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The End of Indie NFT Marketplace Hic et Nunc Pushed All of Golan Levin’s Buttons

“The ‘discontinuation’ of a major marketplace today pushed all my buttons. The URLs for a half-million artworks were destroyed; livelihoods of ~10,000 artists were damaged; the energy and optimism of a creative community was diminished; and the guy who did it left town with $1M.”
Golan Levin, media artist and educator, on the end of Hic et Nunc in a Twitter thread about what NFT-curious artists should know about

Sneak Preview: HOLO 3 Designers Jan Spading and Oliver Griep on Speaking ‘Assembly Language’

DOSSIER:
Returning HOLO art directors Jan Spading and Oliver Griep of studio zmyk share insight into the design logic and development process of HOLO 3. “Conceptually, we were interested in creating tension by offsetting the writing with a very technical form,” they explain in our interview. “So while the authors ruminate on enchantment, mysticism, and the limits of human knowledge, the design speaks ‘assembly language.’”

Big Tech and the Tragicomedy of Digital Fonts

“For most people, Arial, designed in 1982 and released as a TrueType font in 1992 is the typical digital font. It was already a mockery of Helvetica, born in 1957.”
– Typographer Frank Adebiaye, exploring the “tragicomedy of digital fonts.” In a research essay for NaN, Adebiaye lays out a brief of history of “theatrical” screen-first font substitutes, tributes, and surrogates that emerged at the behest of type foundries, Big Tech, the Web, and, recently, NFTs.

Hic et Nunc Founder Rafael Lima Pulls Plug on Popular NFT Marketplace

Hic et Nunc (HEN) founder Rafael Lima pulls the plug on the popular ‘indie’ NFT marketplace, following what some allege were heated discussions on the community’s Discord channel. First, the website disappeared, then the market’s smart contract was posted to the official Twitter page. Launched in March on the low-cost, low-carbon Tezos chain, HEN became an instant artist favourite (esp. in the Global South) and just recently celebrated 500,000 minted NFTs.

Tobias Revell on How Crypto FOMO Changes Modes of Artistic Practice (for the Worse)

“The mode of practice changes from good work that takes time to churning out at as much as possible as fast as possible because one in ten things might get snapped up or retweeted by the right person.”
– Artist and designer Tobias Revell, on the effects of crypto FOMO. “I’ve seen brilliant, interesting artists I respect deeply turn their entire careers to running National Portrait Gallery images through a GAN to make a quick buck,” he writes.

The Grid

“Conceptually, we were interested in creating tension by offsetting texts that, as Nora N. Khan noted, only ‘talk about technology obliquely,’ with a very technical form.”
“So while the authors ruminate on enchantment, mysticism, and the limits of human knowledge, the design speaks ‘assembly language.’”
GIF: HOLO 3
design schematics
via zmyk

We’ve stated it here before but it bears repeating: the most exciting part of reimagining HOLO 3 as the first of many HOLO Annuals was making room for other people’s ideas. It sounds cliché, but working closely with and handing control over to guest editor Nora N. Khan and her research partner Peli Grietzer helps us see this magazine and what it can be with fresh eyes. The same is true, of course, for the many new contributors, all interdisciplinary luminaries in their own right. Quite frankly, HOLO 3—the Annual—is a magazine that we, previously, couldn’t make. And that’s amazing!

But there’s also continuity. With so many new hands shaping the new edition, it felt right to bring back a few former collaborators without whom HOLO wouldn’t be the publication it is today. There’s trusted Andrew Wilmot, for example, a Canadian artist and author who expertly copyedited and proofread HOLO 1 and 2. We’re also thrilled to be working with the same Berlin-based art book printer, now called Druckhaus Sportflieger, that produced the previous editions. And where would we be without our distributor of many years: OML, part of the indie publishing hub Heftwerk, is gearing up to ship HOLO 3.

Yet, few collaborators have been more instrumental to HOLO’s distinction than Jan Spading and Oliver Griep of the Hamburg-based design studio zmyk. Over the years, they’ve laid out and obsessed over literally hundreds of HOLO pages and it is thanks to them, their experience, instincts, and diligence, that issue 1 and 2 made such a mark. So when HOLO 3—the Annual—came into vision, we had to invite them back. Over the past several months, the two accomplished art directors have been busy developing a new design language that speaks to and advances the Annual’s vision. With the print date nearing, we asked Jan and Oliver to share some insight into the design logic and development process (without giving too much away).

HOLO 3—the Annual—is imminent. Sign up for the HOLO newsletter to get notified as soon as it becomes available.

“We’ve drawn inspiration from early issues of Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated from the 1960s and mixed those influences with the clarity and restraint we find in monographs and architectural drawings.”

