Who are you?
Hello, my name is Alexander Grasser (@grasser_alex), a crypto artist and creative coder based in Vienna and Graz in Austria. As a crypto-artist releasing on the Tezos blockchain, I have created several artworks dealing with real-time participatory and meta-interactive NFTs, as well as several generative tokens combining generative art with architectural concepts. Furthermore I work as an assistant professor at the Institute of Architecture and Media in Graz, Austria, where I research and work on my PhD on the following topics: collaborative objects, real-time participatory architecture, and platform applications in open architectures. Moreover, I am passionate about teaching computer-aided design strategies and generative methods to my students in architectural design studios. As a trained architect, I also work as a freelance architect on a variety of projects as well as a consultant in computer-aided and parametric concepts, design, and fabrication.
When did you start creative coding?
Early on during my architectural studies, I began exploring the limits of computer-aided drawing tools and their generative capacities for the design of architectural form. In this process, the principles of creative coding seamlessly aligned with my ambition to develop my own workflows and tools for designing experimental architectures.
Especially since around 2012, Processing, a flexible software by Casey Reas and Ben Fry, has influenced my work, both because its object-oriented design led me to ask what object-oriented architecture is – a question I continue to explore in my work to this day – and because it is an open platform that is extensible through various libraries and functions as highly customizable software.
In general, I have explored these generative methods and creative coding in an architectural context, creating various professional applications and projects and developing an expertise in computer-aided architectural design, but sometimes I have also had the opportunity to develop and exhibit artistic projects, such as ‘syntax error’ an interactive project developed in 2013 as part of Project Motionbank – Creative Coding Lab Frankfurt, ‘platoon sound sculpture’ an interactive installation at Kunsthalle Platoon Berlin in 2014, and ‘polyvalent embodiment’ an interactive exhibition at Galerie Spektum Berlin in 2017.
How does architecture play a role in your art?
The tectonic question of how multiple parts form a coherent whole is usually at the heart of my works. On the one hand by looking at the parts and their design to create compatible components that can be connected in various discrete ways, on the other hand by looking at how and in what order these components can be connected. This can also involve human interaction in the design to allow for highly customizable architectures and artworks, to create a collective whole in which variation can emerge through participation.
fxBLOCK is described as “a collection of speculative architectures.” How did this work become your genesis piece on FxHash?
First of all, the concept of a generative token that allows deterministic “minting” to create a series of unique artworks was something I was hoping for and anticipating on the #cleanNFT blockchain Tezos. Since these types of artworks that generate a lot of interactions and traffic on a blockchain have huge environmental impacts, FxHash on Tezos provided a much more reasonable alternative to similar concepts on other blockchains such as on Etherium, as I still believe that crypto art should act responsibly. I was lucky enough to notice the beginnings of FxHash quite early and couldn’t wait to contribute to this early phase of FxHash with a generative artwork. ‘fxBlock’, project #109 on FxHash, was my first artwork on this platform. It is a simple kit of familiar architectural parts such as walls and floors, randomly but deterministically distributed in a box. As fxBlock constantly rotates, the reading of these tectonic elements mixes and walls become floors, creating ambiguous speculative architectures.
OpenPLAN is a very busy “architecture machine” that creates imaginary building plans. What was the goal with this work?
OpenPlan on FxHash celebrates the inherent capacity of a generative token/system to create multiple unique architectural forms. A generative workflow, a parametric design to create a series of architectural forms is quite common in architectural practice, the difference being that we usually only see the one specific result, the final form, the built artifact, the winning competition entry. It is the 1% of potential and labor, that make it to the next round, while 99% of potential forms and collective efforts are discarded. A highly “curated” and deterministic process that is generally very unproductive in architectural practice. For this reason, OpenPlan celebrates its diverse results, their simplicity, strangeness, weirdness, openness, and functionality or non-functionality. Its slowly growing structure adapts its parts at every step, creating a continuous open floor plan with multiple courtyards and heterogeneous spatial qualities in a flat, coherent whole.
Tell us more about the hypnotic work “Redundancy”.
With Redundancy and Polyvalence, I have created two artworks that embrace the medium of NFTs on FxHash: the digital canvas. It is a truly digital space, capable of running multiple computational processes, rendering its content live, perhaps even allowing interaction and adapting to its context. My goal, therefore, was to create non-static, constantly evolving architectures that use a simple kit of parts that are redundantly redrawn and reconfigured on the digital canvas to create endless open architectures.
What inspired your most recent work “Resilience”?
My latest “drop” on FxHash, “Resilience,” explores digital architecture as a discrete and continuous form. Conceptually, the digital allows infinite variations within a continuous form, where each part can be different. Therefore, it may seem contradictory to argue for a discrete and a continuous form. However, this artwork suggests that the use of a simple modular kit of discrete parts, in this case ASCII characters, and computer-aided design strategies with combinatorial and redundant reconfigurations can lead to a digital form of discrete continuity. This is further enhanced by the use of the entire medium of a digital canvas that allows for live reconfigurations, creating almost organic digital forms that endlessly evolve and adapt, revealing a resilient ecology of discrete and continuous architectural forms.
