Whitehot Magazine

Interview with TAN-TAN

TAN-TAN, Reality is Broken. Courtesy of the artist.

By JOHN BARRYMORE May 10, 2024

TAN-TAN first gained recognition in online circles for artworks that blend the intense features of manga characters with the serenely idealized styles of Baroque and Neoclassical masters such as Diego Velázquez and William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

Her practice has since evolved to explore the narrative potential of interactive digital environments, reinterpreting video games not merely as entertainment, but as a continuation of a rich historical tradition.

Her work in three-dimensional, online virtual worlds represents a modern interpretation of the ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ or ‘total work of art,’ integrating visual, auditory, and interactive elements to create a unified, immersive experience. This approach goes beyond merely recreating physical reality—it reimagines it, inviting viewers to become active participants in a narrative that is both expansive and intimately personal. Through her innovative use of technology and art, TAN-TAN challenges traditional boundaries and redefines the potential of digital spaces as platforms for cultural expression and historical continuity.

TAN-TAN, Reality.exe. Courtesy of the artist.

JOHN BARRYMORE: Can you tell us about Reality Is Broken and Reality.exe?

TAN-TAN: 'Reality Is Broken' and 'Reality.exe' represent extensions of a larger artistic endeavor titled '404 Reality Not Found.' This series explores the themes of digital archaeology, weaving in the internet’s capacity to reclaim cultural heritage, artifacts, and identities into its core gameplay.

The idea of transposing the audience into an enclosed, illusionary visual space was not born with the invention of the computer. Instead, it is grounded in a solid art historical tradition whose core idea reaches back to antiquity. It’s this tradition that has been revived and expanded in the immersive digital art of the current age, that “this kind of immersive reality excludes the sensation of being alienated by the image and surrounds the observer in an illusory setting where time and space are one.” - Gesamtkunstwerk, Art Ecology: Elif Ayiter

The ultimate effect of these pieces is to bring out a sense of emotional presence or mood intended to elicit a dimension of human experience that would have been referred to as ‘religious’ for a long period of human history during which the aim of the artists and architects striving for such a union of arts would have been precisely the evocation of such a response. However, it diverges from this religious context, venturing into something new, something we might call “transcendental secularism,” where the sacred is replaced with the profound, offering a novel, immersive and personal experience.

TAN-TAN, Reality.exe. Courtesy of the artist.

Please describe the inscription process?

The inscription process integral to my artworks is decidedly complex, serving as a building block within a larger, interwoven system. Initially, the process begins with the inscription of dependencies and assets utilized in each piece. Following a somewhat standard HTML development process. However, the complexity of my work arises from linking all elements on the blockchain and operating within a strictly sandboxed environment, which places considerable constraints on the possible manipulations of the code. The sequence of code creation, regtesting, modifications, and repetition continues until the software functions flawlessly.

How have you navigated the constraints of this medium?

Addressing the limitations posed by the medium, particularly the constraints on size and scope, presented unique challenges. Unlike previous projects, I focused on optimizing HMTL/CSS/JS and leveraging public libraries already established on the Bitcoin blockchain. Compressing visual assets beyond a certain threshold was not a viable option; instead, I prioritized code optimization and minifying as more effective alternatives. 

What's it like working with Orange Cube?

Working with Orange Cube marked a significant departure from my usual independent work style. Having a supportive team throughout the inscription process was invaluable, especially during my inaugural project of this scale. The approach of the halving and the ensuing tight schedule added to the stress, but the dedication of the Orange Cube team—Elmo, Zoot, Mal, and Griffin—was instrumental in overcoming these hurdles. Their belief in my capabilities, coupled with financial support and promotional efforts, significantly alleviated the pressure I might have faced working alone. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to Orange Cube and the entire team for their pivotal support during this project. WM

John Barrymore

John Barrymore is an artist and writer based in Miami.

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