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The Primenuum - 1 billion

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: October 4, 2019

Artist Description: The Primenuum is a Prime Creature. From the brain of Hackatao, the code of HEX0x6C, and the computational power of LuGher. Read the full story: 

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

The Primenuum collection is a heavily-mathematical series of works exploring the confluence of art and numerical patterns. Throughout the series of six pieces, prime numbers are explored via a system of straight lines, curves, turns, and rotations constructed from a simple premise: A number-line is under a certain impetus towards various movement depending on whether the number it approaches is a prime number or not. All the pieces in this collection are reflections of this movement, attempts to mine artistic order out of what may or may not be a harmonious pattern of numbers, numbers which stretch infinitely. The Primenuum - 1 Billion is the second largest of this six-part collection, demonstrating via its many twists all of the various prime numbers between one and one-billion. What we’re looking at here —this haunting Rorschach test, this confluence of quasi-continents, this abstract phantom dust scattered across a white floor— is life reduced to its simplest building blocks —integers— and coalesced into a pattern. What do you think? Is it beautiful? Is it made more so by its inspiration?

Beautiful or not, there’s a phantasmagoric appeal to this image. Without digging too deeply into the meaning behind it —a meaning which is dutifully laid out by coder HEX0x6C here; the piece being a collaboration between they, the coder, and Hackatao, the accomplished Crypto artists— the piece is stark and deeply abstract and suggests things which are fickle, things which are bleak, things which are ephemeral. I’m reminded of snow. I’m reminded of soot. I’m reminded of historical tragedies. In the assortments of dusty lines, I see skulls and disintegrations. I see dead tree branches. 

But a great meaning of this piece lies beside that perception. This piece might indeed invoke the aforementioned things, but it is nothing more than a basic, simple portrayal of a certain numerical pattern. To see such images within the chaotic assortment of lines is to see such images appearing from within mathematics itself, where numbers are not laid out before us, but morphed into form by an artist’s instinct.

Connection. From this piece comes connection. The closest prime number to one billion, and the closest to one, are inextricably linked; one cannot exist without the other, they are reflections of each other, no different than their brethren, only separated by space and length. Connection. The impetus behind this whole collection, gauging from the artists’ self-styled biography, was to “experiment and mix drawing, code, mathematics and spirituality.” In Hackatao’s pieces, at least, this spirituality is a constant, as is a sense of overall oneness communicated by a sequence of larger, initially-disconnected pieces. It’s hard to avoid that same sense here. Take a moment to think about what you’re looking at. This is one-billion. A number unfathomable. one-million seconds, mind you, is about 11-and-a-half days. One Billion seconds is 31-and-a-half years. One Billion is beyond our measly human scope to imagine. Laid out before us, it contains every facet of existence: It is chaos and disharmony all at once, it is beauty and it is bleakness, too. In places it is sprawling; in others it is clumped together like seaweed strands. Within such a large number, 12-and-a-half million lives will be led fully. Can you sense their stories from within the labyrinthine enormity? 

There’s an old adage I’m thinking about: Did we invent math, or did we discover it? I tend to fall into the latter camp, believing that math existed primordially, and within its esoteric laws, all the rules of the universe, life and gravity and movement, are written. Our human system of hieroglyphics —writing— is merely a way to capture this much larger phenomenon. Math governs our body chemistry. It governs our ability to think. It governs organisms and atoms and light and sound. It governs the whole of existence, the whole of art, the whole of the universe, from Big Bang to Big Crunch; all is dictated by mathematical rules. Do you not get the sense, from looking at The Primenuum - 1 Billion, that this piece is the pioneering work of adventurers? The individuals responsible, Hackatao and HEX0x6C, had to journey out from the center of the numerical world in order to capture such size, such scope, such mathematical density. 

Is not art at its highest level able to portray the ineffable? Isn't a concept like “one-billion” as difficult to understand as the workings of God, as lovesickness and pain and ecstasy? Ascribing emotion to mathematics is rarely a fruitful endeavor, but I can’t help but find myself awestruck, not at the art itself, necessarily, but at the slow realization of what exactly lies before me, the sheer scope and audacity required to capture it. 

In coming to know this piece better, we are invited to know the mathematical world better, which is, in essence, learning to better know everything. This piece brings us closer to grandeur, true largesse, and the awe-inspiring nature of our universe’s many infinities. There is another piece in this collection too, a 10 Billion equivalent. No matter the size —should a 100 Billion version exist, 100 trillion even-— these could all only ever capture facets, mere fractions of all that is possible within the infinite. There is not a big enough screen in existence, not one the size of the ambient universe, to capture this image, or its idea, at its largest, fullest zenith. But we have here a taste of the endless, the infinite, the all. A small taste, but one like absinthe: potent enough in just a drop to understand the capabilities of a bottle.