Regularly listed among Germany’s top design studios, the team of Jan Spading and Oliver Griep otherwise known as zmyk specializes in crafting cutting-edge books and magazines. Over the years, the two award-winning art directors have shaped signature publications such as DUMMY, fluter, and Frankfurter Rundschau and authored printed matter for clients such as Ostkreuz, brand eins Verlag, and Universal Music. Trivia: zmyk was founded in 2013, making HOLO one of the studio’s first imprints. (photo: Heinrich Holtgreve)

Q: It’s been five years since the release of HOLO 2. Then, out of the blue, an invitation to design HOLO 3. How big was the surprise?
A: Seismic! It so happens that we had leafed through HOLO 2 just a few days prior, wondering how team HOLO is doing. Coincidence? We think not ; ) .
Q: HOLO 3—the Annual—is a re-imagination of our print magazine, also visually. What can readers expect from the new design?
A: More cohesiveness, for starters. Whereas previous editions featured more book-like and more magazine-like sections, the new issue will feel seamless: a topical journey in four coherent chapters. Conceptually, we were interested in creating tension by offsetting texts that, as editor Nora N. Khan noted, only “talk about technology obliquely,” with a very technical form. So while the authors ruminate on enchantment, mysticism, and the limits of human knowledge, the design speaks ‘assembly language.’ We’ve drawn inspiration from early issues of Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated from the 1960s and mixed those influences with the clarity and restraint we find in monographs and architectural drawings.
Q: Can you reveal any design specifics?
A: First and foremost, HOLO 3 will be more compact—thankfully so, as the heftiness of previous editions made them a little unwieldy. Typographically, we’re drawing from traditional letterpress (Suisse Works), manual press (Suisse Int’l Mono), and early digital word processing (Arial Narrow)—a mix that we feel captures the essence of this issue. The layout is based on a simple 10 column grid with very narrow margins. We also decided against conventional pagination and instead developed a dynamic system that responds to the content on the page.
Q: With HOLO 2, you won a prestigious ADC Award, one of Germany’s highest honours for a magazine. How does the issue‘s design hold up today?
A: It aged very well, also thanks to the great material and people we got to work with. The generative layout of the “Stream” timeline, for example, was quite innovative. Working with digital artist Ted Davis, we distributed more than 2,000 images over four pages—which nearly killed one of our laptops. Looking back, there’s an uncompromising severity in how the design of this particular issue brings together striking imagery and great writing that we’re still very proud of. So yeah, the stakes for HOLO 3 are very high.
“There’s a severity in how past editions brought together striking imagery and great writing that we’re still very proud of. So yeah, the stakes for HOLO 3 are very high.”

Artist and Critical Engineer Julian Oliver Erects Germany’s First Cell Tower for the Commons in Berlin

With Pink Cell Tower, artist and critical engineer Julian Oliver erects “Germany’s first cell tower for the Commons” at Skulpturenpark Berlin. The solar-powered and autonomous piece of ‘extroverted infrastructure’—it’s designed to be seen—is framed by Oliver as an act of reclamation in an otherwise completely privatised EM space. “Calls and texts across the network are free and pro-public,” the former Berlin resident writes on Twitter. In short: “No plans, no tracking, no monitoring.”

DNA as NFT: Artist Rachel Rossin Mints her Genome on OpenSea

“By putting my DNA sequence in the blockchain, I’m stating that I think we’re not fully prepared for the way our bodies and technology will intersect. Both our bodies and technology feel like these illegible black boxes that code runs through.”
Rachel Rossin, on minting her sequenced genome on OpenSea. Rachel Rossin’s Raw DNA, the American multimedia artist explains, comments on an impending future where wetware (living tissue)—as opposed to software or hardware—serves as the building blocks of technology.

Artist Duo Semiconductor Translates Data of Young Stars Into Generative “Spectral Constellations” at NEoN Festival

Translating Spectroscopy data of young stars into generative LED animations, British artist duo Semiconductor premieres a series of Spectral Constellations at Mills Observatory in Dundee, Scotland, as part of NEoN Festival. In using the European Southern Observatory’s spectral data archive “as a physical material,” Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt imagine distant clusters of dust and gas as “rings of light which resemble the gradiated discs of planetary and stellar formations.”

Projection Fight Breaks Out at UN Climate Change Conference

“We ended up in a projection fight where the official projectionist only ended up drawing more attention to our action and then came out and congratulated us.”
– COP26 activist Graeme Eddolls, sharing a small win for climate justice. When protestors projected slogans such as “Cut Methane Now” onto the COP26 conference venue, officials ‘fought back’ by projecting colours, noise, and the words “go away”—to no avail. “I haven’t stopped laughing since,” The Guardian cites one campaigner.

