Why Surrealist Philip Colbert Is Tapping '80s Band Devo to Bring Lobsters to the Metaverse

Devo and Colbert are doing an NFT artwork and musical performance in a new world in Decentraland.

AccessTimeIconJun 28, 2021 at 1:04 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 1:17 p.m. UTC

British artist and designer Philip Colbert is about to make a splash, or rather a “pop,” in Decentraland, virtual-reality platform that runs on the Ethereum blockchain.

Colbert, the "neo-pop surrealist" best known for his colorful odes to lobsters, is launching his "Lobsteropolis City" and "Lobster Land Museum" in Decentraland, seeing the metaverse as a home for non-fungible token (NFT) exhibitions, among other things.

These other things include a musical performance in collaboration with legendary American art rockers Devo, titled "LOBSTER DE-VO." The performance will serve as a launch for Colbert’s "Lobster Land" on Decentraland on Wednesday. It will feature a DJ set by Devo (a band that probably suits being cast as digital avatars better than any other on the planet). 

Devo co-founder Gerald Casale provided the following quote in a press release:

“‘LOB-STER-DE-VO’ Clawing our way into the future. Breaking free. Looking for new traditions. Deevolution is real!” 

Doors will open on the Lobster Record store (Colbert plans more musical collaborations; think “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s), and an NFT auction in association with SuperRare, a digital art market, and dealer Simon de Pury will run in conjunction with Decentraland Art Week starting July 8. 

What telepresence?!

Colbert told CoinDesk he began looking at virtual world-building a few years ago, initially with the idea of using VR headsets and the like. 

“As the creator, it felt insane to be actually in one’s own painting in a way,” Colbert said. “This heightened sense of experience just felt like a very profound, new way of making things and exploring creativity.”

The onset of the global pandemic gave things more of an other-worldly twist, as public spaces such as galleries were shut down. In response, Colbert held a show at London’s Saatchi Gallery using “telepresence robots" that could view the exhibition remotely for the public via a mobile phone.

An auction in Lobsteropolis City
An auction in Lobsteropolis City

The rise of NFTs early this year prompted Colbert to dive into Decentraland, which now operates as a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) governed by token holders. He was put in touch with James Ashton, CEO of Vegas City, one of the largest districts in the Decentraland metaverse, which is hosting Lobsteropolis across its 57 parcels of virtual land.

“I just started translating my world into the Decentraland model,” said Colbert, who has experience in 3D modelling and digital rendering, and who enlisted help from the team at Vegas City in coding everything up. He added:

“Digital art is a great medium, but it’s not doing anything conceptually to further reinvent and recontextualize the possibility of that art. Rather than doing another virtual gallery show, I wanted to make this the experience of going into my actual world.”

Why lobsters? 

“Lobsters have an iconic, historical lineage in art,” Colbert said, “from occupying a central position in Dutch still life painting, to later becoming a symbolic protagonist of surrealism.”

Now the colorful crustacean may also find its footing in the metaverse.



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