A chaotic 3-act play
Decode the enigma from Aluan Wang’s Chaos Series
Written by mashbean (FAB DAO, Formosa Art Bank)
Taiwanese artist Aluan Wang (also known as Ileivoivm) recently presented the third and final chapter of the Chaos series, Chaos Culture, at Art Basel Hong Kong. Chaos Culture is a collection of vibrant colors and diverse shapes housed in a circular frame that looks like a petri dish. The collection is available to collectors who visit Hong Kong for free.
Aluan, an artist who rarely talks about his work, reveals many hints, and “Culture" is like a treasure map that attracts collectors to unlock the codes of the Chaos series. Chaos Culture is described as follows: “Research > Memory > Culture, with each work re-growing through the remnants of the previous work, depending on its image.“ This is an appropriate opportunity to explore, as a collector, the unspoken secrets of Aluan Wang.
After all, this is the era of crypto art, and crypto art itself is not only "a digital art market through the medium of non-fungible tokens", but also "the encrypted art" is an important issue. As the concept of “Controlled randomness" is gradually accepted by collectors, the collection of generative art generated by codes and specific hash has become a mainstream branch in the field of crypto art in these two years (another trend is the Profile Picture, PFP, market).
Generative art is generated from code, which is suitable for encryption and decryption. Encrypted art, therefore, creates reflexivity in the crypto art market. Just as Kevin Abosch's cryptographic alphabets of the past few years have been a bold and colorful compilation of ciphers, presenting a riddled political and social agenda, so does Aluan Wang's work suggests various secrets through unusual curves, signals, and sounds.
The following perspective is the result of correspondence with Aluan Wang and self-research. To sum up, Aluan’s code is like an encrypted version of “The Travels of Marco Polo”. I have been collecting encrypted art personally for almost a year, and have spent the last six months engrossed in the process of generating art collections, not being a programming professional by nature. Many of the secrets of Aluan Wang are still to be discovered by more professional collectors.
Let's start with Good Vibrations (GV), which was published in Artblocks last year because I always feel that the frame of Chaos Culture is derived from GV.
"Everything in Life is Vibration" - Albert Einstein
Last August, Pristante, a PhD-researcher in surrealism, wrote on a Twitter thread that GV and Wang Aluan could be "the next big thing". He believes that Wang's work combines early twentieth-century Western geometric abstraction with Eastern socio-political realities through the sound and vision created by generative art. This may be the first article to discuss Wang's "crypto-creations" in English.
Indeed, Aluan Wang later produced the second act of GV, where he airdropped the B-sides of GV to all GV owners. Each B-side corresponds to the sound and visual logic behind the GV and can be considered as a musical sheet or a recipe. Aluan Wang has said that all his works are three-act plays, and such a concept can be verified by his works during his Audiovisual Artist period, such as Transonic (2012) and Moving Resonance (2011). If the B-side is the second act, then the future final act may continue to derive from the information implied by the B-side.
But the next big thing, as Pristante calls it, didn't come then. Today, nine months later, I think the Chaos series is more suitable as the next big thing, a complete three-act play that crosses the pulse of crypto art, the history of personal works, and the technical development of generative art in NFT. Before that, let's go through the history of encryption and decryption of Aluan’s artwork.
"Algorithms are used to remodel history and point cloud to subvert conventional thinking.” - Aluan Wang
When interviewed in the past, Aluan once said, "Algorithms are used to remodel history and point cloud to subvert conventional thinking.” These words may be the core spirit of Wang's creative process. Even the address of Aluan Wang's published address, Ileivoivm.tez, is encrypted from Aluan Wang's characters. The name, which looks like random code, is encrypted by the Enigma machine.
Prior to the release of GV, Wang had already published many works on the Tezos blockchain about encryption and social intention, the most famous of which is GeoPunk, which was exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Taiwan a few months ago.
GeoPunk is an extra part of the three-act play Path to the Past, Future & End. For more information on the Path series, please refer to Exploring the Space-Time Borders of Flowing Memory: An Interview with Aluan Wang on His View of Otherworldly Spaces( P.Y. Chen 2019, Chinese Article), where you can learn more about Wang's pre-NFT period works and philosophy. The Path series is also a series of Wang's early NFT works, published on the HicEtNunc.
