Posted on Nov 16, 2023Read on

[Thursday Thoughties] Banal Screensavers

Listening to: “GIVE UP THE GOODS“ by Coast Contra
Drinking: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock by Schlenkerla (Germany)

Life is no longer rooted in reality.

For some time now, but the last three decades in particular, we’ve been living in a permanent state of surreality. Our consciousness is constantly vacillating between the irl and url - reality and unreality.

This has resulted in a modern experience that is definitionally absurd. Chaotic. Pointless some say. The American context stands out as the country representing the zenith of our shared absurd existence.

As society has shifted every deeper into the url though, a shift that many old timers have long lamented since they assume the url has no connection to the irl, it’s become surprisingly apparent that the digital space doesn’t merely represent, but is in fact our generation’s infinite frontier in a very real way.

Today a critical mass of humanity is connected to the internet, the front door of the metaverse - any digital space that folks can live, work and play in - and many are making the trek out to the infinitely expanding bleeding edges. The literal background atop which all of this is happening is the screen.

American realists like Edward Hopper came of age simultaneously defining and being defined by the the modern urban city, the dominant background of their generation that supplanted the wide open wilds of the old, romantic American west that was captured most beautifully by artists like Thomas Moran that in turn captured the hearts and minds of the nascent frontier spirt of Americans triggered an explosion of westward migration in the early 20th century.

From romantic and rustic landscapes to liminal scenes of urban living - the leading artists of each of our preceding eras told no lies by including the dominant backgrounds of their times in their artworks.

Hard cut.

I’m not sure what the triggering event may have been, but whatever the reason, over the last few days Jerry Saltz, an old person who says things about art they don’t collect, shared some “critical debate” on Refik Anadol’s art pejoratively calling it a “banal screensaver.”

First of all, as I wrote in a prior Thursday Thoughties post, critical debate led by “the art critic” has absolutely zero value or import now that anyone can collect any art they want from anyone thanks to NFTs and the internet.

But that’s beside the point.

The pixel artist Nicolas Sassoon, sub-tweeting Jerry, gets closer to the point by shedding light on a fact that Jerry’s old ass is blind to when they wrote:

a tweet about "banal screensavers" by Nicolas Sassoon

Nicolas highlights the omnipresent relationship that humans are always in with screens of all sorts in our hybrid irl-url realities.

Screen are our generationally defining background just like the urban city was to the boomers and their immediate predecessors and like the American west was for late 19th century gilded age America and their successors.

As such it’s natural - no expected - that such a powerfully important background has started to make its way into the art of our time. You can see this explicitly in the “PiP Art” of artists like Ripcache, hAyDiRoKe, and Jack Kaido.


The Indiana-based diewiththemostlikes though, makes the relationship most explicit in thank you for your service where they hilariously yet depressingly used the Windows XP background as a canvas for their absurdist PiP artwork. It’s some sort of nostalgic sting one feels when they think through the fact that the now universally recognizable image of the verdant California hills seen in the iconic XP background is probably as close as most folks will get to experiencing the wide open beauty of the American west (if they even realize that the image is of an irl place that was once open and accessible to anyone brave enough to venture west in the 19th century).

But like i said at the outset of this post, the url is our infinite frontier, today. And the artists that are capturing the spirit of that background are amongst the most potent seers of our time and will wield the most influence on other artists to be sure, but also on society as a whole as their cultural value seeps out and is absorbed by other culture creators.

As Bryan Brinkman pointed out, you can already see this with Refik as their art has been installed in the MoMA permanent collection, used as the backdrop for the Grammys, featured on the Vegas Sphere, sold for millions, and criticized by Jerry Saltz (lmfao).

So, Jerry, while Refik’s work may strike you as nothing more than a “banal screensaver,” and while I’m sure many actually use his work as a literal screensaver, you have failed to understand how generationally important screens, and in turn screensavers are to our human relationship with our surreal modern condition and how the great artists, as they always do, capture allllllll of that messiness so succinctly and potently in their art, screensaver or otherwise.

Other Thursday Bitties

  • If you need to laugh but also want to vibe out give the Rizzle Song by Eclectic Method a watch-listen

  • Coinbase Verifications - is this a building block for a new type of identity? Negative identity (a la David Birch) perhaps?

  • A lot of marketooors are shitting as hard as they can on the launch video of the ai pin while failing to imagine any of the possibilities this totally new approach to


Cover Image: thank you for your service #3/9 by diewiththemostlikes