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Spinning up a Node & Syncing Blocks

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Date Minted: March 12, 2019

Artist Description: A new node joins the network! 3D Blockchain Architecture.

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

FractalEncrypt is an artist obsessed with geometries. All throughout their works are shapes and figures in constant states of movement, flitting together and falling apart, interweaving and interlocking and creating dense, mesmerizing pictures out of their seemingly-simple rotations and elongations. Spinning up a Node & Syncing Blocks is perhaps the purest example of this quasi-mathematical fascination, a black and white looping video that’s sole focus is the movement, kinetic energy, and tesselating power of a single square. Throughout the course of the few-second loop, the square contracts, multiplies, rotates, spins and squeezes and scuttles together to form curves, loops, hypnotic spirals. The entire dance has a smooth beauty to it, a satisfaction, if you will. It practically commands you to watch it over and over again, as you attempt to parse out exactly what shapes you’re seeing and exactly how they were formed.

Spinning up a node has the aesthetic quality of an old VHS tape, the kind you’d watch in grammar school, one made in 1981 and burned onto a tape, popped into a 200-pound TV and rolled before class atop a black, multi-story AV-cart. It’s timeless, in that way, an image that owes nothing to the cultural sensibilities of any era, accomplishing this feat by skirting color, skirting style, skirting any outward sensibility in favor of simplicity. Here are only shapes. Monochrome shapes: black background, white outline. The disintegration of squares into diamonds, lines, curves and waves is not handled with any modern technical flourish. I’m reminded of old computer games. I’m reminded of the original Blade Runner. I’m reminded of all these places where primitivity nevertheless meets futurism. Somewhere in that slight pocket, you’d find Spinning up a node.

The Artist Description reads “A new node joins the network!” (sic) and you can almost feel that enthusiasm in the piece. Describing the loop as a dance is not so farflung, and squinting just right, so to speak, one might even note something celebratory about the movement here. It’s like a small segment of cyber-space jumping for joy! A node in a state of elation for joining the larger network, for ending its isolation and being integrated into a larger whole. 

However, perhaps it’s a stretch to personify what are ultimately a series of abject shapes and lines. Perhaps it’s even a stretch to imply any underlying futurism to a piece where complexities ultimately break down in the face of simple movement and shapes, returning to the same blank, empty square which it began as. That’s a rather intense reading of a piece which is pretty clear in its intention to merely explore form.

So let’s explore form! Let’s talk about the use of negative space here, and how the inclusion of myriad shapes, scant and empty as they are, are able to overshadow the dominant color and object here. Because the background of the piece should, by all rights, be dominant. Even at its most expansive, the central geometric image still occupies less of the piece than the black outlines above and below it; at the start and end points, the shape is merely a series of four white lines. So why does it capture our attention so fully? Is it the placement of the shape in the exact center of the image? Is this proof that movement is more important than color for the purpose of commanding eyeballs? Or is this nothing more than the human inclination to focus on foregrounds, ignoring things that are static and unmoving —in other words, boring— in favor of dyanmic action and change?

Ultimately, Spinning up a node is too pallid and superficial a piece to suggest anything more than such pallid and superficial notions. If it has intentions to make larger claims about human focus or the interactions between colors, it has them subterraneously. Honestly, nothing about the piece or its title or even the artist description provides a fuller context for the image here. But that’s okay! It’s great, even! Spinning up a node is not indebted to being anything more than a novelty, an interesting series of shapes involved in an interesting display of movement. It’s fascinating to look at, to try and parse through, to try and understand the metamorphoses on display, but after a few moments of this, there’s little more to see. Even less will stick with us.

I made the allusion to an old grammar school videotape earlier, and I’d like to bring that up again, because this piece isn’t just similar in style, it’s similar in substance. We all remember these tapes: their hokey narrators, their unrealistic situations, their cut-and-paste graphics unchanged since yesteryear. I propose that Spinning up a node, despite its titular allusions to the complex technology of blockchain, mirrors this old-fashioned notion as well. This image could have been pulled off a Floppy Disk as easily as it was minted on the blockchain. It could have been demonstrated with chalk on a board in the early-60’s instead of being visible in the Genesis Gallery or on OpenSea. Make no mistake, that’s no slight against this piece. It’s just a fascinating entry-point. Timeless as an adjective, mind you, has no inherent positive or negative connotation. It implies that something is played-out just as much as it implies that something is universal, eternal, foundational. I’d argue that Spinning up a node is a perfect emblem of this duality. Only which of the two bifurcations is the dreary, unchanging background, and which is the moving shape we pay attention to?