I would be lying if I claimed to have the smarts to intelligently (or even superficially) explain what you are about to read. Despite listening to podcasts about NFTs (nonfungible tokens), the concept is as confounding to me as UFOs, yet no less enticing. I’m waiting for the little green creatures to arrive.
Recently, I received a notification that Randy Hunt, who is my go-to authority on all things crypto and digitally futurist, was releasing a new series of NFTs. His “Lonely Bankers” fall under the umbrella of his online venture Beige Climate, a catchall for his experiments in digital commentary, commerce and communication.
Hunt is an artist and designer but most of all he’s an explorer, always seeking new ways to make expressive art in our present for the future, given existing and yet-to-be-discovered platforms. His latest endeavor, which he explains below, reminds me of another visual social expressionist, Robert Osborn—only instead of using pen and ink, watercolor and pastel, Hunt engages obsolete AI tools to conjure images. And that is over the limit of my competency. So let’s hear from Hunt on his current method of making and distributing art.
Explain what this series represents. And how does it specifically relate to digital production?
During the recent market down[slide], the idea of a banker feeling sad and alone was so simple but poignant to me. I thought about what it might be like for a banker with an artistic side to create self-portraits as a form of expression.
These self-portraits are created in collaboration with a text-to-image AI that has been retired. The idea of a failed AI and a lonely banker have parallels.
Tell me what prompted this work.
Beige Climate work often features themes of accumulation, conspicuous consumption, capital growth, technology, and the systems that have shaped our lives.
And what is the technology angle?
I’d been wanting to collaborate with an AI to produce artworks. Over the last month or so the developments of two AIs have been dominating feeds online: DALL-E 2 [a new AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language] and MidJourney [an AI-powered tool that can turn any imagination into artwork from text]. They’re good. Very good. But there’s something poetic about old technology to me. I wanted to use an older AI as a record of the past, as some of our work is about recording memories in the form of sketches. What stands out from the past is more focused but also distorted. I got in contact with the developers of a text-to-image AI named Conjure, which they retired a few months ago as others [newer computers] progressed more quickly. They [the developers] allowed me to retrieve the works I’d created with the AI in the past.
The same team has a very sophisticated creative writing AI named Sudowrite. I used Sudowrite to name the images and to help describe the artworks.
The end result is a blend of both the Beige Climate concepts and the AI’s visual and written contributions. All of the primary sales of the NFTs are splitting proceeds 50/50 with Beige Climate and the AI.
How you are selling them?
Initial sales are available through the NFT marketplace Foundation. I’m hoping to engage our existing collectors as well as new collectors. Existing collectors of Beige Climate work have purchased on Foundation, and it’s currently our preference for how it presents visual work. It’s more gallery-like than other NTF marketplaces. The works are all on the Ethereum blockchain, so secondary sales are available on Foundation, Opensea, Rarible and other Ethereum marketplaces.
What is the final offering? What do we have for posterity?
The collection is 22 NFTs, each a unique 320px x 240px PNG. The size was determined by the default output of the AI during its experimental phase.
See all the NFTs here.