“NINE” Inflates Claustrophobia at panke.gallery

NINE, a mini-version of media artist Martin Bricelj Baraga and electronic musician Olaf Bender’s installation Neunundneunzig (2015) opens at Berlin’s panke.gallery. Riffing on the 1984 German new wave hit “99 Luftballons,” viewers position themselves under a matrix of black balloons which gradually inflate, inducing claustrophobia. Further animated by stroboscopic light and Bender’s percing sound design, the resulting environment is a “dark field where sound, light, and objects inhale, exhale and pulsate.”

Artist Bill Posters Cancels His New York Times Climate Hub Participation Over Greenwashing Concerns

“To speak on the panel and by association, endorse a ‘license to operate’ for HSBC and Morgan Stanley in particular isn’t in line with my personal beliefs. It also isn’t in line with the ethics of the Eco-Bot.Net project.”
– Artist and activist Barnaby Francis aka Bill Posters, cancelling his The New York Times Climate Hub participation over the involvement of large financial institutions. Meanwhile, Poster’s Eco-Bot.Net flags corporate greenwashing during COP26

ECAL Research Project “Automated Photography” Concludes with Exhibition and Symposium at Paris Photo Fair

An exhibition (and symposium) curated by the head of ECAL’s photography department, Milo Keller, “Automated Photography” opens at Espaces Commines as part of the Paris Photo fair. Reflecting on the school’s eponymous research project, works by 12 prominent digital artists including Nora Al-Badri, Simone C Niquille, and Alan Warburton explore contemporary image-making technologies such as machine learning, CGI, and photogrammetry, asking timely questions about the automation of creation.

Arts at CERN Curator Mónica Bello: “Art and Science Intersect in the Shadows”

“Artists and scientists have the same drive to explore and understand what escapes our control—the shadows in our understanding of the complex world that surrounds us.”
Mónica Bello, art historian, curator, and current head of Arts at CERN, making the case for “a model of institutional cultural practice that nurtures artists’ engagement with physics and hard sciences, and that fosters research and production of deeply informed artworks.”

The Dark Allegory of Sarah Friend’s Crypto Clicker Game

“The game ends when you’re sort of so deep in the hole that there is no light anymore, the screen is just black and you have like trillions of dollars.”
– Software artist Sarah Friend, on her alegorical crypto clicker game Clickmine (2017), “where you get this little procedurally generated piece of land and as you click, you are digging a hole and the hole gets deeper and deeper and deeper, and you get richer and richer and richer.”

Arno Beck Rolls Out New Series of Postdigital Plotter Drawings in Shopping Carts

Arno Beck’s not one to let a good pun go to waste: with “Don’t Put All Your Becks In One Basket,” the Bonn-based postdigital artist shows a new series of pen plotter drawings at Schierke Seinecke in Frankfurt, Germany; his third solo show with the gallery. The drawings, colourful bursts of pixels and compression artifacts that reference videogames and image processing software from the 1980s and ’90s, are presented ‘sitting’ in iconified shopping carts Beck drew on the gallery wall—one Beck per basket.

How Widespread Financial Precarity and a Rigged Economy Paved the Way for NFTs

“In an economy where most people work long hours, are struggling to get by, and have deeply internalized the status quo, the question becomes: How do I get in? That’s how a million-dollar jpeg of a digital rock turns out to make sense.”
– Tech reporter Ali Breland, on how widespread financial precarity paved the way for crypto and NFTs. “People trying to shoddily arbitrage their future is just the next logical step in an economy in which every bit of your time needs to be monetized,” he writes.

Software Artist John Gerrard Creates Powerful Visual for What’s at Stake at the UN Climate Change Conference

Providing a powerful visual for what’s at stake at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, Irish artist John Gerrard’s latest simulation Flare (Oceania) 2021 debuts on a large-scale LED wall at the University of Glasgow South Facade. Created in response to a statement from Tongan artist and activist Uili Lousi, whose ancestral ocean is heating due to CO2 emissions elsewhere on the planet, Flare echoes Gerrard’s past software works that “fly the flag of our own self-destruction.”

American Artist’s Stack of iPhones Decodes the Tech World Through the Lens of Blackness

“Yet, beneath the semblance of all this connectivity, the Black community remains fractured and dispossessed. The artist also offers an underlying critique of technology’s need to be ever-sleeker: what is all this shine glossing over?”
– Arts writer Mebrak Tareke, on American Artist’s Untitled (Too Thick) II (2021), “a tall, lean stack of used iPhone cases topped by a bulging blob of asphalt” on view as part of the solo show “Black Gooey Universe” at LABOR, Mexico City