Art Blocks’ latest brings emotion to the chain

Art Blocks’ latest brings emotion to the chain

On May 24, Art Blocks will release its latest collaboration, a unique, multi-stage NFT project with the Lumen award-winning artist duo Operator. The project, titled Human Unreadable, is a 400-part avant-garde exploration of art, choreography and technology. It is the latest addition to Operator’s critically acclaimed Privacy Collection, which explores themes of transparency and privacy in the Web3.

Ania Catherine and Dejha Ten — the minds behind Operator — have painstakingly crafted a generative art experience with Human Unreadable, where each unique work is powered by the movement data of an underlying choreographic sequence on the chain. This fusion of code, choreography and generative art forms an evolving and conceptual spectacle in three acts, turning the traditional NFT embossing experience on its head in the process.

nft now sat down with Catherine and Ti ahead of Human Unreadable’s release to talk about the pair’s uncompromising artistic vision and what it means to champion the human and the intimate in an increasingly digital age.

Bringing emotion to generative art in the chain

The operator collaboration with Art Blocks is a continuation of the artistic duo’s exploration of the intersections between digital art and physical experiences. To create the pieces in Human Unreadable, Catherine and Ti began by creating unique choreographies and combining them with portraits of the duo, x-ray shadowing, generative glass objects and more to create a new generative choreography method on the chain. The resulting visual compositions are derived from invisible human motion data.

All in all, the project took a team of more than 25 people (everything from specialized engineers to dancers) who participated in the nine-month process to realize the collection.

four individuals dancing in an empty room
Credit: Operator

“The first step was to create the movement library,” Catherine explained while speaking with nft now, “which we consider these isolated moments of raw human expression. These became individual movements, like movement one through movement three. Then [I tried to make sure] that there was a well-rounded enough range of movements that these sequences came together in an interesting way consistently. And then the raw human material that the model uses to create the sequences was movements.”

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Catherine held rehearsals with dancers in four different cities ahead of the project. She instructed them to imagine how they might move while feeling a range of emotions from happiness to sadness. Infusing these movements with feeling was crucial to Operator, who felt that “emotional vulnerability and human messiness” are missing from generative art on the chain.

Computer showing the progress of the art process
Credit: Operator

But approaching a chain project with huge amounts of data in the form of choreographed movements was a challenge. Although they are good at many things, Blockchain is not particularly suited to mass data storage, so Catherine and Ti had to select a handful of frames from each choreography to compress the data enough to fit on the chain. This process was its own curatorial and artistic endeavour, forcing the pair to consider what kind of movements preserved the heart of the movements they were trying to capture.

“Once we got all the movement into this format, we said, ‘Okay, how are we going to compress this?'” Ti explained while speaking to nft now. “We ended up with a whole method of going through the animation file and selecting just the critical frames, like 14 frames of a single movement, and saying, ‘Okay, this still preserves the soul of this movement and the intention and the vulnerability that Ania embodied in it.'”

“Everyone assumes that the unveiling of the artwork is the end of the story.”

Ania Catherine, operator

When she created the project, Catherine and Ti made a concerted effort to turn the embossing experience on its head. Rather than a collector ending or culminating their involvement with a project via an art reveal, the final artworks in Human Unreadable represent the beginning of the project, which unfolds slowly through 2023.

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The further a collector explores the pieces in the collection, the more the humanity of these pieces reveals itself, starting with abstract black-and-white portraits and progressing to a deciphering phase that reveals the sequences of movement used to create the work and even a live performance of the choreographies involved.

A black and white silhouette portrait or a woman with abstract lines and circles across the top of the image.
Credit: Operator
A black and white silhouette portrait or a woman dancing with abstract lines and circles across the top of the image.
Credit: Operator

“Everyone assumes that the unveiling of the artwork is the end of the story,” Catherine stressed. “We needed to make it very clear that the coin on Art Blocks was the first chapter of the story. I think with the language of ‘actions’ people usually think of theater or ballet. And it puts your mind in a different headspace as to what it’s what you collect or what you’re going to experience.”

In the second act of the project, Decipher, collectors will visit the Operator website to uncover the unique movement sequence that inspired their NFT, which takes the form of a secondary soul-bound token to their Art Blocks work.

“We will never separate the underlying choreography, the secondary token tied to the primary Art Blocks token, because [it’s] the humanly unreadable choreographic score, the unique sequence that generated just that [first] token,” Ti said.

Art Blocks’ latest brings emotion to the chain
Credit: Operator

Reveal, decipher, witness

Human Unreadables three-act play, Reveal, decipher, witness, will unfold over several months. The artwork unveiling will take place in the spring, the unveiling of the choreographies used to create the generative model in late June, and a live performance of the choreographies from the first 100 pieces in the collection (min #2 to #101) in late 2023 at a venue which has not yet been announced. Crucially, the duo wants the live performance to be held at an art gallery to bring together the traditional art world with Web3 enthusiasts.

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“We are in conversation with several institutions at the moment,” Ti said. – It is important that the final performance takes place in an art institution. I think there is an interesting divide and polarizing feeling between contemporary art and traditional art, and then crypto art as well. And I think it’s interesting to have both audiences and see where they overlap and have common ground.”

Collectors can stamp a work from Human Unreadable from 24 May at 12pm CDT in a Dutch auction format starting at 5 ETH and settling at 0.16 ETH. For those interested in learning more about the duo’s artistic journey, Operator will reveal the full process and open source toolkit used in the collection’s creation in a white paper later this year.

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