Phytocene : The first-ever vegetal NFT sold at Phillips London

Phytocene : The first-ever vegetal NFT sold at Phillips London

Phytocene : The first-ever vegetal NFT sold at Phillips London

Deciphering The Artist’s Mind: fremdkorper (Studio Koreans)

 

The Phillips auction sale New Now in London on the 13 July 2021 presented a collective artwork The ‘Phytocene’ NFT, a « non fungible token », sold for £10 000, created by the musician Agoria, the Oscar-winning sound designer Nicolas Becker and the biophysicist Nicolas Desprat, produced and curated by the artist residency 91.530 Le Marais. The immersive artwork is the first-ever nature-based NFT displaying visually and musically the life of a plant, through a bioscience research on the activity and crypto language of a living organism : the hemp plant collected from the soil of Le Domaine du Marais. 

The medium of NFTs was embraced by numerous artists and is now accepted in the art world with exceptional sales exceeding expectations. Digital art is now evolving at a never-before-seen speed, through technological changes and the popping up new market  of NFTs – authentication of a digital property on the blockchain – . 

In The ‘Phytocene’, the germination of a plant doesn’t have a beginning but exists in the continuity of nature’s intricate scheme. From the microscopic scale into the virtual video and soundscape, the artists converted the real time data of the ever growing plant – from seeding to harvest – in its natural environment and relieved it on the blockchain sphere as a logograph. They started filming after the sprouting of the millésimé hemp plant seed, by collecting the bacterial microcosm. The ecosphere is composed of local bacterial communities formed by multiple families, creating a teeming society showing the vitality of nature’s life. The artists revealed the final result in a 7min video selected with scientific criteria out of thousand hours of filming. 

The sound environment acts as a common thread of the piece as well as a visual narration for the expression of the long crescendo reaching a climax, echoing the meeting of accumulated creative energies. The artistic and scientific synergy in The ‘Phytocene’ provided thus an interesting reflection on the regenerative process of the organic environnement in its loop and the coding used in the NFTs’ programming language. 

Following on the musical innovative project mixed with the natural organic language, Agoria, Nicolas Desprat and Nicolas Becker had set up HempFM, a radio generated by data extracted from the hemp field with probes, allowing the listener to connect directly with the breathing of the plant through its life journey.

By Léa Hippolyte
Photos Credit: Courtesy Château Le Marais and the artists

Jean David Nkot, from Suffering to Resilience

Jean David Nkot, from Suffering to Resilience

Jean David Nkot, from Suffering to Resilience

Deciphering The Artist’s Mind: fremdkorper (Studio Koreans)

There are many snippets which can be spotted. The faces hold a sad and tired presence. Sometimes, the maps become more realistic. Familiar territories emerge from the infinite roads that intertwine randomly. We recognise Europe and the Middle East. The work is political and openly calls for justice. Jean David Nkot denounces the borders and the marginalisation of the poor. He points out this desire to separate the world at all costs and to block the way to those tarnishing a political ideal.

The canvas Lampedusa marks a turning point. The colour imposes itself. The face embodies all the anonymous persons who have drowned in the Mediterranean sea, unable to be identified. Here, far from a miserable discourse, the character frees himself from the map and takes power. He becomes the voice of these people who leave their country for a better life. These persons are those neglected by government, made invisible and left to their own devices, at the risk of their lives. Men, women, children. They hope to reach Lampedusa – the Italian island lost in the middle


of the Mediterranean Sea – the first European territory on the maritime route of these migrants who leave the African coasts. Their first step towards what they imagine to be a better life. Under the brushes of Jean David Nkot, their proud gaze pierces the viewer and recalls their history.
While Lampedusa testifies from a change in his work: the central character emerges from the map that imprisoned him until then – in the rest of the work of Jean David Nkot, the portraits free themselves. On the canvas, the map recedes into the background. It remains a central element of the work and actively participates in the narrative. The logical and rational mind is lost in this cluster of destinations. In #Au-delàduregard@yahoo.fr, Calais in France is next to Lecce in Italy and Ceuta in Spain. If the geography seems random, it is above all personal. Jean David Nkot deconstructs the world as we know it. He remodels the territories to compose mental cartographies. Sometimes, companies or districts replace the names of the cities. These red or blue dots, meticulously added with posca, always retrace the history of the person they surround.