GeoPunk is a series of encrypted digital landscapes, whose sounds and descriptions are Morse code, whose contents point to specific world GPS locations, and whose contents can only be decoded by the NFT owner. But if you open the code behind GeoPunk in another way, from the data stored in the IPFS system, you can see 159 address IDs, including China, Taiwan, USA, UK, Canada, and so on. If you are interested, you can search on the map on Google and you may see some hints of geopolitical and religious-related information from Wang.
In an interview for the Paths series, Wang said that Atlas des géographes dʼOrbæ was an important book for him and had a profound impact on his work.
I myself love the three books of geography (yes, it is also a kind of three-act play) and have read them since I was a child. This book transforms 26 letters of the alphabet into 26 maps and 26 fictional stories about foreign countries. Wang's works also conceal many fictional contexts.
Therefore, we can find that before the Chaos series, Aluan put a lot of effort into encryption and decryption as a form of creation. In the Chinese world, Chao means the same as A-Luan's Luan (亂), so it is likely that this work is a career masterpiece in terms of naming. Chaos contains the encryption of artistic development, the encryption of Aluan's personal experience, and the encryption of images and meanings.
The Chaos series is a three-act play composed of Chaos Research, Chaos Memory, and Chaos Culture, all of which are generative artworks. The three works were released in December 2021, April 2022, and May 2022. The series is published on fxhash, an up-and-coming generative art platform on the Tezos blockchain, and Chaos Series happens to be in sync with the history of fxhash. Chaos Research was released less than a month after fxhash was founded, while Chaos Culture was released when fxhash was already collaborating with Art Basel, featuring eight outstanding artists in a special section. One of which was Chaos Culture by Aluan Wang.
These three works represent the epitome of the artist's history, starting with Chaos Research. Chaos Research is actually a rebellion against Perlin Noise, according to Aluan. Perlin Noise is a noise-generating algorithm that is often used in generative artworks to create relatively complex visual forms by stacking seemingly randomly generated shapes, such as the well-known Artblocks work Fidenza.(For more information if Perlin noise and Flow Fields, recommend reading the article by Fidenza artist Tyler Hobbs)
Chaos Research's code not only uses Perlin Noise to generate a flow field to fill the frame but also adds a unique method of adding Wang's private NFT collection to the Perlin noise base. How did this work?
We can find publicly hosted IPFS files from Chaos Research's code, where we can discover the morphed versions of the Aluan’s personal NFT collection. These works serve as the reference for Chaos Research's dynamics, particles, colors, and shapes. In retrospect, Chaos Research can be said to be the evolution of Aluan’s collection. Perhaps due to my inability to do so, I am unable to recover which artist's work Chaos Research was derived from.
Theoretically, using Fourier analysis, any sound and music can be resolved into the purest sine wave. If we look at the cryptographic art, sampling and extraction are essentially similar to encryption and decryption. "Sampling" deconstructs the original object into a new work. Everything has a vibe. All sensory experiences are made of signals. There are many reasons why humans need unrecognizable objects, including political purpose, social purpose, and financial purpose.
Thus Chaos Research, as a generative artwork, suggests a challenge to the mainstream noise method (there is not just one way to make a flow field), suggests how the message is transmitted (a creator cannot be independent of other artists' creations) and suggests the way of seeing it (only those with the ability can crawl behind the hidden message). Chaos Research is a natural fit in a crypto art where permissionless and trustless is the essence.
Chaos Research is a "self-sampling" and a "self-encryption". Who is Aluan himself? It might be a personal collection of crypto art, which eventually becomes a personal creation of crypto art, presenting a new type of chaos.
Four months later, Aluan released his second work, called Chaos Memory, which is saturated with more colors and shapes and has more intriguing secrets.
