The Discovery of Math: A Sitdown with Daïm Aggot-Hönsch (Part 2)
CohentheWriter Chats with the Algorist, Apeirographer, and AI Artist
In part two of my conversation with Daïm Aggot-Hönsch (otherwise known as DaïmAlYad), we hone in on his individual artworks, his continuing interest in Slow Art, and a forthcoming project of his which Aggot-Hönsch affectionately and earnestly sees as his Magnum Opus.
The following is the condensed and lightly-edited transcription of a conversation between Daïm Aggot-Hönsch (@DaimAlYad) and Max Cohen (@cohenthewriter) recorded in October 2022. This is part 2 of 2. Read part 1 here.
Max: I want to get into specific projects of yours, and two specifically: Cryptoblots and Ancestral Memory. They were created within two months of each other, I think Cryptoblots in December of 2020 and Ancestral Memory was in October. I’m wondering if the same exploration led to the creation of both, or if there were drastically different questions you were trying to address in that period?
Daïm: Cryptoblots actually had its roots in some algorithmic projects of mine that predate my entry into crypto art. The earliest algorithm that eventually became Cryptoblots was all greyscale, which in some odd ways may have made them easier to project interpretations onto, whereas the more colorful Cryptoblots are far easier on the eyes and sort of have an easier appeal, but the color tends to skew interpretations towards certain sorts of things. Cryptoblots was up to that point my most direct play with pareidolia — [the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern]. With Cryptoblots, I was very keen and very curious about the idea of creating all these indeterminate abstract shapes that aren’t from the get-go intended by me to be any specific thing, but which the viewer is then free to interpret in their own unique ways.
Honestly, it was delightful how unique the interpretations were. I actually have in my collection a piece that was nicknamed by — I think it may have been the person who originally minted it and I acquired it from them? — someone nicknamed it “In the Times of Covid” because it gives the vague impression of a woman with a facemask on. And, especially given how central crypto art was to my survival and to my getting through Covid, that was very special and was very unexpected. There are obvious, easy things you readily see in the kind of horizontally-reflected, pareidolic shapes that Cryptoblots are — bugs or aliens or those sorts of things — but this one ended up being a strangely, personal and significant pareidolic interpretation that, once you hear it applied to the given Cryptoblot, it’s hard to unsee.
Max: And then Ancestral Memory, how did that come about during that same period?
Daïm: With Ancestral Memory, that work felt like it self-actualized itself into being through me. Because I didn’t purposefully set out to make exactly what it came out to be. But when I was playing around in the image synthesis system, I started getting some of the images that would eventually become some of the key frames to Ancestral Memory, and I started getting a feel for what it would eventually become. Obviously it’s a Slow Art piece, so it’s something that you get most out of as a viewer if you’re able and willing to put in the time to engage with it for the full duration for the audiovisual piece. It’s meant to be the sort of thing that doesn’t necessarily actually expect you to stare at it unblinking for — I forget how long it is exactly…
Max: 6 minutes!
Daïm: …6 minutes! Because there’s parts that do a sudden shift with the expectation that if you weren’t looking and you only caught that from your peripheral vision, well now you’re going to be looking and realize something significant happened.
Max: I know you were telling me about this “Magnum Opus project” of yours, where both this new project and Ancestral Memory really reward patience. Especially in the crypto art world, which is predominantly happening on Twitter — everything is so hair-trigger and about immediate sensory experience, and discarding something in favor of a new experience — this sensibility runs quite counterintuitively to what I would expect.
I’m wondering what draws you towards creating artwork that requires, or even demands, patience from collectors and audiences who are both unaccustomed to spending lengthy time with a single artwork?
Daïm: In my own experience, some of the most interesting creative experiences I’ve had as a viewer involved works that demanded prolonged attention, and that demanded stopping, and that demanded a willingness to nudge yourself towards immersion out of the world that you’re normally in and into the world that the artist is trying to represent and convey to you. Sometimes works can have that effect despite being still images or paintings or works that genuinely don’t change. There’s just depth to it and an intricacy, and it’s up to you as a viewer whether or not you’re determined enough to seek that.
We normally think of there being a dichotomy between still art and dynamic art: one never changes, and the other is visibly moving or changing: It’s a video or it’s crazy-ass flashes everywhere because we want people on Twitter to see what’s happening. But when I do Slow Art, I’m thinking, “In a perfect world with an awesome display frame that hangs on the wall, not terribly different from a picture frame, what would I want in a saloon, in a living room, in a bedroom, in a reception hall?” And you know what? I probably wouldn’t want anything that flashes. I wouldn’t want anything that has crazy shit going on every few seconds. At the same time, I probably also wouldn’t want it all to just be still art, because at that point you may as well make a print; you don’t need the digital canvas.
But Slow Art, the idea is that here you have a work of art that isn’t static, that does change, but it’s not desperately demanding your attention as though its life depended on it. You can look at it now, and you can see what it’s like, and you can look away, and you’re probably not missing something super crucial, but when you look back you might see that it’s a little different now, and you realize it’s probably worth looking at again down the road. If it actually engages your interest, then you have the opportunity to give it more sustained attention and see what’s going on.
