-reinforced proofs of her experiences and as innovative hi-tech art. Another piece, 911 SOS WTF NFT: Ran$om, is a collage on paper put together to look like a ransom note in a movie to channel the raw theatricality of what she was going through. 911 SOS WTF NFT: Hex, another piece, was a spell of banishment against “whoever sent the henchmen.”
Okay, some back story. Morrison grew up in Palo Alto, the capital of Silicon Valley. “If I’d grown up in Nebraska I might not value technology but I rollerbladed past Steve Jobs’ house on my way to school,” she says. “I’ve always valued computers.” What was her first computer experience?
“When I was 9 or 10 years old,” she said. “And it was actually in sex-chat rooms because those chat rooms were crazy back then. Yahoo Chat and stuff like that.” Kids that age? “Really,” she said. Well, it’s all up there, right?
Morrison grew up in foster care and became an activist in her late teens. In 2016, she launched OKFORU at Chinatown Soup, a community center on Orchard Street. “I curated several group shows oriented around civic action and dialogue,” she says. There were three in 2016 around issues of white supremacy, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter.” During this time she was arrested for wheatpasting. “I spent the night in the 9th precinct and had to do 200 hours of community service cleaning up Battery Park in the winter, like 30 degrees outside.”
Fast forward to 2020 when a fellow female student at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts first told Morrison she was being followed by Armie Hammer. She found that the star had written in 2017 to let her know that he had liked For Arabella, a series of photographs in which she is the subject.
“When I first saw this message, it was: I have a movie star in my DM. How did I miss this?” DM? Direct Message, folks.
She swiftly connected with Hammer. That was March 1 - a week before lockdown. A to-and-fro followed and in September he sent her pix of himself, his wrists roped up, along with a reference to the Japanese Art of Rope Bondage.
Didn’t that alert her? “There’s nothing wrong with sexting,” she said. “When we were all in quarantine, everyone I knew was sexting. So when things got sexual between me and Armie I just figured, well, all of my friends were having cybersex on Zoom, on Facetime, so I didn’t really think much of it.” In April Hammer texted: I’ve wanted to tie you up since I saw those God damn pictures and messaged you about it. Morrison wasn’t bothered. Just more sexting, she assumed.
Morrison would shortly learn though that extremes were Hammer’s normal. “One woman came forward saying he had carved his name into her skin” she says. “Above her vagina! She said he had cut into her an A. For ARMIE. Another woman said that he beat her feet and raped her for four hours, slamming her head against a wall and wouldn’t let her get away. She said she thought he was going to kill her. You know who else beat their victims’ feet? The Nazis. So when I heard those things I realized that I was very close to a dangerous person, because he was sliding into girls’ Twitters and DMs the same way. I realize now how lucky I was not to see that first message.
“It’s the same thing that every woman thinks when she sees a woman, like the woman who was recently found dead. Petito. Every time a woman sees a dead girl pop up, we all have the same thought, which is that “it could have been me.” And to make it worse, the police so often place blame on the victim.”
What to do? Morrison had learned both that an NFT was the best way to authenticate something and that a digital token was the most powerful thing to possess on the blockchain. So what was her most powerful digital token?
Armie Hammer’s slide into her DM.
Hence Julia Morrison’s artworks: Tokens loaded with dark narrative. WM
The auction: https://institut.co/artist/juliamorrison
The metaverse gallery via Arium: https://arium.xyz/spaces/institut?portalTo=institut-5
Julia Morrison's artist statement: https://jellymorrison.medium.com/armie-dm-tmi-nfts-artist-statement-juliamorrison-b02eb91a20bd
Anthony Haden-Guest (born 2 February 1937) is a British writer, reporter, cartoonist, art critic, poet, and socialite who lives in New York City and London. He is a frequent contributor to major magazines and has had several books published including TRUE COLORS: The Real Life of the Art World and The Last Party, Studio 54, Disco and the Culture of the Night.
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