First of all, the description appears as an erroneously encrypted ILEIVOIVM, with the words "The cause comes before the effect. That's just the way we saw the time." That's all. There are no instructions on how to operate or view it, and you can only see more changes by clicking on it accidentally. If the Q, W, E, and R buttons are pressed when opening a view page, Memory will appear in different frames, including rectangles, squares, and circles. In response to this collector's discovery, Aluan said that a single scale and perspective cannot fully represent a Memory's appearance and that the complete picture cannot be covered by thumbnails.
In addition, if you dig deeper and find the files hosted on IPFS, you will find a bunch of bitmaps, and the files look like Chaos Research. So this is the second sampling and compression process. Chaos Memory is a derivative work of Research. In the Chinese world, generative art is also known as derivative art, and Chaos' work may be an attempt to deal with this translation-generated pun.
And what are these bitmap files? When I asked Chao about them, I found out that they are artworks created by 19th-century English Romanticism landscape painter William Turner.
As a graduate of Arts and Crafts School, Wang first wanted to become a watercolor artist, and Turner was the object of his lifelong pursuit. Later on, he moved towards the creation of digital art, audio-visual art, and generative art. In the photo, you can see a watercolor sketch of Aluan at a seminar on open source tools in Zurich. Watercolor has a place in Wang's aesthetic development, including the treatment of textures, textures, and materials. A softer gradation can be observed in Chaos Memory, which may originate from the translucent clouds, light, and waves of Turner.
If Research is the encryption and sampling of "self-collection", then Memory is the encryption and sampling of "self-cultivation". The former is an oriental style of an impressionistic form, while the latter is closer to the West. The two are in an iterative relationship.
The last work to be presented at Art Basel, Chaos Culture, also reveals a secret from the IPFS file. Once again, Culture takes the contents of Research and Memory and produces a circular work with a higher degree of completeness. Research generates memory, and memory generates culture. Chaos Culture is like waiting for an uncontrollable chance outside of the "controlled randomness" to create an unpredictable result unique to generative art. Culture is like a contour map, an overhead satellite map, which may be a reference to Atlas des géographes dʼOrbæ and Aluan's landscape creation, or a new kind of Flow Field, full of life traces, from the pre-crypto-art era to this new era.
But to sum up, it is the process of sampling and decryption that gave birth to Wang's amazing three-act play.
Aluan always emphasizes that all creative processes cannot be far from the direction of faith and that a great director will spend his whole life just talking about one thing. For me, Aluan's exploration of symbols and ciphers has become a very suitable creative medium because of the emergence of crypto art, which includes a discussion of socio-political, personal experiences, and collecting tastes. This could be a very good opportunity to discuss the reflexivity of crypto art. I have probably deciphered less than half of the secrets of the Chaos series so far.
In addition to his creative work, Aluan also runs the Asian Tezos NFT platform AkaSwap, which is currently developing a market with different aesthetic styles from Europe and America. It's a very special and necessary thing for the Tezos art world. Thanks to AkaSwap, there are now Tezos-based DAOs in Taiwan, such as FAB DAO (Formosa Art Bank) and Volume DAO, among others.
The web3 world is decentralized/polycentric and can produce a diversity of attempts. Aluan was born on a politically turbulent island, Taiwan, akin to the T of Atlas des géographes dʼOrbæ with an extra chapter. His past crypto art such as GeoPunk and current generative art such as the Chaos series reflect an implicit declaration of smuggling. It just so happens that crypto art is the most suitable stage for Aluan to play.
Crypto art or generative art community is iterating its own taste. This is a market that mixes western aesthetics, eastern imagination, meme, free and open-mindedness, and rebellion. And it is difficult to apply the established context of contemporary art to it for the time being.
In the case of Aluan, this obscure principle of encryption and sampling needs to be understood from the production technology (what is blockchain, what is decentralized hosting, what is Perlin Flow Field). After peeling off the concept, we can finally find the core of the artist's creation. I believe that Kevin Abosch, the pioneer of crypto-art, will understand the romance of this.
Aluan’s Chaos three-act play has come to an end, so let's continue to look forward to the next three-act play by him, perhaps it will also relate to the nature of crypto art.
This article is dedicated to Aluan.
The original article is written in Chinese
《混沌三幕劇 — 解碼阿亂的加密、取樣、演算謎團》