But it’s not something that, if you’re having a conversation with a person in front of you and this piece of art is in your peripheral vision, you’re going to be unable to focus on the conversation because flashy-flashy swirly things are going on on the sidelines.
So that’s my thinking with Slow Art. I hope they’ll survive Twitter and they’ll thrive despite Twitter’s attention span being what it is. But I make it with the idea of it eventually ending up somewhere where you might normally have plain, old traditional art hanging.
Max: It strikes me as very optimistic, and hopeful, to put so much trust in individuals to come to this kind of Slow Art, which is so far from what they’re accustomed to. I think optimism is the key word there, and even with the Apeirographic work, it’s hoping people will give a new experience a chance. I’m wondering A) From where do you draw that optimism, and B) How important in general do you think it is for artists to be optimists with their work?
Daïm: That optimism I think comes from the self-assuredness that I’ve come to have through my time with crypto art. I had my early support from the Museum of Crypto Art, which was like a huge thing for me. And then my experiences with an expanding collector interest, and my rise through Artblocks, and everything that has come since all seem like very clear affirmations that my artistic vision has value even if I’m not always in 100% agreement with my collectors.
I know that there’s value to what I’m putting out there, and I know it’s being appreciated, and it basically gives me confidence that if I was able to get things right enough so far, then I need to trust my instincts and my processes for the next big thing as well. That’s where I would say the optimism comes from.
And I would say optimism is important. I think it’s especially now with the bear market, it’s unhelpful to be down and pessimistic about the whole situation. Some of it is, for better or worse, warranted, at least for the temporary time being, but I think even if you’re creating brooding art, pessimism isn’t the easiest place to draw inspiration from. I think artists are generally better off being able to ground themselves in their own understanding of their own self-worth and accept that, even if the spotlight isn’t currently on them or isn’t currently on them as much as it should be or they’d like it to be, it’s basically a situation where if you keep creating and the work you put out has value and gives new experiences to the viewers, it’s probably just a matter of time before the right person catches sight of what you’re doing, and things start going in the positive direction.
Max: God willing. So earlier I had hinted at this “Magnum Opus” project, and I was wondering if you wanted to talk more about that.
Daïm: Definitely. It’s a strange situation as we’re treating this as something that’s yet to be forthcoming and is unknown and secretive, because The Changelings, have already been exhibited last year in Hungary. However, it’s something that I had very much hoped and intended to become primarily a crypto art piece instead of just a roaming installation. I am yet to quite manage that, and the reason is very simple: We’re talking about an hour-long audiovisual work that was set-up during the exhibition in a dark room on a large screen with the volume nice and loud, and people had the ability to have the intended Slow Art experience with it where they could look at it and have the sense of a mostly static piece, but if they looked long enough, or if they looked again a few seconds later, they would recognize that there was a very slow-moving shift, a transition of alien-looking forms transforming and transmuting, and two entities becoming one and one entity splitting yet again into multiple, etc.
The perfect world ideal version of the video that I wish I could mint is actually around 39 gigabytes, and the compromised version that I could live with being minted is closer to nine gigabytes. For comparison, “Isles Upon Deemed Rivers and Other Wonders” is a 500 piece series, and the 500 images altogether came to about 7.6 gigabytes, which very much gave me the impression that even a single nine-gigabyte file is probably too prohibitively large to upload onto IPFS or Arweave, never mind questions of how is it going to get displayed on Opensea or wherever else.
I’m looking at different and creative ways of bringing The Changelings to the Blockchain, probably not something involving just tokenizing the entire piece as this humongous 1/1 — which might end up remaining a kind of unowned and un-ownable installation piece — but looking at basically creating a series which is derived from the whole hour-long installation piece, which is a weird mixture of AI art and mathematical art and algorithmic art.
There’s AI-generated imagery there. There’s algorithmic processing and distortion of images there. I have mathematical sonifications — basically taking algorithms that would normally be drawing stuff on the screen and turning it into soundwaves that get mixed for the audio track. There are very intermittent subtitles that present what I would call an “in-world,” in-art imaginative metacontextualization of the work, giving you the feeling that there’s more to this piece than just an installation piece in a gallery, that there’s kind of a background to it, that there’s a world it’s embedded in. That text is also an AI/artist collaboration, basically AI-generated text that was cherry-picked and corrected.
That one is my biggest, most significant attempt at Slow Art, and absolutely the sort of thing that I hope to see in the future on big screens and in crowded halls and with people not knowing exactly what to make of it. There’s something of a narration every now and then, but it’s very intermittent. So now you’re faced with this dilemma of do you move on or do you actually take the time to get the fuller experience?
Though we didn’t explicitly discuss it during our interview, I encourage you to look into Daïm Aggot-Hönsch’s Crypto Art Manifesto. Outside of Aggot-Hönsch’s artistic talent, he’s a brilliant and humanist thinker, with clear principles, as is demonstrated in this short but important text.