HomeNFTsWar Zones & Anthropological Expressionism — Interview with DocT

War Zones & Anthropological Expressionism — Interview with DocT


In today’s interview, we get acquainted with the creative practice and philosophy realm of artist DocT, known for his accessible conceptualism with post-photography and AI-assisted expressionism in addition to his distinctive persona. 

DocT shares his journey from a background rich in humanistic education and street art to transformative experiences in medical and conflict zones, which have deeply influenced his approach to art making. His works, which uses AI to create base imagery for his complex collages, reflect his experiences and cultural motifs, notably the recurring theme of the color yellow.

DocT’s latest project, Keep Going, spotlights themes of resilience and perseverance, drawing from his profound experiences in neonatal intensive care and conflict zones. 

Visit DocT’s MakersPlace Profile

Not a big reader? Watch the interview

Brady Walker: All right, welcome back to the MakersPlace interview series. Today, we’re joined by AI artist DocT. DocT, welcome. Nice to meet you. To get started, could you share a little about the background of your persona and your distinctive presence in web3?

DocT: Well, in a nutshell, I am DocT and DocT is me. There’s not much difference between my persona and my actual self in terms of how I talk, the things I share, and the opinions I carry. 

One of the very first works I generated, which everyone can see, is my profile picture on Twitter. I created this image a long time ago when I first started exploring AI tools. After a while, I began receiving interview requests and video calls, and I felt I needed something to represent me. I still had the yellow jacket from a costume party some years back and decided to go with that. 

The color yellow has a multilayered meaning for me; it’s a color I include in almost all my work. I appreciate its ambiguity and how it varies greatly across different cultural contexts—from warmth to envy, symbolizing richness and enlightenment but also danger, like in the wasp. This ambiguity is also a theme in my work, which I think represents why I’m doing quite well.

Keep Going #9 by DocT

BW: Yeah, I suspected that was something you had generated and then created the costume for. I remember the first time I saw a video of you in your costume, I was really excited to see that you’d chosen to fully embrace the image, which I really appreciate.

DT: It’s also something I embraced when I joined the space, not only for sharing but also selling. One of my earliest collectors, who is also a great painter, Michael Hafftke, whom I admire greatly, embodies everything I believe in when it comes to our space and its potential. 

If you follow Hafftke on Twitter, he posts a lot of video content. I once asked him why he prefers videos, and he said he doesn’t like typing much. Talking freely about your work feels more natural. Given that a lot of our work and sharing happens on social media, having the technical tools on these platforms to create immediacy with our audience, through video formats and such, is very helpful. It makes things more conversational instead of writing endless threads, which have their value, but dropping a video now and then benefits the artist and interests the audience.

BW: For sure. Earlier today, I was on a call with an advisor and artist consultant, and we were both bemoaning the fact that many artists don’t use their websites as an extension of their creative practice. It seems like YouTubers are more savvy than artists when it comes to using these tools, which is sometimes disappointing.

DT: What appears to be the case is that artists need to better understand the potential of these tools to enhance their visibility and interaction with their audience.

Keep Going #7 by DocT

BW: Can you tell me about your background? I spent a good while researching you and your practice over the last week preparing for this interview. I was actually quite surprised by a lot of what I learned. Maybe you can tell our audience a little bit about your history.

DT: Focusing on my artistic history, I come from a family that placed a strong emphasis on humanistic education. My parents, especially my mother who studied art, took us to galleries and museums, and we were surrounded by art at home. During my teenage years, I was drawn to street art—spray cans, social commentary, the early works of Banksy, and stencil art which I could prepare through digital editing. This allowed me to create meaningful art that circumvented my practical abilities. Street art democratized access to art, moving it out of galleries and into open spaces, which always appealed to me.

Growing up, I wanted to enter journalism, but after finishing school, a trip to Afghanistan during the fall of the Taliban changed my path. I visited my father, who was there for German development cooperation. It wasn’t heavily regulated for security then, and I met people from Doctors Without Borders, which shifted my perspective. Instead of writing about crises, I decided to play a more active role and switched to medical studies. In Germany, our university system is nearly free, allowing me to take art history classes alongside my medical studies.

After working in the medical field and in humanitarian aid in places like Pakistan and Iraq, I picked up photography. It helped me process daunting experiences and maintain sanity under challenging conditions. When I discovered AI tools, I saw an opportunity to overcome my lack of traditional craftsmanship. My background in art history, street art, and photography helped me use these tools effectively, allowing me to experiment and see what emerges.

