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December 1, 2023

The Emergent Artists of fx(hash)

RCS hosts a special cast of generative artists who have enriched the ecosystem
Credit: Ella Hoeppner, rosarium #126 (detail), 2023. Courtesy of the artist
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The Emergent Artists of fx(hash)
fx(hash) 2.0 launches December 14 on

RCS: How did you discover fx(hash) in the first place, and what impact has it had on your life as a generative artist?

Estelle Flores: fx(hash) gave me the opportunity to generate income from my research into creative coding, which is awesome. I didn’t discover it, I was assaulted by it from all directions. Everybody was doing it and I pretty much learned how to code because I was excited to mess with it!

Olga Fradina: In my case, it was the other way around. 

First, I discovered the platform and after that I became a generative artist. If it hadn’t been for fx(hash), it wouldn’t have happened. Its openness is an excellent opportunity to prove your capabilities.

Andreas Gysin: I remember when I released my first fx(hash) project, Towers (2022). I was fine-tuning it for weeks and ended up deciding to release it while I was commuting on a train. At the time, I was ill with a heavy fever and, in the delirium, it felt like the perfect moment. But then I made a mistake and had to burn the first mint. The project was welcomed by collectors, which motivated me. It was what we had been waiting for — an uncurated platform and marketplace to share our work! The not-so-polished website design was also a plus for me as I don’t trust things that are too sleek. The fact that it was based on a proof-of-stake chain was also welcome since, at the time, we were in the heat of debate about proof-of-work systems and their ecological impact.

Andreas Gysin, Smooth Steps #49, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

Ella Hoeppner: I first heard about fx(hash) through a number of different gen art Discord servers in late 2021. Generative art had already been a major interest of mine for many years, but I had always seen it as a hobby rather than a big part of who I was — definitely not something I could ever turn into a career.

When I looked into fx(hash), I found so many other artists who, like me, had never sold any art before and had no connections in the art world but had nevertheless found a collector base on fx(hash). That gave me the confidence I needed to start submitting my own projects. 

Since then, generative art has become a much bigger part of my life. I’ve grown so much as an artist and met so many wonderful people in the gen art community, while the success I’ve found has made it possible for me to dedicate more time to my art, which is a dream come true. I couldn’t be more grateful to fx(hash) for making that possible.

William Mapan: It changed my life forever. At the time, I was aware of Art Blocks and on-chain generative art, but I hadn’t investigated much about it as I wasn’t super familiar with ETH. I discovered almost everything about long-form generative art through my fx(hash) release, Dragons (2021).

Volatile Moods: In late 2021, I started researching the generative art scene after reading an article about NFTs and generative art somewhere on the web. After wandering around and getting completely lost, Twitter’s algorithm started displaying posts with fx(hash) tags. I went to the website, read the minting instructions, and felt at home immediately. It took me a week or so to prepare my first work. When I finally dropped it, I was overwhelmed by its reception. That night was a game-changer for me. fx(hash) got me going.

Volatile Moods, Monuments #4, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

RCS: The openness of the fx(hash) ecosystem has fostered an organic community that supports both emerging and established artists. For many creators, success within that community has proved a valuable stepping stone to reaching new audiences and platforms. How has the open, uncurated model pioneered by fx(hash) impacted the evolution of generative art?

OF: I can assume that the open model played a decisive role in developing generative art. Gaining experience is very important in any field. In the initial stage, I played with the code without thinking about how to implement it in long-form. The first projects helped me to understand the many nuances involved. Nowhere else could I have had that experience as an aspiring artist — many talents have been born in that environment. It was funny when we tried to publish the first project. It took two days, and I asked everyone I could a bunch of stupid questions. The fx(hash) team has always been communicative and helpful.

AG: Non-commercial platforms that invite people to share and remix code make a deeply positive impact on generative art — platforms like Shadertoy and OpenProcessing have formed and trained many people, and they keep the discussion around code alive. Their communities are based on sharing knowledge and the joy of experimentation. I’m not sure I can say the same for a commercial space like fx(hash) but, for sure, it allows artists to earn a bit and make their art known. It has an enabling effect, which could help to convince a few to embrace this path as a future career. 

VM: Newcomers have to start somewhere, and sharing the stage with established artists immediately gives them much-needed visibility and encouragement. 

Having such a strong and supportive community is very important for any artist. Many artists who released their first generative works on fx(hash) have grown into respected figures, releasing on many other platforms, reaching a wider audience, and participating in exhibitions. It is a joy to see them progress and improve. There’s no question that fx(hash) has contributed significantly to the generative art scene, and this impact will become even more evident in the years to come.