However, this artwork is inspired both by various ideas I am constantly exploring, in particular open architectures of collaborative objects, as well as by some techniques I have discovered in other artists in the NFT space. For example, the concept of color cycling, which I discovered in the work of Kristen Roos(
@kris10roos), who is using vintage computer-aided drawing tools to create marvelous and playful animated artworks. This led me to consider how this color cycling might be applied in an architectural context, which resulted in embedding this technique already in the Redundancy project, but even more explicitly in Resilience, where the generative system cycles through the series of ASCII characters at unpredictable intervals, creating a very organic behavior – a very persuasive feature, as I can see from some of the positive feedback I’ve received from collectors who patiently wait for these moments to appear. Furthermore, it is inspired by the work of artists such as @andreasgysin and @jambonbill, as I admire their artworks and see a strong similarity in their use of a generative system that emphasizes movement and computational rearrangement with a simple set of discrete parts: ASCII characters. Since my goal was to keep this work two-dimensional and as simple as possible at the discrete-part level, I decided to embrace this ASCII workflow and was surprised at how well it accelerated computational performance and matched the aesthetic I was aiming for in the artwork.
“Resilience” has gotten tons of love from the community. Astonishing 2d architecture forever in motion. What was the creative process for this work?
It was great to get such a positive response to the Resilience drop on FxHash. I was especially impressed with how many collectors posted videos on Twitter showcasing their minted artwork. I really appreciate the extra effort it takes to record and post a short video – in an NFT world where static jpegs are pretty dominant, it was really exciting to see such a reaction to a dynamic piece of art, Thank you all!
How do you know when you are finished with a piece of generative art?
This is a very interesting question because in my case it concerns several scenarios: an architectural project, a real-time collaborative project, the development of a generative artwork. For an architectural project that has a certain generative, parametric logic embedded in it, it’s usually a question of what is reasonably buildable, what the budget allows, and what aspires to a certain aesthetic. It’s usually a collaborative decision, and usually the decisions are made as deadlines approach. But this question is also very relevant to the real-time participatory projects I develop in the fields of academia, architecture, and NFTs. In this context, because multiple authors contribute to a collective form, it’s not so easy to determine when a project is finished. Usually, the best iterations emerged after a period of open, playful design sessions where contributors could develop their building skills without pressure, followed by scheduled collective design sessions with a fixed time limit and a vague goal to achieve in order to create that collective form. However, if the real-time participatory framework and process is well designed while being open and resilient enough for interaction, it usually leads to interesting outcomes where variations emerge as a result of participation. With a generative art project, there is less pressure from a “deadline,” which means there is more time for reflection and reiteration of the work and fine-tuning until each version of a generative result is satisfactory. It’s pretty hard to stop here, as I end up enjoying the artwork by clicking through the versions and getting lost in the space of solutions, but that also the fun part.
Are there any pieces of advice or quotes that have stayed with you?
I think it’s really important to follow your passion and be persistent with your plans and ideas, while always remaining reflective and open to new ideas. Regarding myself, I have been working in the field of creative coding for almost ten years now. I followed my passion and applied it in an architectural and academic context, and I still do, with some opportunities to show my works in art exhibitions. Thanks to this persistence and the opportunities offered by NFTs, I can now share my passion and my artworks with a wider audience and thats great.
You also have some works on Teia. Are there any you’d like to highlight?
What actually brought me to NFTs and crypto art was the experimental mood of the early hicetnunc (now Teia) days on Tezos. There were artists minting all sorts of file formats to create responsive and meta-interactive experimental NFTs and questioning what an NFT could actually be. Here I saw the potential to contribute to this creative endeavor by realizing my real-time participatory projects as NFTs. Having worked extensively on a real-time participatory architecture workflow over the past few years, I saw an opportunity to implement this concept and combine it with blockchain technology. After a period of development, I finally released H=N Block (objkt#187962), a participatory real-time NFT that enables distributed collective live content creation. The concept was met with great response and many visitors, artists and collectors began to create in this space. Since these creations were temporary, I recorded some collaborative forms, minted them and distributed them via air-drop to the contributing creators. I would really recommend checking out these creations, which are documented in the series ‘H=N Community Block 01- 06’ (see for example objkt#188608). Moreover, looking at the walltes that received the air-drop is still very interesting, as it documents and reveals the curious contributors of artists, visitors and collectors. As a follow-up, I have published further participatory real-time projects: H=N Block+A, a more architectural version with unlockable content, and H=N=CO=Doodle, a playground for three-dimensional collective doodling.
What do you have planned going forward?
Right now, after my last FxHash drop, I’m taking a short break to reflect and enjoy the various results of this project. I’m also taking the time to appreciate my previous artworks and the ones I’ve collected. However, planning my next generative FxHash token is definitely on my priority list, along with creating more collaborative objects and open architectures in a variety of contexts.
Is there anyone you want to shoutout?
There are many artists and collectors that I admire and who inspire me every day. Many thanks to all of you who follow me and collect my works, I really appreciate it! A big shout out as well to all the developers at Hicetnunc, Teia, Versum, http://Objkt.com, FxHash, tz1and and NftBiker for providing us with the tools and open frameworks that make this collective creative ecology possible and tangible.
Many thanks to @GatherArt for inviting me to this interview and for providing this forum to share ideas, discourse, and reflection.