Why I’m going the CryptoArt route

Alexis André
6 min readAug 7, 2020

Today I’ll be tokenizing my first piece of CryptoArt, making it a NFT. If, as me a few weeks ago, this does not mean anything to you, I’ll try to do my best to explain what this whole new market of CryptoArt is and what this means for me, an artist that mostly deals with the digital.

I am a generative artist, that is, I write custom code (mostly from the very low level) to create visuals that can then take any form I like. It could be inspired by natural phenomena or completely artificial, depending of the humor of the day.

I’ve been doing generative art since roughly 1999 (Blender!) , and more seriously since 2005, where I first discovered Processing, the now ubiquitous creative coding framework used by some great artists I really look up to. At that time, it was mostly Casey Reas, Jared Tarbell, and Robert Hodgin that even now continue to inspire me at even bigger levels. I’m now mostly working with nannou, using a combination of raw WebGPU calls to use the power of modern graphics cards and the tools provided by the framework to create my art (the astute reader will notice that I made all the animations for nannou’s homepage as well).

I’ve been making interactive installations and live visuals for some underground artists in Tokyo’s scene, and through regular work, I was able to collaborate with great people, including ISSEY MIYAKE for a extraordinary performance in one of Tokyo greatest gymnasiums then a double collection of generative items. I’ve collaborated with LIXIL (one of Japan’s biggest construction materials company) to create a custom collection of ceramic tiles… Recently it was the great Jean-Michel Jarre and our generative music and visual application: EoN, that ended up featured on the App Store in no less than 143 countries and received excellent reviews (more to come soon by the way!). We were supposed to go on tour and make a complete interactive performance but things have changed to say the least. My artwork is also shown in one of Shibuya’s huge digital displays every 30 minutes (it’s the clock application).

I’ve also been doing a daily animation for the past 1315 days straight (and counting), never missing a single day for the past three years and a half. You can see this daily challenge over at twitter or instagram. A great way to keep my game up and to have a pretty impressive portfolio to show to potential partners.

On the other side of my professional activities, I create entertainment in the most exciting company I can think of here in Japan, Sony, where I am a researcher on new forms of digital entertainment at Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. and Sony Interactive Entertainment, where as a play designer I created toio, a unique robot toy platform that won many major design awards.

I’ve however been struggling to position my activities when it comes to art, as everything I do is still pretty much completely digital: there is no tangible output of what I do, so the only way to experience my art is for me through the interactive setting I try to frame everything I do: you have to be there at that particular time for you to be part of the process, hence becoming part of the art. Call it Performance Art, Interactive Art or else, the only way for it to have value is to experience it where and when it was made for.

Or should I say “was”

My focus was to find a way to include the audience in the generative process of my pieces: since I am able to make the generation of the artwork not relying on any interaction from myself, I like to keep open one set of parameters for the audience to fill up. The end result will then reflect their unique flair, making the outcome meaningful to them and provide them with something that was uniquely created for them. The whole concept behind the “Omoiiro” color palette extraction technique is to let the audience take ownership of the piece by providing a picture: the final piece will make sense to them because they’ll see the original picture through the piece, and they’ll likely would like to talk about that.

Because there was no way to make a generated video or picture “unique” by itself (that is, something that has not been made for you). In the digital ages, a file can be reproduced any time you want. There has been a major essay by Walker Benjamin (in 1935!) about “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” that anyone should read even today. It’s even more relevant to what we’ll be going to right now: the world of CryptoArt.

Non-Fungible Tokens are not some weird mushrooms

If you pardon the horrible pun for a minute, one of the greatest technological features of the Blockchain are the introduction of Non-Fungible Tokens, that, as their name implies, something that is non-fungible (i.e. non-interchangeable), transferable and digital. Suddenly you can own something that is by essence completely virtual. And you can transfer that ownership should you be inclined.

It then makes a lot of arguments against the value of a digital piece of art moot. I can generate a token for a given piece and use the blockchain to certify that I own that token. I can then, one more time using the blockchain, certify that I gave that token to somebody else, that in turn, could transfer that token to another entity.

That solves the problem of uniqueness that Benjamin talked about. We now have one token that represents that piece, whose history of ownership is stored safely in the blockchain.

That’s basically the gist of the CryptoArt scene. For a given digital asset (or else, it actually could be anything), the token is what becomes valuable because it represents everything we associate with traditional (physical) art: scarcity and ownership. In the famous words of Hackatao, one of the most successful artists in the CryptoArt scene right now, “Everybody sees it, only one owns it”.

I’m going in

The problem with making interactive art or performance art is that by essence it is not compatible with the global crisis we are facing today. It could be online but I’ve yet to find the right way to do what I want in that space.

It is however the perfect time to think about what it means to create art in a world where everything becomes remote, where the virtual world is taking an even bigger place in our daily lives. And CryptoArt makes a lot of sense here.

So today I’ll be tokenizing my first CrypoArt piece called “Road to Nowhere” on SuperRare, an online gallery for NFTs that was nice enough to accept my application.

This first piece is a rework of one of my favorite animations I made during the course of my daily challenge, for the first time without any bad compression artifacts, and specially re-implemented for the occasion.

Here is a frame of the final piece:

Frame extracted from “Road to Nowhere”.

You now have the means to own that particular animation in the form of the NFT I’ll be making. If you bid on that token and win, you can then show the piece in your private collection, trade it on the secondary market, or do whatever you want: it’s yours. Update: You can find here if you want to see how it is performing on the market and maybe why not, make a bid on it?

The CryptoArt scene is wild

To be fair, I’m still very new to the scene, and with very little experience with the crypto world, everything seems pretty wild and crazy and that’s fascinating. If you want to find out more about the digital art in general I can not recommend Artnome enough. The CryptoArt movement will surely change the traditional art scene as well and I’m really looking forward being part of this.