Ella Hoeppner, rosarium #51, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

EH: The uncurated nature of fx(hash) was a big reason that I was drawn to the platform. Before learning about fx(hash), I’d heard about NFT platforms like SuperRare, where other generative artists had found success. However, without a background in the art world, I didn’t have the confidence to apply to a curated platform like that. I would never have gotten to where I am today if it hadn’t been for uncurated platforms like fx(hash), and I’m sure that the same is true for many other artists including those who are still to get started. For that reason, the uncurated model has had a profoundly positive impact on generative art as a whole.

WM: I wasn’t fully aware of curated platforms before, as I was mostly on Hic Et Nunc, so I couldn’t compare or be hyped by the uncurated model when learning about fx(hash). It just felt like home. However, I met a crazy community on Discord, and it was the first time I felt supported for doing what I was doing — it felt amazing. The support is outstanding and the model and community enable artists like never before by offering a chance to everyone. It’s amazing to see.

EF: Every NFT niche needs an uncurated platform. That is how communities are fostered because the gates are open for people to start minting their work. 

I generally prefer participating in uncurated platforms because I feel that there is less gatekeeping, but that is only politically meaningful if it is deployed in a radical manner like on Hic Et Nunc, with no curation of the front page or else via community curation. 

We all know it didn’t work, but that was not the problem — people saw no value in hDAO beyond its monetary value. However, it was the beginning of a structure that put control in the hands of users. With fx(hash), being uncurated is a choice of economic model. But yes, no long-form platform had chosen that model yet, and indeed, it prompted a small revolution. 

Estelle Flores, Inner Landscapes #181, 2022. Courtesy of the artist

RCS: Has “long-form” generative art as nurtured on fx(hash) changed how you approach your practice? Is emergence important to you?

AG: I have been programming generative or emergent systems to integrate with my design practice for a long time. I built and used primitive UIs that allowed me (and sometimes my clients) to explore the so-called “parameter space” of my algorithms. Sometimes, I’d also randomize the parameters or the seed to explore variation quickly in an unbiased way. That’s not such a different approach from the hashed instances we see on fx(hash).  

EH: My artistic practice has always focused on long-form pieces. I love the perspective that long-form forces you to take as an artist compared to traditional mediums. 

Rather than trying to hone in on a single instance of beauty, long-form is about discovering a whole new region of beauty. 

It’s a much more abstract perspective that almost feels like you’re trying to discover the rules that make things aesthetically pleasing in the first place — that is such a fascinating challenge as an artist. Emergence is a crucial component of generative art, almost a defining feature. Giving away part of the artistic decision-making process to an autonomous system that you have only indirect control over is a big part of what makes generative art so fun and unique.

EF: Long-form has given me so many more options as an artist. I learned how to code for this, and now it makes me feel powerful. 

William Mapan, Dragons #444, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

WM: I wouldn’t say my practice “changed,” but it did evolve. I used to make systems as part of my day job, so it was already a part of my practice. Long-form pushed me to produce well-rounded algorithms since, ultimately, I’m not curating what’s coming out after the collector pushes the button. It led me to seek out algorithms where I had less control, and which surprised me. The balance of order and chaos also changed, and still is changing.

Working in the long-form was a mind-boggling shift that made me rethink almost all my coding tools.

VM: I enjoy working on long-form generative art mostly because of the surprise and uncertainty inherent in the process of generating outputs. Over the last two years, I have been exploring various generative concepts, including automata, agents, recursion, and physics simulation. I try to create concise algorithms with simple rules that can achieve a high degree of output variation. So yes, emergence is very important to me. But it’s only one part of the process of creating a long-form piece, which also involves experimenting with rendering, code optimization, tuning parameters, and testing.

OF: The environment in which we find ourselves has a great influence on us. We are inspired by someone’s work; we draw technical knowledge. The community has so much to give us. Artist communes have always existed — there was an exchange of ideas and everyone developed it with their own vision. I once watched a popular science film which suggested that, in the future, humanity will be able to invent telepathy and solve complex problems — many minds will connect into one hive mind and solve problems. It’s a funny theory, but we have something similar, only on a much smaller scale.

Olga Fradina, Ps.Momentum #169, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

RCS: Looking across the vast museum of generated outputs on fx(hash), one noticeable characteristic is the variety of formal approaches. Is it a problem when the visual impact of generative art takes precedence over the caliber of the code or the concept behind it?

VM: The problem is that some works may go unnoticed or be misunderstood by a wide audience. 

A piece with an interesting concept that uses advanced techniques or calculations to generate art may carry significant value, even if it doesn’t necessarily produce visually appealing results. 

