Jill Miller vs Ariel Pink – How One Artist Armed with NFT Technology is Fighting Back

“Title Image” from the series ‘Ariel Stinks (50 Alternative Album Covers to Thrash and Burn)’ by Jill Miller. Courtesy of the artist and TAEX.

By Vlada One | Chief Operating Officer at TAEX

Can digital technologies and new media consign gender inequality to history? On 20 January, TAEX, the NFT contemporary art platform and infrastructure solution, launches a new NFT drop by Jill Miller ‘Ariel Stinks (50 Alternative Covers to Thrash and Burn)‘. The artist strives to attract attention to biased ways of treating women in the arts while sharing her experience and empowering others to speak out.

Visual artist Jill Miller publicly breaks the silence and stands up for herself and all women who were facing objectification, discrimination, and violation of rights, but does so in a humorous, witty manner. 

The story started 16 years ago when Ariel Pink used a photograph of Miller on the cover of the album ‘Thrash and Burn‘ without permission signing on her forehead “Ariel Stinks”. The picture of the album was spread all over the world, and an unauthorized photo of Miller was seen by millions. Despite a clear violation of her rights, Miller did not seek compensation or apologies from Pink through the legal system. Neither music industry ethics and policies nor non-governmental organizations flagged this issue.

Instead of giving up, Miller conceptualized an artistic response to ‘Thrash and Burn’ by creating 50 alternative album covers that are editioned in multiple formats: a collection of NFTs and a softcover book which is available for presale on her website. Created in collaboration with artificial intelligence, it brings criticism of the objectification of women and enables the artist to gain back control over her likeness. ‘Ariel Stinks (50 Alternative Covers to Thrash and Burn)’ is indeed a continuation of the ‘Ariel Stinks’ line, which was started by the musician.

Ariel Pink | Haunted Graffiti FYF 2010 | Author: Dustin Drew | Wikipedia

In these fifty humorous works, Pink is associated with various smelly objects: breeding bacteria, a pet skunk and a public bathroom. Miller creates a series of “alternative careers” for the musician by envisioning him as a Spin Instructor, a TSA Agent, and a Walmart worker. Often in the images, Ariel’s face is bloated and disfigured, which is a powerful criticism of the dehumanization of women by the capitalistic entertainment industry that has been using women’s images in promotion campaigns for many decades, not always legally, as a disposable and expendable resource. 

Launched as NFTs, the artworks not only address the biases of the traditional art world and the music industry but also emphasize the current state of the blockchain world that became a safe haven for radical far-right cisgender males. Ariel Pink, an active participant in the January 6 United States Capitol attack – thus the day of the drop – would be a role model for a typical representative of the alt-right blockchain community members. The work by Jill Miller can be a step in raising the issue of gender imbalance in the technical world at large and its blockchain subsection in particular and serve as a much-needed action in eradicating this problem.

This is not the first work of Jill Miller, where she raises the issue of women’s rights. She often collaborates with individuals and local communities in the form of public interventions, workshops, and participatory community projects. She describes humor as “the greatest social lubricant” for opening up meaningful conversations about difficult subjects. In her past works, she lived in the remote wilderness in search of a sasquatch (Waiting for Bigfoot), assisted mothers who were harassed for breastfeeding in public (The Milk Truck), and organized teenage girls who were closing the gender gap by learning to edit Wikipedia (WOW! Editing Group). 

TAEX is an interdisciplinary platform for artists, curators and collectors to discuss, present and sell crypto art. TAEX brings together experts from different fields of knowledge, from sociology to architecture and art history, to create a new kind of media art community with a critical approach. TAEX stands for the highest level of transparency and a customized approach to offer unique smart contracts with an integrated KYC process that ensures everyone’s rights are at the forefront. The company’s vision is to be the authoritative reference point for environmentally conscious buyers and to encourage more sustainable business practices through curating beautiful, practical, consciously-produced products.

Jill Miller is a professor in the Department of Art Practice at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a visual artist who works across a wide range of media, from video installations to public practices, and many hybrids in between. Born in Illinois, Miller received her MFA in from University of California, Los Angeles and her BA from University of California, Berkeley, in English. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, and collected in public institutions worldwide including CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo in Madrid and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. In 2019, she received an Artists in Communities Grant from the California Arts Council to create the first commissioned socially engaged artwork at the Palo Alto Art Center and the Mitchell Park Library. Miller is the founding director of Platform Artspace at UC Berkeley, and she is on the Executive Committee of the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM). She is affiliated faculty at the Berkeley Food Institute and Global Urban Humanities. At Berkeley, she has taught courses in social practices, food activism, Junior Seminar, Senior Projects, several Special Topics courses, and BCNM graduate seminars.

Dr Margarita Kuleva, who curated the drop, is a researcher, curator, and artist. She is interested in exploring social inequalities in culture and technology. She is a 2022-2023 postdoctoral researcher at NYU Jordan Centre. In her research and art projects, she mainly uses ethnography and performance as methods. In particular, her PhD was devoted to the ‘behind the scenes’ of cultural institutions to give greater visibility for the invisible workers of culture. She has worked with a number of international cultural institutions, including Manifesta Biennale, Boston Center for the Arts, Goethe Institute, Street Art Museum, and more. In 2022 she joined TAEX as a Senior Curator.

UPDATE January 12, 2023 – The World Art News received the following statement from Ariel Pink after publication:

“I had nothing to do with the release other than the music. In or around 2008′ Jason Grier, a fellow Cal Arts alum, compiled 2 LPs worth of music from tapes I had shared with him over the years. He told me he was starting a label called Human Ear Music and he envisioned Thrash and Burn (aka Ariel Stinks) for its inaugural double cassette release – he already had cover artwork for it ready and packaging and basically just needed my blessing. Naively I consented, on a handshake. Years later he released it on Lp. I’ve never been paid, he lives in Berlin and still runs the label but like other people in my life, he has chosen to “delete” my titles from the website and hide any mention of my involvement with the label.”

Ariel Pink

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Story submitted by TAEX. The World Art News (WAN) is not liable for the content of this publication. All statements and views expressed herein are only an opinion. Act at your own risk. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission. © The World Art News

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