AuroArt 2020: Where Tech meets Art
This is a Words+Acts project, inspired by my recent visit to Auroville, the City of Dawn. Feedback is much appreciated (see contacts below).
Art and Auroville’s founders
The importance of art and aesthetic education is acknowledged by Sri Aurobindo in his book The National Value of Art (1922):
“It is not necessary that every man should be an artist. It is necessary that every man should have his artistic faculty developed, his taste trained, his sense of beauty and insight into form and colour and that which is expressed in form and colour, made habitually active, correct and sensitive. It is necessary that those who create, whether in great things or small, whether in the unusual masterpieces of art and genius or in the small common things of use that surround a man’s daily life, should be habituated to produce and the nation habituated to expect the beautiful in preference to the ugly, the noble in preference to the vulgar, the fine in preference to the crude, the harmonious in preference to the gaudy.”
Mirra Alfassa, The Mother, grew up in an artistic environment steeped in beauty and creativity. She attended Paris during the period (1897–1904) of the Impressionists painters Matisse, Manet and Cézanne and married Henri Morisset, a disciple of the French painter Gustave Moreau, in 1897. In his Japanese period (1916–1920) the Mother affirms:
“For four years, from an artistic point of view, I lived from wonder to wonder” (Text from Glimpses of the Mother’s Life, 1:181, di Nilima Das).
After Sri Aurobindo’s death in 1952, The Mother founded the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education whose main purpose was not to produce brilliant students but “to allow young souls to grow into a higher life through a comprehensive, integral education” (Text from The Mother. A short bibliography. AuroPublications). Addressing the teachers at the Centre, The Mother says:
“Essentially, the only thing you should do assiduously if to teach them to know themselves and choose their own destiny, the path they will follow” (Text from Collected Works of the Mother, 8:181).
“We are note here to do (only a little better) what the others do. We are here to do what the others cannot do because they do not have the idea that it can be done.” (Text from Glimpses of the Mother’s Life, 2:230, di Nilima Das).
Auroville and Blockchain: synchronicity
Visiting Auroville for the first time in January 2019 I breathed beauty, creativity, spirit of research and solidarity. I had a vision:
Bringing CryptoArt to Auroville.
CryptoArt is a very recent (2018) artistic movement in which the artist produces works of art, typically still or animated images and often in close collaboration with the machine (not necessarily a computer but also, for example, a scanner or an old Polaroid) and distributes them using blockchain technology and the peer-to-peer IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) network.
In particular, a blockchain is a distributed system that uses encryption to secure an evolving consent on an asset with economic value called a token. Blockchain is therefore an intriguing interdisciplinary subject that brings together mathematics (cryptography), computer science (distributed systems), economics (exchange of goods with economic value) and politics (mechanisms for reaching consensus). Blockchain technology aims to replace intermediaries and replace the trust we (usually) place in them through a smart system that combines the objectivity of mathematics, the neutrality of algorithms and the economic incentive of humans to art in a rational way.
The philosophy behind the blockchain technology matches well the founding principles of Auroville. In the blockchain, as in Auroville, power is not centralized in a unit that commands but is distributed among all the nodes (individuals) that participate in the network (community). The blockchain, like Auroville, is a single organism formed by many independent and autonomous components connected to each other in a dense network. The local components can be the most disparate, but they collaborate for a global unity in diversity.
The AuroArt 2020 project
Specifically, the AuroArt 2020 project consists of the following objectives, divided into two parts (Words and Acts):
1. briefly introduce the blockchain and IPFS technologies that represent the technological infrastructure of CryptoArt;
2. discuss the concept of cryptocurrency as an alternative to fiat currency. Crypto currency, in particular Ether, is used in CryptoArt as a means of exchanging works of art;
3. to convey the basis of Processing, a language designed to teach programming in the context of visual arts. Processing is one of the main tools for producing generative works of art (in particular still or animated images) within CryptoArt.
1. taking inspiration from the context (Auroville), each participant in the project (including the teacher) can create some works of art and select some that he wants to exhibit;
2. the selected works will be exhibited in one or more international CryptoArt galleries under the name of a single imaginary artist representing all the participants in the project. Examples of galleries exhibiting CryptoArt are SuperRare (New York) and KnownOrigin (London);
3. the works on display will be visible and can be purchased by anyone who wants to collect them in exchange for crypto currency (Ether). The digital currency (convertible into fiat currency) eventually collected will be at the full disposal of the community of Auroville, ideally to support art projects.
Involvement of local universities and education centres
The project also aims to involve nearby universities (e.g. Pondicherry and Chennai) in the following ways:
1. inviting interested students to participate in the AuroArt 2020 project;
2. proposing short seminars to be held at these nearby universities.
The Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in Pondicherry should also be involved, possibly as the physical location for the project.
Timing and logistics
Ideally, the project will take place over a period of 1/2 weeks between 23 December 2019 and 19 January 2020. A room with video projector and, possibly, wifi internet connection is required. Each participant will have to have a laptop to work on and install the free Processing software. Basic computer skills are desirable (in particular, it will be useful, but not necessary, to know at least one programming language). The course will be taught in English.
Who I am
I am an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Udine in Italy. I currently teach courses in Data Science and Network Science. In the past, among other things, I taught the course of Generative Art. Under the name HEX0x6C I am also a generative artist. My works are exhibited in the main international galleries of CryptoArt. More information in this post by Medium.