The combination of technology and art shone strongly during the recent edition of India Art Fair (IAF) 2022.
Even the most unrefined layman knows the iconic brushstrokes of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. His best-known work, “Starry Night”, with its distinctive swirls of blue, white and yellow, is as easy to spot as it is difficult to replicate. Yet a computer programmed by digital artists Hasan S, Sean Blagsvedt and Archana Prasad does it in milliseconds. He even surpasses the work of the master by painting the viewers into the scene – brushstrokes included – alongside the artist’s self-portrait.
Explaining the magic behind this digital art titled ‘Between.Today’, professional hacker turned creative technologist Hasan says, “Once the viewer stands in the designated spot, the camera captures images, which are transmitted to the computer placed behind the cabinet. The green screen is removed and the human image is placed in an AI model that has been trained to paint in Van Gogh’s Starry Night style. It then transmits the image of the person in the middle of the painting, right next to Van Gogh himself to increase the level of interaction with the artist. You can click pictures of this artwork with yourself, upload them to the networks social media with the hashtag #betweenstars and our team will contact you and teach you how to create your own work of art, with you in it, in an NFT.
Allowing tangible interaction between the artwork and the viewer is perhaps what digital art does best. At the recent India Art Fair (IAF) 2022, held at NSIC Grounds in Okhla, Delhi, the combination of technology and art shone strongly, and on a much larger scale than ever before on this sacred platform. The NFT booths, spread across the Studio & Workshop space, witnessed a steady stream of people eager to learn more about the subject.
Believing that the IAF was the best place to raise awareness and promote an understanding of NFTs, Kamya Ramachandran, founder and director of BeFantastic, a Bengaluru-based platform that works to promote TechArt in India, tied hands with the technology giant. the Tezos India blockchain for their display. In addition to Between. Today, this included a project called “Whale Tales” by artists Arnab Chakravarty, Nikita Teresa Sarkar, Padmanabhan J, Sayak Shome and Uma Khardekar, which promotes whale conservation for ecological subsistence through images generated by the ‘ia; ‘Radbots’, a collaborative NFT collection of conversational videobots created by leading playwrights, artists and screenwriters from India, Sri Lanka, the UK and Germany; and other interesting TechArt. To encourage awareness, the organizers distributed free NFTs of the exhibits to everyone and patiently taught everyone how to create their own crypto wallets to mint these NFTs.
“Traditional art consists of a disciplined body of work that makes it difficult for us to interact with the object, but that’s a different mindset for TechArt. That’s why we hope to get more artists to embrace the technology. It is very difficult for Indian artists to play with technology because they do not have access to labs and software. We want to make TechArt, its ownership and sale via NFTs easy, accessible and non-threatening,” says Ramachandran. His organization facilitated continued conversation on the subject through a unique private event held on day three of the IAF, called “Neural Networking”. Here, an informative 40-minute panel discussion with Adrian Notz (Curator, ETH AI Centre), Pooja Sood (Founding Member and Director, Khoj International Artists Association), Jonathan Kennedy (Director Arts India, The British Council) and Ramachandran herself ; was the precursor to an intimate pre-seated lunch and wine service, where guests were encouraged to discuss the role of AI in art with people at their table.
Interesting conversations and giveaways weren’t the only measures used to attract a hesitant audience. Terrain.art, a blockchain-powered online platform that focuses on contemporary South Asian art, has revolutionized the concept of minting NFTs by accepting fiat currency, including INR and USD, alongside crypto for buying NFT at IAF. Although a crypto wallet was required to store the NFT, payment was not limited to cryptocurrency alone. Sarah Malik, Curator – Special Projects at Terrain.art, says, “It helps overcome buyer hesitation as they don’t need to buy crypto, which until recently was avoided due to the lack of clarity regarding taxation and legality. This is perhaps why our reception at the IAF was exceptional. There was a lot of curiosity around the concept of NFTs and the artworks on display. Our artists Amrit Pal Singh, Nabi, Khyati Trehan and Sayak Shome were kind enough to spend some time at the booth answering questions from visitors. We also had a lot of sales at the fair, with some additional requests for more works from these artists.
In a similar vein, independent art consultant Geet Nagi and Krittivas Dalmia, founder of craft coffee brand Kaffa Cerrado, hosted Tiff’n Pop x Culture at Kaffa – a pop-up focused on NFTs, original artwork and streetwear – at the latter’s Okhla roastery. address, to coincide with the IAF. NFTs by four artists were on display. They were Deepakshi Aggarwal, Dev Majmudar aka Frescoarts, Aman Bhatia aka Triplicity and Soumik Lahiri aka Lahiri Moshai. The artists were between 20 and 25 years old and each had only been practicing this art form for a few months. Their digital artworks ranged from varieties of already popular Pixel Apes, to a selection of bossy bears, to more individualized artworks in collections called “Nom Noms” and “Monuments of Humanity”. A virtual reality experience led by Frescoarts, consisting of roller coaster rides and boxing matches via headset. When asked about the intent behind the pop-up, curators admitted it was partly to better understand NFTs themselves. They felt that they would be comfortable investing in this medium only after familiarizing themselves.
Unsurprisingly, this sentiment is shared by many people. A lack of understanding of the implications of owning NFTs, coupled with deep-rooted risk aversion, renders many Indians unable to dive into these experimental waters. Financial stalwarts like Warren Buffet mocking this entire medium by refusing to buy all the bitcoin in the world even for just $25 makes matters worse. However, as with anything experimental and new, widespread acceptance takes time, and that may be the fate of NFTs as well.
Driven by an enthusiastic youth, digital media is invading our lives at an alarming rate. Therefore, it is up to millennials, who are exposed to both traditional and technology-dependent art forms, to facilitate the acceptance and responsible use of digital art and NFTs. Luckily, going through the exciting exhibits on display at the IAF will certainly make for an interesting trip.
Noor Anand Chawla writes lifestyle articles for various publications and his blog www.nooranandchawla.com.
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