Devnull Interview

“PEGS #5” by devnull

Who are you?

I am known as devnull on FxHash (/dev/null being the geeky Unix analog of the trash can on Windows or Mac). When I’m not making or collecting art, I’m busy building the Metaverse at one of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies. I’m also a husband and father of two, I run and meditate every morning, and I like to read and play guitar.

When did you start making art?

My parents raised me with a love for visual arts, and I frequently visited museums from a young age, but unlike some of the generative artists I admire the most, I don’t have a long history in making analog art before discovering coding. For me, things started with getting my first Mac and learning how to program at the age of 14. Soon after I was writing code to render fractals on a screen or to replicate Conway’s Game of Life. I didn’t think of it as art at the time though, it was just a fun thing to do. Later on, as I studied Computer Science, I became more interested in computer graphics and 3D rendering, rewriting systems and artificial intelligence. And then I ended up working on creative tools for most of my professional career, so I’ve always been surrounded by artists and creative people.

When did you get into nfts?

I had heard about NFTs before, but only really got into it back in June last year. Within a week or so, I went from buying my first NFT to spending part of my savings on a CryptoPunk (which felt like a crazy investment at the time). During the JPEG Summer that followed, I ended up buying some Art Blocks pieces by Aaron Penne, Kjetil Golid, and Joshua Bagley, and also started playing around with p5js, just trying out a few ideas without a clear goal in mind.

“SuperCube 1000” by devnull

How did you first hear about FxHash?

When I had first discovered HicEtNunc a few months before, I was amazed with all the great art available at such low price points. It completely changes your perspective as a collector: if you can buy a dozen artworks for less than the gas fees in a single Ethereum transaction, you really end up just buying the art you like without worrying about your investment, and that feels truly liberating. So when I first saw people mention FxHash on Twitter, I assumed that its main value proposition would be very similar, i.e. a platform like Art Blocks but at a lower price point. It was only when I discussed it with some friends a week later, that I realized the key differentiator was the lack of upfront curation. It may seem obvious in retrospect, but the way FxHash democratizes generative art for both creators and collectors alike is what makes it truly revolutional in my eyes.

Your Genesis mint was cube city and features a faux 3d environment created with colorful cubes. How did this piece come to be?

I actually messed up on my first day on FxHash. I had two projects ready to go, both of them the result of my previous experiments in the summer, but I ended up deploying them in the wrong order. The faux 3D aspect is what makes Cube City interesting to me personally. I am quite familiar with 3D rendering techniques, but here I am deliberately trying to draw a complex 3D environment without relying on concepts like depth buffers or clipping. Each cube is simply drawn like you would draw it on a piece of paper, with 3 faces in an orthographic projection (of course taking care with the order so the cubes don’t end up overlapping each other incorrectly). You can see a similar general approach in my City Lights and City Life projects: these are 3D scenes but they are rendered with simple 2D techniques: the naïve perspective and shadows add a childlike, playful vibe which to me feels more interesting than what a realistic 3D rendering would look like.

“Cube City #17” by devnull

What is your creative process like?

More often than not, I start with one idea but end up with something completely different. I love the element of surprise, playing with parameters, modifying values way beyond their sensible range of inputs just to see what happens. A good example is how my Excess project evolved from the same code as Solitude 5000, which started as an attempt to simulate raindrops running down a window pane. Many artists think of code as a tool to support and expand their creative process, but I see it more as a two-way interaction, and sometimes it even starts to feel like I am merely unlocking the creativity of the machine rather than the other way around. I also like to challenge myself by adding constraints into the process. For instance, I tend to implement everything in plain JavaScript code without using any libraries, and I spent about half a day deriving the mathematical equations for PEGS myself rather than trying to look up any references.

What was the goal with your work 3×3?