It is crucial to have more information about a particular piece in order to evaluate it properly. The community plays a vital role in recognizing such works. As for visual impact, I don’t see a problem with works featuring simple or poorly-written code as long as the results are original and aesthetically interesting. At the end of the day, code is just a medium.

EH: I have a lot of respect for purely formalist approaches to art — there’s nothing wrong with focusing entirely on visual impact. Many of my pieces have followed that approach. Certainly, an elegant algorithm or a meaningful concept can elevate a piece. But engaging with an artwork on an entirely visual level and optimizing for that kind of experience is a completely valid choice.

WM: A good visual without a message or concept is more or less a visual exercise, whatever the medium. Now, each approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own — they have to exist. But art is about expression and communication. The question is: “do you express something when you create, or are you simply using a gimmick and tagging your creation as art?”

Right now, there is something happening around textures and natural media in the generative art space that I may be contributing to myself. For me, it’s not a question of reproducing this or that texture but more about capturing an emotion in a different medium. The question I often ask myself is: “how can I be free in my expression, regardless of the medium?” With my latest series, Through Your Eyes (2023), I’m not trying to mimic natural media perfectly. I’m still trying to paint the way I would physically — with transparency, pressure, and such — but with a different visual language that is computer-like.

Estelle Flores, Entropy Blender #4, 2022. Courtesy of the artist

EF: If it is a problem, then why generate a visual output? Media art means using media codifiers to allow the artist to comment on media. For me, the visual output has to be a conceptual priority, or else it is just code. Virtuosity of code means nothing to me. 

OF: This is a controversial topic. On the one hand, I love that something is what it is — I don’t like imitation. Art created using code must reflect the logic of the code and show what the tool can give us. On the other hand, there are incredible works that focus on aesthetics where it is difficult to say how they were achieved. These might imitate analog art, but they might also exemplify great craftsmanship. I came to coding with some experience in analog art and I am always drawn to something that resembles a brush or pencil drawing. But I also want to move in the opposite direction and take advantage of all the possibilities of coding that aren’t possible with analog media. 

AG: Giving precedence to form over code is not a problem as it is up to the artist to choose where to place emphasis, whether on concept, form, or technical process. These also aren’t impermeable compartments. 

The maximum caliber of code as far as real-time graphics are concerned is probably to be found in the demoscene, which I’m full of admiration for. But reading such projects with a purely aesthetic eye would be a mistake, since the output is designed to demonstrate both technical process and conceptual novelty. My personal favorites are demos that run on historic machines with limited computing power such as a Commodore 64, Amiga, or other obscure processor or console. Who am I to judge the aesthetics if the project kicks real-time 3D animation and music into 256 bytes.

Exceptional code doesn’t necessarily produce exceptional images, and that’s not a problem. Very good work can also be produced with mediocre code, and that’s not a problem either, even if it hurts to see a 1MB library being used to draw a few circles.
William Mapan, Dragons #212, 2021. Courtesy of the artist

RCS: Long-form generative art is sometimes described as “one code, many outputs,” but does it also render community an essential component of generative art? Is there a tension right now between code as a sharing economy and as intellectual property? 

WM: Community is a very strong component of long-form generative art, which allows one to produce an infinite supply of unique artworks. It can also create a strong synergy between collectors by gathering them all together around a single focus. My recent Sketchbook A (2023) series is a good example — that algorithm skyrocketed due to the insane number of people who were playing with it. 

It didn’t matter if I was part of the conversation. The algorithm created an autonomous community.

AG: I’m still not sure that the ultra-commercialization of generative or software art through NFTs doesn’t have adverse effects. Instead of being freed from constraints, the act of pleasing the audience could eventually bleak the results and variety, dumb down the research, and stop the sharing of code and knowledge. I’ve encountered open-source code with licenses that prohibit the use of the code or parts of it for NFT projects. On the other hand, the explosion and commercial success of many projects has allowed them to reach and create a new audience. Museums, institutions, galleries as well as amateurs are finally catching up with generative work, starting from the contemporary scene and exploring its niche but rich history. 

Andreas Gysin, Smooth Steps #104, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

EH: Long-form generative art fosters a unique kind of community involvement. Being able to see and discuss the differences between various iterations of the same piece opens up new ways to engage with and appreciate the artwork. Seeing which aspects stay the same and which are different between the different iterations helps collectors to understand what is going on behind the scenes without necessarily needing to understand how those dynamics are realized in code. That understanding allows for a special kind of appreciation of the artwork, which you don’t usually get with short-form or traditional art.

EF: I thought that community was the fun of it! But regarding the tension — yes, in a certain way it is a microcosm of an eternal discussion on art. 

