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Digital Carpet No.1

Museum Link: https://app.museumofcryptoart.com/collection/the-permanent-collection?collection=0x41a322b28d0ff354040e2cbc676f0320d8c8850d&token=919&page=1

Source Link: https://superrare.com/artwork/digital-carpet-no.1-919

Date Minted: November 9, 2018

Artist Description: Homage to Joseph Marie Jacquard - With the punch card, he introduced the basic architecture of all data-processing machines and computer-determining binary systems into mechanical engineering until today: Where the needle that scans the punch card encounters a hole, a one, change takes place; but where she encounters cardboard, equal to a zero, the state remains unchanged.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

What is crypto art but an attempt to capture the full range of human experience in a world so pell-mell, so technologically advanced, so unstable and capricious. Within this continuum is the entirety history of art, of course —since art all builds off what came before it, intentional or not—  but also of technology itself, the computer engineering and internet architecture which preceded this current iteration of high-tech: cryptocurrency and NFTs and the world opened up by Blockchain. Digital Carpet No. 1, by artist Janne, pays overt and well-referenced homage to this history. It isn’t always necessary to quote an entire Artist’s Description, but here, we are given superb history, context, and motivation for the piece. Janne says of this piece that is is an “Homage to Joseph Marie Jacquard - With the punch card, he introduced the basic architecture of all data-processing machines and computer-determining binary systems into mechanical engineering until today: Where the needle that scans the punch card encounters a hole, a one, change takes place; but where she encounters cardboard, equal to a zero, the state remains unchanged.” Thus, within this piece we are asked to consider textiles and fabrics, computers, evolution and the pioneering human spirit. All that from five solid colors, arranged in blocky loops and rectangles. A world within the colors. Human history within their movement. Too bad these things are so esoteric. For many observers, they will remain so.

Digital Carpet No. 1 is a slowly-unfolding loop. A line of color (an autumn orange) trails along the bottom of a tall white box, slowly, pixel-by-pixel. It continues snaking along the bottom edge and, upon reaching the image’s left side, jolts upward before turning immediately to the right. It remains orange for a single pixel and then swiftly changes, becoming briefly green. How best to describe the movement? Have you ever played the game Snake? In it, you direct an unbroken line through an empty plane, the object being to not touch the edge of the plane or you lose., The longer you play, the longer and quicker the line becomes, and it becomes harder and harder to keep it from touching one of the plane’s edges, as you require swifter and swifter movements. The colors thus unfold snakelike, and slowly rise, line by pixelated line, to fill the white box with color. 

With each upward stretch and bend, different hues are slowly, mesmerizingly presented: grey, salmon, and finally turquoise. The “rug” is the end product achieved when the snake line of color has filled in the entire frame: a mix of concentric, colored loops, all surrounding a turquoise rectangle; it could be a doormat. It could span your living room. 

This is the digital rug, and as mentioned, it pays homage to a primordial computer system, responding to preset inputs dictating continuity at some points, change at the other. Joseph Marie Jacquard, whose invention, the Jacquard Loom, was the textile precursor to the binary 1-and-0 system of computer input, would use this framework when making fabrics. A preset “program,” essentially a flat board overlaid atop the loom, would move unwoven fabric in an uninterrupted fashion —the 0— until the sewing needle would hit points on the board which caused it to deviate in its track —the 1— in which case different style or colors were introduced, creating an ultimately holistic pattern, and all automatically. This system would then go on to be used in computer inputs, with 0 dictating continuity and 1 dictating change. And thus, the framework for all future computer processing was formed.

Digital Rug No. 1 is a marriage of this 18th-century principle with its presently-evolved form, the NFT minted on blockchain. This interaction between the old and the new forms does not produce a tension, as we may expect, but a smooth continuation. This piece is easy, pleasing, and simple. There is nothing here to challenge or belittle the original Jacquard programming technique, this is a basic demonstration of it.  What does it mean when something primordial is portrayed using cutting-edge technology? 

There doesn’t appear to be anything sardonic or irreverent about the piece. Refreshing, as there’s a trend indeed, in Crypto Art —-if not art in general—  to take an irreverent POV upon anything which preceded it, like a young boy acting out against his father. Art is constantly questioning the sensibilities and constraints of the societies and movements which inspired it. And yet, Digital Carpet No. 1 is respectful. It does not use its present powers to boast, to poo-poo the former forms and technologies. It is an update, perhaps, but one that brings Jacquard’s name and technique back into the popular imagination. The Artist Description is crucial to the piece, imbuing it with a sense of place and history and attitude.

Seen in a vacuum, the piece might appear rather banal. But context and inspiration is vital to understanding the slow movement of art. Hence why college classes focus on Art History, not just art-making. Nothing truly exists in a vacuum, though by leaving the Artist's Description to the side, by not referencing Jacquard in the title or in the piece internally, there is the possibility that the piece will be experienced without its reverential context. What happens then? Does it lose its power? Absolutely. It is degraded to window dressing. We are forced to wonder if art’s power is completely internal or if it requires the context or art and intent to be fully realized and fully understood. 

Such is the difference between viewing a piece of art as an image in a browser or viewing it in a museum, alongside other works of similar intent or attitude, or with contextualizing material beside it. I suppose it’s a reminder that there’s a world of influence and history and inspiration behind every piece, even simple colors, even a rug. “Enter inside,” Digital Rug No. 1 seems to say, “This is merely the doorstep of all that I am.”