One of the top selling NFT artists on the planet, Slimesunday has developed a cult-following for a style that frequently sees his content removed from web2 social media. He speaks exclusively to Mariquita de Boissière about creating art that fights against censorship, his new collection, SLIMESHOP, and his mission to “turn collectors into artists.”
Mike Parisella, better known in NFT circles as Slimesunday, has gathered a cult following for a multi-genre style that melds mediums in surprising, innovative ways. A natural and early advocate of web3, the Massachusetts-based artist has faced multiple account suspensions on web2 social media, and continues to see his work taken down from the world's biggest social media platforms for his often subversive content. Empowered by web3, he is embracing the decentralised, permissionless and immutable nature of the blockchain to mount a powerful, ongoing critique against censorship.
Although Slimesunday’s irreverent approach to themes spanning drug culture and the erotic has catapulted him into the list of top 10 grossing artists in the NFT space, his current situation couldn’t be more different from the one he faced only a couple of years ago.
“Slimesunday started because I felt an extreme compulsion to just create things,” he tells Culture3 in an exclusive interview. “At first it was very difficult to get by as an artist. I was living paycheck to paycheck, I took on unfulfilling freelancing jobs, and even worked overnight shifts on an ambulance”.
“All that work has since been removed from every social media platform I have been a part of.”
Self-taught, Mike began his artistic journey over a decade ago with a name inspired by Eminem’s classic, The Real Slim Shady. He initially took to replicating digital pieces that spoke to him, trying to find his own style and refine his technique. “The first five years were extremely experimental. It was mainly a massive learning phase and I spent most of my time messing with different software.”
His commitment, curiosity, and practice paid off. Over time, Mike honed his skills and developed the signature style that would come to characterise his later works, eventually becoming sought after to collaborate with Grammy award-winning artists like Lana Del Rey, Katy Perry, J.Cole, and J.Balvin.
But in 2020, crisis hit. As the world screeched to a halt in a bid to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, so did Mike’s career. “I was hurting for income, since no artists were touring”, he recalls, a fate suffered by artists across the globe. Mike’s decision to dedicate himself fully to his art had been driven by a deep creative urge; a leap of creative faith into the unknown. It was friend and world-renowned DJ, Justin Lau (aka 3LAU), who suggested NFTs as a solution to the precarity that Mike was facing as an artist in the midst of the pandemic.
And so Slimesunday’s initiation as a creator on the blockchain was as one half of SSX3LAU, a collaborative project with 3LAU whose mission was to “explore the intersection of digital art, dance music and distributed ledger.” Their genesis project, the Array Collection, was an instant sell-out. “The response to the work we released was amazing,” Mike shares, adding that he couldn't help but build on its success. “The entire space felt like the beginning of something massive”.
But beyond attaining a level of financial success that was previously unthinkable, his transition to blockchain has opened up a whole new world of artistic possibilities. “The level of innovation I have seen here in the past few years has been mind-blowing and this is what pushes me to keep building.”
Driving much of that innovation, he says, are the human connections facilitated by the peer-to-peer nature of the blockchain, “Before NFTs, the community aspect to art was never at the forefront of my thoughts.” Like other artists, he was creating just because it was what he loved doing. “I was creating individual artworks with no intention of ever selling them.” Enthused, he explains, “NFTs brought me a lot closer to the people who enjoy my work. I have conversations with collectors and have formed many new friendships.”
“The digital experience we have created with SLIMESHOP would not have been possible a few years back. We are turning collectors into artists and they will be integral to the completion of the final artworks.”
It is this access to collectors and the ability to build cohesive communities that forms an important counterweight to the centralised dominance of Big Tech. As an artist whose work explores themes of sexuality and the female presenting form, Slimesunday regularly confronts the limits of top-down community guidelines. Of all the artforms with which he has experimented, Mike confesses that collage is the one he “really just fell in love with.” Yet it was his collages and the surreal juxtapositions they propose between the erotic and the mundane that first saw his account get flagged for content violations.
“I started experimenting more with analogue techniques,” he explains. “I got myself a scanner and started going to thrift shops looking for old magazines and items I could use. That is really where I hit that aha! moment, and I think this is when the majority of my best work was made. All that work has since been removed from every social media platform I have been a part of.”
Rather than be beaten back by an algorithm that discriminates against women’s bodies, Slimesunday is leveraging blockchain to double down on his provocative style. His What the Fork collection, presented at Phillips Auction House last year, became “all about censorship.” He shares, “I was so fed up with being censored that I made it a major topic of conversation throughout my work.” The collection harnesses smart contract technology in creative ways as a defiant gesture of protest. In one collage, Growth, a segment on the top layer is removed any time Slimesunday’s work is removed or censored, which reveals the explicit content lying underneath.
Slimesunday’s most recent collection, SLIMESHOP, provides yet another example of the medium as the message. A true first of its kind, Slimesunday has partnered with OpenSea to create a tool that allows collectors to fully immerse themselves in the collage experience, layering and remixing a set of portraits, backgrounds, and stickers that the artist has created and collated over an eight-month period. “The digital experience we have created with SLIMESHOP would not have been possible a few years back,” he explains, adding, “we are turning collectors into artists and they will be integral to the completion of the final artworks.”
Over a century ago, Pablo Picasso and George Braque’s innovative use of collage served to destabilise the notion of the artist-genius and push the boundaries of what was traditionally considered ‘art’. By taking this one step further through the blockchain, Slimesunday situates himself at the next iteration of this critical tradition. Inspired by other artists contributing to the dialogue on this artistic philosophy, like Filip Hodas, Victor Mosquera, and Mad Dog Jones, Slimesunday has simple advice for the new artists seeking to grow into this space and take on the mantle: "make art for the love of it and eventually everything will fall into place."
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