The colors that had been emerging timidly until then are now shimmering. Soon, the cartography serves the story of the person it supports. Jean David Nkot gives a voice to those who are not seen. Neighbors, friends, as well as people who met in the street become his models. Sharing a drink, they speak and dream. If the artist first immortalizes the moment on photographic film, he then transcribes it on the canvas. He gives a voice to those who are not seen. The imaginary journey that comes to life under his brushes evokes their dreams and their disappointments. He analyses how individuals surpass themselves to exist as people. How do bodies exist in an environment that is not favorable to them? The journey is here a pretext to illustrate the human condition during this movement. How are people considered and how do they evolve between their point of departure and their point of arrival?


To facilitate this, he integrates the concept of the ‘grey zone’ developed by Primo Levi in his book The Drowned and the Saved (1986). If for Primo Levi the grey zone was above all the space between the executioner and the victim, Jean David Nkot considers it like the time between the departure and the arrival within a person’s trip. Under his brushes, the central character finds himself in the middle of this grey area, between his departure and his arrival, a symbol of the dreams he feeds during his journey.
Jean David Nkot deconstructs these dreams by emphasising their limits, starting from his series “Les Indésirables”, created in 2018 during the residency “Moving Frontiers” in Paris-Cergy. From this moment, throughout “Juju Connexion” and “The Shadows of Space”, the map takes over. If at first, he still realises a realistic portrait, the maze of geometric streets quickly buries the bodies lost within. He, thus, takes us to the other side of the dream and plunges us into the reality of immigration. The series “Les indésirables” sets the tone. He anonymises these ‘undesirables’ by only keeping their silhouette. The territory wins. This welcoming land, the promise of better days, makes them suffocate until they forget who they are. Jean David Nkot extends this reflection in « The Shadows of Space. » He shows how these ‘undesirables’ are turned into shadows. When they get rid of their identity papers to avoid being sent back to their country, they suffer from a true loss of identity, both linguistically and culturally, as well as socially and economically.

Visually, the artist erases these faces by making them disappear behind the density of the city. Soon, the character gets lost in this chaotic urban geometry. While the cartography was until then very personal, filled with anecdotes, it now becomes a generalised and repeated motif, applicable to all. These personal stories become a story among many others. As a way of denouncing the fatalism and inactivity of governments regarding the migratory situation. The process finally marks the victory of the territory over the body that forgets itself in the hope of being integrated. But how can we be integrated when no one wants us?
Finally, from these abstract figures, he only keeps the silk-screened maps. The bodies take over. They rise to the surface and come back to the front of the canvas. However, the map, in transparency, makes their outlines look phantasmagorical. Here, territories and bodies merge in what the artist calls a ‘map molecule’ – like cells that interact and interlock. Jean David Nkot engages a reflection on the representation of the body and its place in society. The body is abused and sacrificed. In these crypto-portraits exhibited at the Doual’art space in February 2021, on the occasion of his personal exhibition “Body and Space”, he stages members of his entourage to pay tribute to the victims of armed conflicts in northern Cameroon, as well as to those who left their country in hand-made boats.