VM: Community is important for the success of any long-form generative work, which requires numerous collectors to achieve the goal of completing a collection. Once accomplished, the work takes on a life of its own, sometimes giving rise to a small ecosystem. Such outcomes wouldn’t be possible without a strong community. The issue of intellectual property is a very important topic, though I am not aware of any tensions beyond the problems posed by copyminters.

Volatile Moods, Turpentine #1, 2022. Courtesy of the artist

RCS: Artists who work with code are capable of designing software and therefore reimagining the digital systems that surround us. How conscious are you of the social or political implications of your work? 

EH: It is true that code art has a unique potential to blend and interact with our digital ecosystem in novel and transformative ways. So far, my art hasn’t been focused on that and I’ve mainly focused on exploring emergence in simple mathematical systems and on the purely visual aspects of generative art. As I continue to grow as an artist, the potential for sending a social message through my work is increasingly on my mind, and I hope to find a way to incorporate that into my other artistic interests.

EF: The choice of being an artist has to do with exactly that.

I choose to articulate the frictions of society with everything I learn and do. If I code, it is for that.

OF: Just as urban plans often appear erroneous quite quickly, anyone who creates anything must be aware of the consequences of their work. We must always be aware of the consequences of our actions, especially as they relate to the social sphere where large numbers of people are involved. However, personal experimentation can be liberating across a wide range of applications.

Olga Fradina, Living Structures #91, 2023. Courtesy of the artist

WM: I have no idea of the implications of my work. I’m very intuitive, so I navigate as I feel in the capacity that I have. However, when you realize that code is mostly used today by data control and capitalism, I believe that using it to make art is disruptive. I feel lucky to be outside of the consumerist side of coding.

AG: One of my engineers is pushing me to explore ultra-low power processors for future work based on hardware. Low energy use is still more than zero energy, especially when it comes to my hardware-based projects that use physical resources for production. I always ask myself if it’s worth producing one more “thing” to put into today’s world. Isn’t there enough waste already?

On the software side, I try to optimize my code to run on lower-end and older machines. That consciousness is an important aspect for me. My pieces shouldn’t be used as an incentive to “upgrade” a computer.

VM: Generations of computer scientists and programmers have played a crucial role in shaping the world as we know it today. 

The emergence of NFTs and the generative art scene seems like a natural response of the human spirit to these challenging, code-driven times. As a civilization, we owe much to art and culture, and I feel like I’m part of something important that is currently unfolding.  
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Estelle Flores is a Brazilian contemporary artist who has explored video game art since early 2021, developing her collection, “Contain Real Ingredients,” a practice of painting inside the game The Sims 4. Now, this exploration of play continues in the fields of AI, generative art, and code through research into the personal myths and emotional shortcuts produced by nostalgia.

Olga Fradina is a generative and digital artist from Ukraine who is also an internationally recognized interior designer. In 2022, she began a series of experiments with the help of different software, working with procedural 3D graphics and creative coding to establish her own approach to AI. Her works are characterized by abstract and biomorphic forms, alongside a focus on emotional states.

Andreas Gysin is a designer and artist based in Switzerland. Research, experimentation, analysis, and discovery are all fundamental to his process across both artistic and commercial projects.

Ella Hoeppner is a generative artist based in Virginia. She is known for her work with particle systems, her focus on real-time and interactive pieces, and her vivid and abstract textural imagery. She draws inspiration from biology, physics, and mathematics. With a passion for novel and experimental algorithms, Ella’s practice seeks out new directions for code-based generative art. Her work has been exhibited globally, including at Art Basel Miami Beach; Bright Moments, Berlin; and Non Fungible Conference, Lisbon.

William Mapan is an artist, coder, and teacher based in Paris, France. While he works primarily with computers and code, his curiosity leads him to explore a wide range of different media and techniques. Through his use of organic forms and rich textural elements, Mapan seeks to bridge the gap between the artificial and the human, creating works that are both technically impressive and emotionally resonant. He is best known for his series, Dragons (2021), Anticyclone (2022), and Sketchbook A (2023).

Volatile Moods is a generative artist from Bosnia and Herzegovina. His two passions since childhood have been creative coding and music. After finishing his studies in engineering, he spent a decade working at the University of Zagreb, researching algorithmic methods for solving complex optimization problems, while also teaching programming and databases, earning a PhD along the way. He has worked as a senior programmer developing software for industry and has served on the board of a number of local art festivals. Since the emergence of the NFT digital art space in 2021, he has sought to unleash his creative potential principally through the medium of long-form generative art.

fx(hash) 2.0 launches December 14 on