On Wednesday, prominent generative digital art collective Art Blocks will debut its latest curated series, "Human Unreadable"—a three-act conceptual work of choreography involving both on-chain art pieces and physical experiences.
The project, courtesy of Ania Catherine and Dejha Ti—the Berlin-based art duo known collectively as Operator—will consist of 400 Ethereum NFT art pieces created by dance.
While that descriptor may sound flowery, it happens to quite literally be true in this case: Catherine and Ti have devised a coding language by which sequences of human movements are translated into what they call choreographic hashes—code that determines the appearance of a piece of digital art.
In the same way that other Art Blocks projects are automatically generated at minting by a set of coded parameters, "Human Unreadable" will be generated by automated combinations of dance moves that will give birth to hundreds of unique artworks.
The series, which will go on sale via Dutch auction on Art Blocks this Wednesday afternoon, does not mark the first foray onto the blockchain by Catherine and Ti. The two artists, who are married, previously released “Let me check with the wife,” an NFT-based marriage certificate that played with the notion of utility by contractually requiring holders to do (or give) something to the artists every year on their wedding anniversary.
"Human Unreadable," though, does appear to represent a novel union of the duo’s respective concentrations. Catherine is a choreographer and performance artist; Ti is a technologist and immersive artist focused on the relationships between humans and computers.
With "Unreadable," the duo aims to explore, per Catherine, the tension between privacy and transparency represented by the blockchain, and the manner in which the human touch can often be concealed in digital environments.
To that end, though the project’s first act—the 400 digital artworks—may at first appear to consist of fairly standard two-dimensional stills, those NFTs will soon after evolve to reveal the humanity lying underneath.
By late June, "Human Unreadable" holders will be able to unlock secondary NFTs, soulbound to their originals, that reveal the precise sequence of dance moves used to shape and create the original artwork.
For the project’s grand finale, Catherine and Ti will then produce an immersive dance performance at an as-of-yet unnamed cultural institution, consisting of the exact choreography underlying the first 100 "Human Unreadable" NFTs minted. All holders will be invited to attend the event.
Even holders whose NFTs aren’t depicted during that performance, however, could just as easily act out their secondary choreographic score NFTs on their own, to bring their pieces to life.
“Collectors won’t only have the artwork or the printed score moving on their wall,” Ti told Decrypt. “[Any] collector could give [the sequences] to a dancer or a choreographer, and have it performed themselves… they will really own this piece of choreography.”
The evolution tracked by "Human Unreadable," then—from the purely digital, to the synergy of human movement and digital production, all the way to the immersive and physically accessible—might be considered core to Catherine and Ti’s views on blockchain-based art. But despite the Web3-native nature of that thesis, Catherine and Ti do not consider themselves Web3 artists.
“We have no allegiance to any particular technology,” Ti told Decrypt. “The allegiance is to the concept of the work itself. In this case, it had to be blockchain technology, not only as distribution method, but also as part of the medium of the work.”
Despite that technological agnosticism, Ti and Catherine have long shared an affinity for crypto art. In 2019, the duo began presenting their projects at crypto events, despite the fact that those works had nothing to do with the blockchain. Something about the emergent, rebellious, and frenetic crypto art scene melded with Catherine and Ti’s artistic experiments, and the duo was welcomed with open arms.
“The crypto art world was all outsiders,” Catherine told Decrypt. “And what we were doing, we were outsiders.”
“That spirit is still there,” Ti added. “Obviously, it's diluted now. But a core community still exists.”
Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to clarify when Operator began engaging with the crypto world.