Influenced by the tools and aesthetics of video games, pioneering digital artist Peter Burr’s latest online exhibition BOOM TOWN is a richly crafted narrative world that is deeply evocative while remaining mysterious and restrained. Curated by Julia Kaganskiy, the exhibition displayed images and environments that hover on the boundary between abstraction and figuration, inviting the viewer to conceptualize their interpretation. In the exhibition, Burr’s compositions draw on generative dynamics and the complexity that emerges from simple, rule-based systems. Each piece in BOOMTOWN represents a unique, living artwork composed of 1,000 images that will change over time, evolving as a kind of durational stop motion animation over an undetermined period pegged to Ethereum’s block time. They all follow precise logic for generating the structure’s architecture, its ground and field, its shadows, planes, and colors.

Taking this precious chance to speak with Peter Burr, CAP 74024 talked with him on his concept, his artistic language and his latest exhibition. While we try to dig into the story behind his creation and his inspiration, we also want to understand Burr’s perspective on how art and new technologies like blockchain or NTF work. Here’s the digest of the talk we shared with him:

Hi Peter, we would like to start with your latest exhibition, BOOM TOWN. On the Feral File platform is a series of NFT / digital artworks that grow and change over time. Can you explain what readers are going to be experiencing with the work?


Each artwork is built with a little clock inside it that ages the piece as the Ethereum ledger grows. My hope is that the piece will last for 10 years and change multiple times a week over that decade. Will it BOOM or will it BUST? It’s not actually up to me… it depends on people continuing to use this technology and write things on that cryptic ledger to move it forward through its lifespan.

The works in BOOM TOWN have a certain nostalgic, “oldschool” digital quality, what was the intention there?


It all started about 30 years ago when I played this video game called MacPaint that was secretly training me to be a visual artist.  It sparked my interest in painting which led to me exploring animation, installation, making my own video games, and now producing this project BOOM TOWN coming to life on Feral File.


A few years ago I fired up an emulator and started playing with Mac Paint again. It was exactly as I remembered, and within the constraints of this tool from 1984, I found something interesting. Despite the limited color palette, the lack of an ‘asset store’, the super simple interface – I found a voice to talk about some of my more complicated feelings around our current moment using a tool that was long ago left behind. I think the fact that this tool was so straightforward and familiar helped me discover that voice.


I think about this discovery a lot, because today we are in a world where technological advancements cycle faster than our minds and bodies can comprehend. As soon as a website or a software interface becomes familiar, I expect it will change. A system of updates whether or not we like it. I don’t see this stopping. In this world of “update hell”, I wonder if any of us will ever catch up. I don’t think anyone really knows. Perhaps the more apt question is… how do we build a better world from systems that change before we even learn to work through their shortcomings?

BOOM TOWN explores ideas like Manifest Destiny but translated to the blockchain and these new technologies. What inspired this? 


I think Julia Kaganskiy, this exhibition’s curator put it well when she said “BOOM TOWN is galvanized from the landscape of the American West, when makeshift settlements, or “boom towns”, sprung up wherever valuable resources were to be found. Informed by the ideals of Manifest Destiny, colonialist expansion, and get-rich-quick schemes, these towns attracted prospectors, speculators, and those in search of a fast track to a better life.”


Architecture appears in your work quite frequently. Where does this fascination come from? 


Architecture is interesting to me because it’s all this strange form of public art – expressive, symbolic, and practical at the same time.

Has blockchain and digital art shed a new light on your practice?


I like the idea of using social technology like blockchain tech as a space for collaboration. A few years ago I participated in a project conceived by Casey Reas called A2P that ended up being an early prototype of Feral File – working out the kinks of how this technology could work within our artistic community. It’s an honor to be able to bring BOOM TOWN into this space now that a few of A2P’s wrinkles have been ironed out and renamed.

Interview by CAP 74024 Team

Selected works from BOOM TOWN