This fusion between two styles leads to a new figuration that even materialises physically in the installation Trading Space. His works take on another dimension. They are adorned with data that the artist analyses and questions. To this end, his work focuses on mining in Congo. Trading Space draws a parallel between the richness of Kinshasa’s soil and the various historical shocks that have torn the country apart. By confronting archival images of the first mining complexes with current images of the same sites, Jean David Nkot questions this heritage and studies the repercussions it has today. He associates the production sites, the faces of those who exploited them and those who exploit them, by painting their portraits on shovels. Often seen in his work, he exhibits to the world the faces of these workers in the shadows. By using real statistics, which he displays and comments on directly on the canvas, he questions the public financials and unveils the hidden underlying reality. He is particularly interested in artisanal mining, which represents more than half of all mining in Congo. Above all, he points out the consequences of this model in which companies buy more and more raw materials at the lowest cost, despite the overexploitation of the subsoil, as well as the humans.

Jean David Nkot’s interest in mining already materialised in his painting starting from the series “Les creuseurs de sous-sol”, created during the summer of 2020. He focussed on the men who work to extract the ores demanded by international companies to be integrated into our smartphones and other electronic equipment.

In his two paintings #creuseur/chantier45@outlook.com and #creuseur/chantier14@hotmail.com, Jean David Nkot leaves behind any dramatic dimension to focus on those who work in the shadows, rather than on the matter itself. He pushes us to question the way items we use daily are manufactured. Concerning the ore – cassiterite – the men who extract it are invisible and ignored by most of society. The cartography unveils, for once, the reality of mining. The names of armed groups replace those of towns, while the names of minerals undulate and occupy the land.


In the series “Jungle Story”, continuing « Les creasers de sous-sol », the causes of migration replace the names of towns. The map merges with the skin of the characters. Double transparency tints now the work of Jean David Nkot: the transparency of both bodies and data. Each canvas conveys a message to the world. Each message is a source of information. Each piece of information is detailed. From one canvas to the other, Nkot specifies the names of the armed operations in Africa, of the ore extraction companies, of the ores themselves, or of the armed groups. His method is precise. A network of lines associates the pieces of information together. Ready to be analyzed, they live alongside the faces of the children, collateral victims of a phenomenon where political and economic issues are at stake. If his canvases remind of data analytics and investigation methods, Jean David Nkot is particularly interested in the work of American artist Mark Lombardi. Starting from 1994, the man who wanted “to make the invisible, visible”, started to create what he called ‘narrative structures.’ These abstract diagrams aimed to explain financial trade movements. If the object and form of the analysis is different in the work of Nkot, the Cameroonian artist also conceives his canvases like treasures of information. He feeds his art from his meetings and readings. He builds hence, the archives of his time, in parallel with his body of work.


Whilst Jean David Nkot focussed on the sorrow of his characters, it is time for them to be redeemed. He now frees his portraits from the weight of their history and emphasises their struggle, rather than their pain. He is interested in the moments of joy and captures the smiles behind the suffering. He calls for neither pity nor compassion and praises the resilience and strength of these anonymous people. He reminds us that every day is a pain worth living.

By Michaëla Hadji-Minaglou

Han Bing, Politics of Love

Han Bing, Politics of Love

Han Bing, Politics of Love

Deciphering The Artist’s Mind: fremdkorper (Studio Koreans)

Politicians and economists are talking of a new colossus that little by little has spread new seeds.  The time seems to be ideal as the United States is crumbling with an escalating gap between the rich and the poor. China’s vast territory, working force, and technological development are propelling the country to stratospheric growth. Chinese politicians have even appropriated the “American dream”.  Slogans all over the capital celebrate the “Chinese dream”, a capitalist concept where opportunity, determination, and hard work are enough for one’s success.  