Now, I describe myself as a traditional collage artist. I create base images using AI, then piece them together based on simple sketches I make. This approach differs because I generate my elements instead of using stock imagery or cutouts from newspapers. The infinite possibilities these tools offer present a unique challenge that no artist in history has faced before. Finding a style that remains engaging over time without jumping to the next is challenging, but I’ve gravitated towards what I call ‘anthropological new expressionism’—a blend of human biology, nature, culture, and a raw, expressive art style.

The Messenger, from the collection Kingdom of the Dreamer by DocT

BW: You’ve definitely created continuity with your color choices, even as you transition from synthetic photography to more expressionist outputs. Let’s talk about your upcoming drop with MakersPlace, called Keep Going. Given your background working in intensive care and war zones, did those experiences influence the creation of this series?

DT: Absolutely, they define who I’ve grown to be. Working in challenging environments, like Iraq during significant conflicts, taught me a lot. I’ve met many internally displaced people who, despite having every reason to give up, chose to persevere. This resilience puzzled me initially, coming from Germany, a country still conscious of war’s impact on generations. My grandmother and the people I met in Iraq shared a similar philosophy—there are only two options: to keep going or not. When responsibilities to family or others are present, the luxury to just give up doesn’t seem viable.

This notion isn’t simple or enjoyable, but given the alternatives, what else is there to do? In my medical specialty, neonatal intensive care, I’ve seen colleagues struggle with addiction, broken families, and deteriorated mental health. The Keep Going attitude emerged as a necessity rather than choice. It’s not a universal solution nor a cheerleading slogan but a form of protest, a stubbornness necessary to endure tough times.

Visit DocT’s Keep Going Exhibition

BW: Why did you create this series instead of another body of work? Why was this the message you wanted to communicate?

DT: The message has always been significant to me. In my lead series titled A Look at Us, which is where I direct people when they want to understand my focus, there was a piece that explored this direction, later collected by Hyperspace. When I discover a theme that resonates with me, I usually create one piece, then let it sit. If the idea persists and feels increasingly important, I’m compelled to continue exploring it.

The development process with MakerPlace involved extensive discussions and planning, going back and forth with pitch decks, reviews, and curation over months. I’d like to give a particular shoutout to Hernan, who was always available to discuss this project for hours. This preparation has been extensive, not a short-notice effort.

I believe the core message is somewhat timeless, which is something I strive for in my work. Considering the immutable nature of blockchain technology, I think it’s important that the themes I explore have lasting relevance.

BW: I’m going to pull up a couple of pieces from this series so we can discuss them. Is there a particular piece you want to start with, or should we just pick one at random?

DT: Well, they’re all dear to me, but let’s start with the skull piece.

Keep Going #1 by DocT

BW: What’s going on with this piece?

DT: This piece comes with a detailed description, reflecting the thought process, methods, and background. I begin each description with a quote or a personal reflection. For this one, it opens with my struggle to reintegrate into a normal life after returning from a warzone. I could have isolated myself, but I chose to keep going. It was actually harder to return from abroad than to go there in the first place. When I came back, my wife was pregnant with our first child, and I had to transition from traveling through conflict zones to settling down and being present and supportive.

Returning was incredibly challenging. I had to adjust to the abundance of resources and availability of everything in Germany, coming from places where this was not the case and dealing with severe injuries and illnesses without adequate medication or equipment. 

There was a lot of darkness in me, which this image represents, but also brightness, highlighted by the neon colors in the piece. My son was born a few weeks after my return, giving me a strong reason to figure out how to readjust mentally and physically. This piece represents that journey and the contrast between the darkness of my experiences and the brightness of new fatherhood.

BW: I’m trying to see if I can spot some collage elements, but it seems this was built from multiple prompts, then sketched roughly before compositing the pieces together using AI tools, correct?

DT: Yes, you can work quickly with AI tools if you have no specific expectations. However, if you’re a bit of a control freak like me, wanting everything to look a certain way complicates the process. That’s why it takes me so long to finalize anything. I use Corel, which was recommended to me about a year ago. It’s been excellent for digital painting, especially with its digital oil brushes that help blend elements seamlessly. For anyone interested in a painterly or impasto style, Corel is worth exploring.

Keep Going #2 by DocT

BW: Let’s look at another piece; this might be my favorite. It has less of your signature yellow, which seems to infuse energy into the somewhat deformed body of the figure. I notice there’s a focus on shoes and feet in this series.

DT: I appreciate that observation. Limiting the color palette sometimes helps focus the message. This piece, with its large head and direct leg connection, is reminiscent of children’s first drawings, where they just draw big heads with legs underneath. This was inspired by those early developmental milestones. 

The image also reflects my personal experiences; it’s about not closing off to new relationships despite past scars and challenges, much like a turtle peeking cautiously out of its shell.

