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720 Minutes #69

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Date Minted:  March 5, 2021

Artist Description: A real-time live interactive piece that also acts as a clock. 720 unique ways to show the current time, one per minute over twelve hours. Each clock will activate on its given minute, giving you a special moment every twelve hours to consider what one minute means to you.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

What really strikes me is the amount of unpredictability you find here, in 720 Minutes #69, and because it otherwise captures that most predictable of things: a clock. It may take a second to see, I know, but then you realize that those two bright stalks emerging from the image’s center aren’t just random lines but time-telling arms, and then you look up at the clock on your computer/phone/desk and see that the two are synced together. You (wide-eyed) say “Ohhhhh,” and the initial magic of artist Alexis André’s (MacTuiTui) work settles down, flaky, upon you. But there’s so much magic in this odd and enrapturing project released in March of 2021, and only more so that emerges the longer you look at it. Or play with it! Everything in the 720 Minutes series is fully interactive, your cursor an agent of chaos in a closed system, able to indelibly change the composition, at least until it resets itself, which it seems to do every second, pulsing with delight as its tempo. 720 Minutes #69 is special even within the collection itself: Not the largest of the possible generative designs, but one of the boldest, brightest, and most aesthetically-pleasing by my eye (color theory on full display). Though I’m tempted to say that the actual aesthetic composition of the piece is besides the point; there’s so much more to say about what 720 Minutes #69 can do, and what it is for, and what it means to marry time together with entropy, and the fact that the result is beautiful, pleasing, and oddly predictable anyways. 

Discussing what his inspiration for 720 Minutes was, André told Artblocks’ Jeff David “Really a comment from Erick on the Art Blocks discord. He was commenting on one of my daily animations that already had a strong pulse feel and the discussion went to having an NFT that ‘does something’, like working with time.So applying the idea of having a live generative piece that relates to time to the concept of Art Blocks was then pretty straightforward: a collection of live clocks, each one linked to a particular point in time.” 

That “pulsing” which André refers to is a fascinating aspect of his pieces here. What happens is thus: We begin with the base form of the object —each version algorithmically generated within the Artblocks parameters— but each second, the object “pulses,” i.e. takes on some warped or shrunken or contorted form: the shape (720 Minutes #69 begins as a standard hexagon split into six triangular sections, two of them blue, two yellow and two purple, with each of these sections touching their brother at their middle-pointing tip. Within these sections, however, more colors emerge, and more shapes, like twisting cones traced over with horizontal lines) condenses in one spot, or perhaps it’s more apt to say that hexagon breaks apart into swirling abstractions, or other times a bright white light emerges from nowhere and collides with the shape, splitting it apart. But each of these changed states soon pulses away again, the shape resetting itself every second. Sometimes there are two or three seconds of added abstraction before the shape reverts, but revert it always does, the two bright minute and hour hands of the clock once again becoming prominent and informative. 

If you didn’t know that 720 Minutes #69 was a clock, you might think it was mimicking some shape-shifting alien, such is the variety of states, positions, and motions the piece is capable of. Tucked somewhere into the piece’s smart contract is its “special minute,” wherein some remarkable effect takes hold of the piece (I did see the whole composition begin to spin at around 11:57 am, though I’m not sure if this qualifies) for those 60 seconds, but of course it’d be unreasonable to expect someone to spend 12 hours watching this piece, holding out for the special minute.

Which only implies that the 720 Minutes series isn’t meant as simply an art-piece, and it especially isn’t meant as an art-piece to simply look at for a moment on a phone/computer and then move away from. 720 Minutes is meant as a piece of furniture, as an addendum to a life, so that special minute isn’t something you wait for, but something you happen upon one day; a discovery, a surprise that forever changes your relationship to the piece. 

But back, quickly, to the chaotic aspect of the piece. Because that dichotomy of predictability-to-unpredictability is so compelling within the image’s confines. The piece pulses every second like (no pun intended) clockwork, though each of its pulses coincide with a completely unforeseen change in the image’s fundamental state. We are constantly watching this small universe change and then revert, change and then revert back, though with no conceivable rhyme, reason, or pattern as to how it moves other than the fact that, well, it always moves. There’s so much about this clock that is unpredictable, from the nature of its generative composition, to the aforementioned pulsing, to the way we’ll thereafter interact with it should it ever reveal its “special minute,” and how that will affect our relationship with the piece. It’s a shame we as mere viewers can only watch this piece for the time we’ve allotted ourselves to spend with it: minutes instead of days, once instead of regularly. 

Oh, and look at this: I’ve forgotten to mention the interactivity, the way with your pointer you can coalesce the shape’s many tiny parts around the place where you click or send those parts repulsing away from you. It’s impossible to know which effect (propulsive or attractive) will take place upon each click, however. Because even when you have some control over entropy, you don’t really. It’s time we’re talking about, after all: We are, in every way, under its thrall, no matter how it lulls us into thinking otherwise. 

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