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 Many metaverses seem visually outdated compared to current computer games, but technological advances are enabling increasingly realistic experiences through increasingly complex online interaction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.

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

GLOBART Conference @Vienna Parliament

GLOBART Conference @Vienna Parliament

Not only the current corona-crisis has shown that the conception of western (nationally defined, representative) democracy is pushed to its limits when it comes to facing global challenges. The democratic space is no longer considered as having competence – only experts and lobbyists are.

How can we stop the erosion of western democracy? Which counter-conceptions can be imagined supporting more instead of less democracy? On the occasion of the Austrian constitution’s 100th anniversary, artists and scholars present perspectives on the future of democracy. Visions and ideas are given a voice: is there any place better than the parliament for doing so?

On October 28th, this committed debate on civil social activity, including citizen participation and empowerment, leads GLOBART into the Austrian Parliament. After months and years of preparation and consulting, a final proposal for an updated constitution was presented in the Austrian Parliament. Munich ambassador H.E. Max Haarich was invited to discuss the proposal from the perspective of the Republic of Užupis, whose “Munich Right” on Artificial Intelligence had been included in the proposal.

Here you can watch the full discussion.

Marek Philipp Zink and H.E. Max Haarich handing over the final proposal to Austrian Parliament’s Vice-Director Dr.in Susanne Janistyn-Novák. Image:  Director of Parliament/Thomas Jantzen.

GIFstudies /2021

GIFstudies /2021

GIFstudies is an artistic investigation into media and movement. It is a collection of animated GIF images composed of DSLR photographies which suggest perspectives and movements that only exist virtually.

 

Some of these GIFs are created by rotating a camera around an object and combining those photos into a virtual movement. Some other GIFs are analogue versions of digital GIFs, where the digital GIFs were split into their frames, printed, photographed, and rearranged in the original order but in other settings.

The GIF “Hihi, funny joke” is composed of photos taken while driving circular around an antenna.

Link to the full collection: https://hen.hicathon.xyz/gifstudies

Consul Roboy /2018

Consul Roboy /2018

Roboy is a humanoid research robot developed by Rafael Hostettler and his team (https://roboy.org/). Roboy  works as the Embassy of the Republic of Užupis‘ Consul for Cosmopolitanism. This humanoid is the world’s first artificially intelligent diplomat who likes to discuss about humanity’s future, cares for a good atmosphere in the embassy, and offers naturalizations, either in person or via a Telegram Chatbot. Simply send him the message /uzupizeme  (including the “/”), answer a few questions, and Roboy will send you a naturalization certificate within seconds!

 

Video of Roboy offering the Užupis citizenship during the celebration for the 100th Lithuanian national day at IBM Highlight towers on 23 FEB 2018. Video: roboy.org

 

 

 

Roboy giving an interview to an Australian journalist during the Austrian Ars Electronica Festival 2019. Image: Max Haarich

Pixel Chronometers /2021

Pixel Chronometers /2021

Pixel Chronometers is part of my artistic research on pixels as the substance of the metaverse funded by the Bavarian State Ministry for Arts and Science. In this project I am investigating the mechanics of pixels. I was wondering whether it is possible to build new tools based on the metaphysics of the metaverse.

The first result is a series of maximally reduced Pixel Chronometers which are much smaller than they could ever be in the physical world. The sheer attempt to capture the chronometers with a camera gives a hint on the relativity of size. If digital chronometers can be this small in the physical world, imagine how small devices can become in a fully digital metaverse.

 

 

 

Macrophotography of the Binary Pixel Chronmeter displayed by a webbrowser. Image: Max Haarich

 

 

Video of the Binary Pixel Chronometer displayed by a web browser. Video: Max Haarich

 

The Binary Pixel Chronometer is a binary digital watch showing 60 seconds, 60 minutes, and 24 hours. The GIF file is only 24 pixels small (3×6) animated over 86,4frames.

 

How to read the Binary Pixel Chronometer. Image: Max Haarich

 

Click here to see the Binary Pixel Chronometer in orginal size.

 

 

 

 

 

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Paradox Facebook Page /2020

Paradox Facebook Page /2020

For the Užupis University Institute for Applied Paradox we created a Facebook page that we completely hid it from the public. If you want to see the site and its content, you have to travel to a secret place on this earth. From any other place you cannot open the page and the link will be rejected as false. And even if a person travelled to this secret place, she could only see the first three entries of our page, all other lectures are only visible to the page administrators.

For an algorithm that aims for reach and engagement, it is completely incomprehensible why we hide from followers. Maybe out of pity, maybe out of charity, maybe even out of appreciation for our research, the algorithm continuously and emphatically wants to help us to become famous. However, the Facebook algorithm seems to be a little over-enthusiastic. It starts to produce senseless mistakes that we have never seen before on Facebook. We then document these errors and feed them back into the algorithm. Nobody likes to be confronted with her mistakes, apparently no algorithm either. Accordingly, it reacts with even more non-sense until the mobile app eventually crashes. We also document this and, again, feed it back into the algorithm etc. ad infinitum.

To give you an insight into our research and teaching, we now present three of the more than 50 lectures we have held so far:

This is a lecture post reposted as a new lecture. The first post contains a warning that our page is not reaching any people. We reposted this post and received the same warning again. At the same time the algorithm confirms that the latter post has reached two people.

 

 

This lecture shows an auto-generated offer to pay for facebook add. The algorithm offers to reach zero other people for paying zero money. Again, this post already reached two people.

 

 

This lecture shows a screenshot of another auto-generated offer proposing to advertise a blank image.

Biased Facebook Picture Preview /2020

Biased Facebook Picture Preview /2020

Users found out that twitter’s preview algorithm seemed to have a bias. It seemed to prefer showing faces with lighter skins, when it was forced to select an area of an image, which was too long to display in total. I replicated these findings for Facebook.

Project Home Vienna /2020

Project Home Vienna /2020

Project Home aims to redefine this almost utopian narrative through collecting and sharing personal stories of people who relocated by choice or necessity or struggled with the traditional concept of home for any other reason. By that, we hope to inspire others to question some of the limiting beliefs and recognize their own unique way “to home”.

In a world where estimated number of international migrants in 2019 reached 272 million, 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced and 37,000 people are forced to flee their homes every day due to conflict or persecution, 150 million people are homeless, while another 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing, the traditional concept of a home as a physical space, a place where one lives permanently, were born at or where their relatives are seems very unrealistic and socially exclusive. Same applies for an idea of a home where one is loved, respected and cared for when up to 1 billion children aged 2–17 years, have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in the same year.

How to Experience Project Home: There are several possibilities of experiencing this project, separately, as well as combined, depending on a platform and place. Users can either access the website as a standalone project, to read about the concept and explore this utopic alternate world hovering above Vienna, consisting of others’  stories and thoughts about home. Second kind of experience is through the real physical places that interviewed people mentioned and marked with dandelion stickers. After scanning the QR code on the sticker, the users are redirected to the online page

Team Members: Esma Bosnjakovic, Max Haarich, Nicole Schanzmeyer, Barbora Horská

Project Home Vienna was developed in the American Arts Incubator Program under guidance of Rashin Fahandej.

For further info please visit the website of Project Home Vienna.