Everyday Precious

And yet, the social pyramid needs a working force at its base for the engine to continue its cycle and the ruling class needs them to keep their position at the top of the pyramid. Chinese artist Han Bing denounces his nation’s merciless politics that are devastating and sacrificing a part of the population to the detriment of some. His series Everyday Precious in which he appears alongside construction workers holding a brick, embodies the struggle of social workers, of laborers who constantly dream of opportunity, modernization, and the presumable benefits of globalization. Nonetheless, Bing’s photographs present these workers in their “existential condition” while they carry objects from their everyday lives in precarious environments, sometimes even during night-time like in Unpredictable Moon. If the government promises abundance for its inhabitants, the reality has proven to be far from it. Enduring situations often compromise the workers’ health and well-being, single objects such as lamps or shovels can save the workers’ lives. Additionally, the shovel has a symbolic value for the artist, as it represents childhood memories – he was raised in the countryside – with the promise of a better life. Objects have an emotional charge, cabbages, bulldozers, bricks, all seem to have an incommensurable power to depict China’s loss of traditions and culture.

The Age of Big Construction

The bulldozer is used to destroy ancient neighborhoods in Beijing and around the country to construct new modern buildings. Bing is against the destruction of “hutongs” in his series The Age of Big Construction where brand new constructions are juxtaposed to shatter traditional constructions. The speed of urbanization is lamentable; these images are “mirrors of the process by which their traditional everyday lives are ruptured through modernization.” Not only cities are being havocked, natural ecosystems as well are being devastated. Urban Amber constitutes reflecting images showing polluted water bodies, they reflect huge skyscrapers, emblems of the middle class, and the laborer’s fate to serve the opulent class. Moreover, ecology and global warming have become a central subject in today’s political discourse, as they are threatening entire populations, sometimes even displacing them. China is no exception, in fact, it is one of the best examples of consumerism and the neglect of ecology. The artist highlights this through his performance Forever: Polluted and Profaned as Judgment as he grabs empty plastic bottles and Styrofoam, a deadly material for the environment. 

Forever: Polluted and Profaned as Judgment

As a child of globalization, Bing’s social and political engagement has widened to India, a country facing similar difficulties to China. With an unrivaled cultural heritage, a growing middle class, pollution problems flooding the country, and powerful economic strength, India’s similarities to China are irrefutable. In 2010, Bing created his performance Dreams of Lost Home in Delhi; together with 8 Indians, he performed a ritualistic ceremony. Matching his fellow Indians, the artist hugged big stones, as if the objects were pillows, the floor was covered with cotton simulating the sky or a dreamlike surface. The performance was a metaphor for work in our life: it chains us and fuels our dreams. Labour again appears like an oppressing force and is revealed to be one of the main axes in Bing’s creations. He caricatures the Chinese new social order in his series Theatre of Modernization depicting three archetypes, the social worker, a farmer, and the “nouveau riche”. The latter always wears a suit and seems to speak on behalf of others and peculiarly, has the physiognomy of Xi Jinping, China’s general secretary of the communist party. 

Making Love to the Thirteen Shovels

Although Bing’s work deeply relies on exposing the existing injustices in his motherland, he likewise chooses to explore life’s driving forces such as love and its opposites. His work is not pure political criticism; he intends to underline the consequences of the increasing social gaps generated by new behaviors. Competition and individualism are two idiosyncratic attitudes encouraged by neo-liberal systems, kindness and love aren’t exactly part of the equation and to succeed in current societies, one must squash others to be part of the elite. Instead of this perpetual carnage, Bing believes in humanity and love as interwoven energies, both delivering messages that transcend the borders of time and politics. Even if we perceive the artist’s way of expressing it as criticism, he prefers to think about it as a way to defend freedom, the utmost important social condition. Furthermore, his aesthetics are imbibed with softness, despite the crudeness of his topics and his critical vision towards China and the rest of the world, he tints his photographs and performances with a silky array of colors. His gestures are also delicate, proven in his performance Love in the Age of Big Construction or Making Love to the Thirteen Shovels where his gentle manners inhabit his work. 

Walking the Cabbage – Tiananmen Square, Beiging, / Manchester, UK

Pacifism imbues Bing’s creations. His body of work intends to heal social rifts just like a balm. He professes understanding and empathy in his projects like in The Green Cabbage Walking Movement, a group performance consisting of people walking together with cabbages. Social coercion is constructed via this simple activity, art serves politics and humankind helping to improve social conditions, allowing them to dream of a better world. 