However, once my work is released, it becomes its own entity. While I provide a description and background, I believe that once art is out there, it stands on its own. I encourage viewers to interpret it in their own way, which is equally valid as what I intended. The value of art comes not just from the creator’s intention but also from the audience’s interaction with it.

Visit DocT’s Keep Going Exhibition

BW: I find it very helpful to know biographically what is going on with an artist and their view of a piece, but sometimes the art itself surpasses whatever the artist has to say. What are your biggest creative ambitions at the moment? Do you have some great unrealized project?

DT: Yes, there are a couple of ambitious projects I’m exploring. The first is going full-on with on-chain art, like Ordinals and such. I’ve joined a group of artists called Compressionists, who focus on how to compress their works to fit them onto the blockchain in a financially feasible way. It’s quite expensive, and I’m intrigued by the challenge of using the technology itself as a canvas, considering the file size limitations.

My usual work doesn’t fit these constraints due to compression issues. For example, if I try to compress one of my typical images to a 10 or 15 KB file, it just doesn’t work. So, I developed a new concept for this and managed to inscribe my first piece onto the Bitcoin blockchain before the halving event. It’s called My Brain on Chain: Who Wants a Slice of the Artist? and features an MRI scan of my brain displayed on a floppy disk, linking back to the idea of data archiving and sharing, foundational aspects of blockchain technology.

Art often reflects what’s going on in the artist’s mind, and by taking this literally—showing the anatomical foundation of my thoughts—I became the first person to inscribe their brain on the Bitcoin blockchain. The full animated piece goes through the entire brain, and each of the 150 layers in transverse and sagittal planes will be dropped in August, each accompanied by a physical ‘order floppy.’ I consider myself the inventor of the order floppy, a floppy disk that not only represents the artwork but also serves as the canvas, complete with an Easter egg or two, though I can’t reveal too much about that yet.

Evolution is Sacrifice by DocT

BW: That sounds amazing. It’s surprising because it’s not AI-generated art, which is what you’re known for. However, through my research, I’ve learned that you’re much more of a conceptual artist than it may initially appear. A lot of conceptual art is strikingly abstract—you think of Donald Judd, Yves Klein, and it’s evident you don’t fully grasp it, which implies it must be conceptual. Your work, though, is both accessible and quite conceptual.

DT: Yes, the series you’re thinking of is the Kingdom of the Dreamer drop. It involves old fairy tales and narrators. I appreciate your recognition of the conceptual nature of my work. Conceptual art isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay because it often requires deep engagement and a love for mental and psychological exploration. However, I believe that art requiring an advanced degree to understand appeals only to a select few. Having been through top educational institutions, I still prefer art to be more accessible.

Art should invite engagement without setting the bar too high. That’s where the interesting interactions occur—when people can connect with deeper concepts after spending more than a few seconds with the work. The feedback I get from people who message me about their interpretations and thoughts, regardless of their social or educational background, is incredibly rewarding. They find their own points of connection, and that’s what I aim for with my art.

BW: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience about your upcoming exhibition or future projects?

DT: Yes. The upcoming exhibition involves a collaboration with matr.labs, a remarkable entity based in New York that works with painting robots. These robots recreate digital images into physical artworks, and I was eager to explore how to transition my work into the physical realm. matr.labs is not just a company; their work goes beyond conventional boundaries, focusing intensely on details like colors, brush strokes, and even the imprint of the robot’s brush.

I have a piece here in my room, a physical object painted by these robots, measuring 40 by 60 centimeters. The quality is stunning. This piece is part of the Keep Going exhibition, consisting of ten pieces. One of these will be revealed after the minting, and the owner of the corresponding digital piece will receive the physical artwork free of charge. 

This approach poses an interesting question about the value of art: what’s more valuable, the original digital creation or its physical manifestation? This is a topic I find fascinating and would love to get people’s thoughts on.

The experience with matr.labs has been transformative, redefining much of what I do and plan for the future. I anticipate many of my future works will follow this path because the results are simply mind-blowing. I’m usually very humble, but this has truly redefined a lot of my work and aspirations.

Scene #1: Ovine Manipulation by DocT

BW: It’s interesting because it’s like a human on a computer creates something that seems beyond the human realm. Then it goes to a robot, which is also beyond the human realm, to create something within the human realm. This translation of vision through AI adds an intriguing layer of complexity.

DT: It’s a very symbiotic relationship. The lines between where the human ends and the machine begins are blurred. You can’t easily delineate them, which I find fascinating. Working with digital tools may not be for everyone, but for those who appreciate digital art, the process of reintroducing these creations into our tangible world is quite compelling.

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