Curatorial Note on “Dawn of the Metaverse”

by Max Haarich & Gleb Divov

 

The temporary gallery “Dawn of the Metaverse” offers a glimpse into the world of NFT-based digital art as well as an outlook on the technological possibilities of Web 3.0 and the social vision of the metaverse.

 

The term “metaverse” originates from the science fiction novel “Snow Crash” by Neil Stephenson” and describes the idea of completely virtual parallel worlds created by hackers, into which we humans can enter more and more immersively. Today, the term metaverse is applied to a variety of 3D digital architectures created by artists, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO), and even global sporting goods corporations. Many metaverses seem visually outdated compared to current computer games, but technological advances are enabling increasingly realistic experiences through increasingly complex online interaction capabilities but also through increased physical experiences e.g. through haptic feedback. Currently, the most important driver of the metaverse concept is probably the link with blockchain technology. It enables the convenient management of online profiles, but most importantly, it allows digital property to be claimed and traded in the form of NFTs.

 

For the temporary gallery “Dawn of the Metaverse”, we choose five digital artists each to highlight different aspects of metaverses with NFT-based works. For example, they address questions such as: What are metaverses? How are they created? What are they made of? What do they mean for us as people and society?

 

 

Artworks

Gleb Divov’s work “Messier 87” provides the cosmic reference frame of the metaverse concept. His work uses NASA sound data of the black hole “Messier 87” to create a visual image that is superior in detail to most optical representations. This work, for one, puts the visual focus of most metaverse projects into perspective. However, the world consists of more than light waves and metaverses offer the possibility to integrate further information into our visible architecture. At the same time, the work shows with what great degree of imprecision and ignorance we still face our own universe, while we are already trying to build universes or metaverses ourselves. His second work “Feel the artificial thought (triangle)” is an animation of digitally generated image motifs generated with artificial intelligence: one recognizes the fluid transition from heart to brain and/or vice versa. The work shifts the focus to the constitutive role of the visitor of the respective metaverse. The potential of the metaverse technology is presented as a function of the physical and mental constitution of the visitor, whose active participation appears as an indispensable prerequisite of the metaverse.

 

From artist sp4ce we show “Tile #20 (“Decentralized Mona”)“, which is part of an international collaboration project. The work proclaims the dilution of classical notions of value in the realm of art and culture. Instead of historical provenance, short-term crypto-financial usability now counts. The face of the Mona Lisa is obscured by the logo of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The brand symbol has the function of sunglasses at the same time and is a fashion accessory actually traded as NFT for avatars in the metaverse. Culture consumption becomes consumer culture.

 

Betty Menu’s works “VORTEX SKYTRIAL #1” and “Vortex // WaterMovement” draw the viewer into a vortex of visual stimuli that must be deciphered. These video loops allude to the tension between attractiveness and aloofness of the artificially created metaverses. The optical impressions invite the eyes to rest, while the partly synthetic partly natural parts urge constant reinterpretation. This attempt, however, comes to nothing and gets lost in the infinity of repetition. This addresses a constitutive difference between real and virtual worlds: while we can examine the real world ever more precisely and accurately, the virtual world is limited by computing power, at which point the immersive experience ends.

 

Max Haarich’s work “Urinal” is a teletext page mined as NFT that was broadcast on SAT.1. The urinal, rendered in clearly digitized 7bit graphics, references Duchamp’s work “Fountain.” Just as Duchamp showed over 100 years ago that anything can be a work of art, NFTs today show that anything can be a digital asset – even a teletext page. His second work, “It’s Love O’Clock“, is a charity NFT for Ukraine. It is a special edition “pixel chronometer” a collection of binary, trinary, quaternary and quinary coded timepieces consisting of only a few pixels. This collection is an experiment on the metaphysics of the metaverse. It shows how a fully functional timepiece could look like, in a world where energy and information are ubiquitous, and material and dimensions are only fiction. This special edition is binary coded in blue and yellow and starts every full hour with the red letters “LV” as a reminder that love is the strongest weapon.