This was arguably the simplest project I have released, and that was also the point. It’s an exploration of how far you can push rigid constraints without losing creativity and variation. There are only 16 ways to fill pixels in a 2 by 2 grid and only 512 ways to fill pixels in a 3 by 3 grid. Some of those patterns may represent characters or symbols, others will look like Tetris tiles. But when you arrange those grids into a larger grid, and add multiple colors, more interesting patterns start to emerge. Of course it is all just randomness under the hood, but the human mind is so trained in recognizing patterns everywhere, that it’s hard to fight the illusion that some of the outputs are more than mere coincidences.

“3×3 #12” by devnull

Equilibrium was your first work that saw some crazy secondary market action. How did this piece come to be and why do you think it did so well?

While Equilibrium minted out relatively quickly, it didn’t really make any waves until people started noticing XCOPY had bought a few pieces. It took a while before I figured out myself what had happened when I saw those secondary sales blow up. It felt so unreal to see him support my work and retweet about it, but it illustrates what an absolute legend he is, being the number one crypto artist, making millions in sales, yet so generous and down-to-earth, using his name and fame to support smaller artists and good causes whenever possible. I’m well aware that I probably just lucked out here, and he collected quite a few other FxHash pieces as well, but overall it was just great to see him support the new platform this way.

“Equilibrium #4” by devnull

Machine spirit was your most recent mint and “picks up where Equilibrium and Equanimity left off.”. Could you explain more about this work?

All three projects build on the same concept of a cellular automaton, where cells in random colors evolve based on the colors around them, until you reach a stable state where nothing changes anymore and all the color regions keep each other in balance. The challenge is tweaking the rules in such a way that the algorithm always converges, while generating interesting patterns rather than pure chaos. I like to think of it as a digital version of the process a human artist intuitively goes through when composing an abstract painting. Once you have your stable color regions, you can stroke them with a custom brush (as in Equilibrium), fill them with random dots (as in Equanimity), or apply a polygon deformation technique (as in Machine Spirit). My favorite Machine Spirit outputs are the ones that end up looking somewhat like a Rothko painting.

“Machine Spirit #8” by devnull

What do you look for in generative art?

To me, generative art is about finding the balance between constraints and freedom, between predictability and surprise. Ideally, you want the outputs to be as varied as possible, but at the same time they should all be instantly recognizable as being part of the same artwork, generated by the same set of rules. This is why I’m not big fan of burning editions: the size of the collection is such an important factor in achieving this fragile balance, and I personally find it hard to discover the full potential of a generative artwork with less than a hundred editions.

What do you have planned for the future?

My goal is actually to publish less frequently going forward. I even started the year with the intention not to mint anything new on FxHash until my previous work had fully minted out, and when that failed by mid January, I forced myself not to publish any new projects until we reached 10,000 generators on the platform. Releasing a new project on FxHash can be a real adrenaline rush, so it’s hard to restrain yourself when you get excited about a new idea you’re working on. You might even feel anxious because you don’t want to miss all the hype and opportunity surrounding FxHash right now. But I want to make sure I keep innovating as an artist, and that means abandoning some projects along the way. At this point I would much rather take my time to drop one great project in a few months than to mint a mediocre project every week.

“City Lights” by devnull

Why do you make generative art?

I have always been fascinated with the intersection of art and technology. More generally speaking, I believe that the urge to make art as a way to express ourselves and communicate with each other is what characterizes us as human beings. Even if art is not deemed essential for our short term survival, it is what makes life worth living. There is also this aspect of pure joy in the process, of losing yourself into it and forgetting the world around you. I certainly won’t be able to make a living from it any time soon (especially if I keep spending every tez I make on buying more art), but seeing people respond to my art has been a huge reward in itself.

Is there anyone you want to shoutout?

It may sound like a cliché, but the best thing about my FxHash journey so far have been the people I got to connect with along the way. The support I received from early collectors like edvvard, the collaboration with 25 other artists on the BRIDGE project, the daily interactions with artists and collectors on Twitter, the shoutouts I received in blogs and podcasts, the dozen FxHash artists who bought each other’s Versum pieces to support Ukraine, the way we tend to celebrate the success of others. It truly is a unique community.

“Rehash 10000 #5” by devnull

Anything else?

Just want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell my story! It’s been a pleasure and an honor.

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