 

Dylan Rheingold

Dylan Rheingold

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Dylan Rheingold

Age: 24
Location: NYC
@drr_drr_ (IG)
www.dylanroserheingold.com/

Dylan Rheingold is an illustrator based out of New York City. She has a heavy interest in the areas of social realism, diversity & gender equality. She tends to work on a large scale as she draws connections between these elements through an abstraction of color, shape and line density. She received her BFA in Illustration from Syracuse University in 2019. 

STATEMENT

Coming from a home filled with contrasting ethnicities, cultures, sexualities and religions, she was lucky enough to be exposed to many differences from a very young age. Dylan Rose is very aware of the unfortunate truth that many are not blessed with this same luxury. As a result, she attempts to create works that subconsciously force these ironic narratives of contrast & acceptance on the viewer. Shining a positive light on those who stray from society’s guidelines of cookie cutter glamour and perfection. 

She is especially fascinated by the little details embedded within everyday lifestyles. These little details include how one dresses, what one eats, where one lives and other recreational activities or ways one may spend their free time. She enjoys creating paintings and drawings that expose and combine various everyday notions in order to produce an unconventional perspective. She has also conducted a great deal of socio-geographic, psychological and financial research regarding how people become or are born into their cultural and social class settings. From being born in New York City, to move to a small provincial suburban town in Long Island, to attending University in one of the most poverty stricken cities in America, exploring the degrees of contrast she has been to exposed came as second nature.

Specifically, the fluidity of relationships between those adored in modern day society and those straying from these idealist molds. Her paintings are non traditional as they are all mixed media; balancing layers of paint drawn over with ink, conte crayon & china marker. A great deal of inspiration for her paintings also come from raiding old bookstores with found photographs, antique postcards, newspapers and magazines.

After purchasing the remains of an anonymous family photo album, she began painting and drawing over these strangers. Throughout her collecting process she was fascinated by the degree of difference she had acquired within her subjects. These many images found in both popular and unpopular media exposed varying degrees of setting, social class, race, sexual orientations, age and expression.

More than anything she aims to connect these separated groups/figures and recreate the sense of contrast co-existing between them. Regardless of the way one was born, raised or physically appears either if it’s by nature or choice, we are all people.

Daniela Ruiz de Esparza

Daniela Ruiz de Esparza

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Daniela Ruiz de Esparza

Age: 26
Guadalajara, Mexico
@venusdormida (IG)

Published on ArtPremium Magazine Winter 2020, page 103.

Daniela Ruiz de Esparza  is a 24 year old visual artist based in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her work is dynamic and revolves around representations of herself and other women as a means of catharsis. She uses photography to depict her reality and her reflections on it.  

STATEMENT

As I change, so does the definition of my work. If I had to define my work two years ago, I would have written a completely different thing. At this moment in my life, I would say that it expresses the extraordinary in people and places, that I come across on a daily basis. I’ve found that my safe place is within me and around other women, and I truly think they are the source of inspiration for most of my work.

Everything works as a cycle; I started photographing silly stuff and my daily routine, then I started capturing women around me, and when I moved to a place that I didn’t know anyone, I went back to photographing my routine and myself. Analog photography has helped me in the process of becoming; I’m in love with the ritual, the unexpected, improvisation and uniqueness of each shot. I live in Mexico, and as any other country, it has it’s pretty and ugly side, unfortunately the bad side is becoming more and more prominent and thus it’s difficult to exist as a woman here, I’m obligated to see the pretty in the ugly and right now the personal seems more political than ever. 

I am afraid of the oblivious, I feel like everything vanishes and I need to be there to see it and capture it. Photography has helped me to have another perception of life and to become closer to those who I place in front of the camera; I’ve learnt to fall in love with strangers, objects and nature. My work is a self-exploration of my definition of beauty, catharsis and uniqueness.