 

From the CryptoWiener we show on the one hand “Oida!” from the series “Pixelrebellen”. In the animation, which is only a few pixels in size, a figure can be seen raising a sign with the inscription “Oida“. The figure invites you to emulate her without copying her. It offers a template, a model to become active oneself. This image manifests the revolutionary spirit of many NFT communities, who are currently trying out new ideas of society both in reality and in metaverses. That these speculations and explorations do not run in isolation from each other is evidenced by CryptoWiener’s second work, “The Fluffy Krapfen“. This 3D rendering of a very roughly pixelated doughnut is mined as an NFT. The owner of the NFT not only receives the rendering, but also five doughnuts from a Viennese bakery every Shrove Tuesday for life. This work reminds us that every virtual metaverse always exists in a real universe and should be developed as an extension rather than a competition to each other.

 

Tatjana Lee’s works “Meta Reality Genesis” and “Evolution Cycle: New Horizons” specifically use optical illusions to create physically non-existent images. Her two works embody the essence of the immersive experience in the metaverse. Without leaving our physical world, the works allow us to open a second level of experience created solely by our minds and only for us individually. Everyone can reach this level, but no one can meet on this level. Are metaverses in the sense perhaps also anti-social worlds, which only pretend a community? How much sensuality does the belief in a shared reality require? The two works play with the dualism of body and mind and their constitutive role for our experience of reality. While in “Meta Reality Genesis” a human face is turned into the perceptual matrix of the universe, in “Evolution Cycle: New Horizons” the infinite flow of passing clouds becomes the input factor of the just created private reality.

 

Michael Förtsch uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create his works. AI is also a very relevant technology for Metaversen because it solves a scalability problem: the more metaverses there are, the more needs to be created and designed. Artificial intelligence will in the long run be able to create complete worlds starting from a simple voice command. Michael Förtsch’s work can be seen here as a test of this creative power, not only from an aesthetic point of view, but even more from a semantic perspective: Does an AI understand humans well enough to be able to design on our behalf? This is tested in the work “Am I non fungible?” while his work “Portal to Another World” is asking in a different direction: Does AI understand who we are, what makes us tick, and what a desirable new world for humans would look like?

 

Primal Cypher focuses on the political and social aspects of metaverses. In an aesthetic that seems to echo the progress-propagandist comics of the 1960s, he draws motifs that are at the same time decorative paintings and activist pamphlets: “DON’T LET THEM CONTROL YOU!” is a clear warning against the power of technology. The more we use it, the more usable we become. His second work “THE GREAT DESIRE (unique Satoshi Tribute Edition)” is additionally a warning against ourselves, against our desires and cravings, with which we gain pleasure in the short term, but surrender to ruin in the long term, if we don’t find the right balance.

 

Juliane Kahl Devotes herself to extended meaning of fashion and clothing in the metaverse. In the metaverse, no one wears just anything because he or she is cold. Every piece of clothing thus has an even stronger effect as a statement. The work “Ukrainian Fashion XR” goes one step further. The 3D model of a Ukrainian costume is not only a visible sign of support for Ukraine, it is the support itself. Via smart contract, sales commissions are automatically donated to aid organizations: Wearing is caring. Her second work “Data Enabled Short Range Mobility – DESRM – Speculative Sound of the City” illustrates the new freedom and expanded creative space in the metaverse, which is no longer subject laws of nature. In such metaverses, shoes do not make physically determined sounds either. How a shoe sounds becomes a conscious decision and at the same time a personal identifier worth protecting.

NFT Gallery Opening

 

“Dawn of the Metaverse” is Germany’s first gallery exclusively presenting NFT-based art. It will be opened on 7 May in the heart of Munich, in the Donisl-Passage at Marienplatz 1.

Curators Max Haarich (DE) and Gleb Divov (LT) will show works by local and international digital artists from May 7 – June 26, 2022. The selected and regularly changing works demonstrate the medial range of NFT-based art. In terms of content, the artists deal, among other things, with the utopia and dystopia of completely virtualized living worlds, so-called metaverses.

Further info here.

Užupis Embassy @Galerie der KünstlerInnen

Užupis Embassy @Galerie der KünstlerInnen

Munich Ambassador H.E. Max Haarich installed his Embassy of the Republic of Užupis as part of the group exhibition “Die ersten Jahre der Professionalität 41” in Bavaria’s Galerie der KünslterInnen. In his room, H.E. Max Haarich’s shows central cultural cultural artifacts of his work from the past 5 years including the Munich version of the Užupis constitution, the Užupis Principles for Trustworthy AI design, but also new works like the Užupis Republic Treasury Bill, a collaboration with the Hungarian painter Zsuzsa Gyetvai, as well as the embassy dog Sunny Capitolina created by Steffanie Oberhoff.

The topics of this exhibition center around the technological and financial instruments that shape our society. While some works refer to artificial intelligence and shall serve as an impulse for the policy debate, other works are meant as direct paradox interventions: the embassy offers to pay the world’s debts by issuing emergency money to visitor’s according to their calculated personal debt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The inside of the inflatable dog Sunny Capitolina offers enough room for the embassy office. Visitor’s are welcome to meet H.E. Max Haarich to announce their citizenship or get to know Otto the Octopus. The exhibition is open from 12 APR to 8 May. More info here.

 

NFT Art Event at Shopping Village Ingolstadt

NFT Art Event at Shopping Village Ingolstadt

The shopping destinations Wertheim Village and Ingolstadt Village organized a press event to celebrate the new exterior designs by Australian artist Karan Singh on 7 Apr. During this press event Dr. Anette Doms hosted a discussion panel about the NFT and the future of digital art with gallerist Benjamin Eck, fashion influencer Fiona Dinkelbach and Užupis ambassador H.E. Max Haarich.

Here is the full press release (in German): https://www.lifepr.de/inaktiv/value-retail-management-germany-gmbh/ingolstadt-village-und-wertheim-village-begruessen-karan-singh-ein-gespraech-ueber-die-verschmelzung-von-digitaler-und-analoger-kunst/boxid/894865

Grover x NFT Airdrop succesfully launched

Grover x NFT Airdrop succesfully launched

The technology rental company Grover just received a 1 billion dollar valuation. In order to celebrate the new unicorn status, Grover decided to reward their employees and stakeholders with a commemorative NFT. H.E. Max Haarich selected the Croation game designer Rebecca Merlic ( to design a purely digital 3D unicorn sculpture for Grover. The digital artwork has been minted as an NFT on the eco-friendly Tezos blockchain and has been airdropped to all colleagues and supporters.

 

More info on the airdrop can be found here and here is Rebecca Merlic’s artwork for Grover on objkt.com.

Užupis National Day 22

Užupis National Day 22

For this year’s Užupis national day, the Munich embassy joined forces with Punch Agathe, the tallest string puppet in the world. Together they visited the republic and exchanged sun flowers for carrots. Long story.

TeleNFT Exhibition Launched

TeleNFT Exhibition Launched

Užupis Minister H.E. Gleb Divov and Ambassador H.E. Max Haarich have curated the first NFT exhibition on German teletext. The art exhibition “TeleNFT” questions technological progress in the context of economic and environmental crises. How much time is left? Is technology the salvation? Is art the threat? Our 15 internationally renowned digital artists address these questions with innovative teletext artworks. With only 78×69 pixels, they present motifs ranging from hand-drawn animals to computer-generated patterns. These works immortalized on the blockchain document our zeitgeist, sometimes ironically resigned, sometimes uninhibitedly euphoric, but united in one conviction – now it’s up to us.

The exhibition can be seen on SAT.1 teletext pages 480 – 499 and in the Cryptovoxel space of Museum Francisco Carolinum.

More info: telenft.art

Art&Science Panel on AI and NFT @Deutsches Museum

Art&Science Panel on AI and NFT @ Deutsches Museum

How are digital works of art actually created? Can artificial intelligence be creative? And how can art help bring people into contact with science and technology and fuel social debates? The panel at the Hi!A Festival with Wolfgang M. Heckl, Director General of the Deutsches Museum, digital artist Betty Mü and Užupis Ambassador Max Haarich was streamed live on December 2.

Here you can watch the discussion again.

SAAI Award for AI project Smart Hans

SAAI Award for AI project Smart Hans

The team Smart Hans lead by H.E. Max Haarich won Super Artistic AI Factory‘s award in the category “interaction” for their mind-reading horse installation. The award comes with a 2,000 USD production budget to make the installation exhibition ready.

Here is the full story behind the project.

15K € Funding for Artistic Research on Ethical AI

15K € Funding for Artistic Research on Ethical AI

The German Berufsverband Bildender KünstlerInnen awarded Munich ambassador H.E. Max Haarich a grant of 15.000 EUR for an artistic research project in the area of ethical Artificial Intelligence. The grant is financed by the program Neustart Kultur and includes budget for an art installation, which will be exhibited in 2022.