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Tokenized Cloud Sphere Ten (ATL to YYZ)

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Date Minted: May 16, 2019

Artist Description: Unenhanced, computer-aided photo collage. Bring it to life with the Artivive App, soon web AR // This photo collage is part of the Tokenized Cloud Sphere installation of 12 cloud spheres, which were created from photo series taken on passenger flights across North America. The photos were stitched into panoramas using software and lightly retouched on the edges to allow smooth connections into a sphere. Colours were not enhanced. // Exhibitions & Features (individual pieces, sets or all 12 clouds spheres): 2018-11 Binary/Non-Binary, GESTE Paris, France // 2018-11 Featured in fall issue of Montreal-based Art/iculation Magazine // 2019-05 Rare Arts Fest 2, Bushwick Generator, Brooklyn, NY // 2019-07 Contemporary Photography, Czong Institute for Contemporary Art, CICA Museum, Gimpo-si, South Korea // 2019-09 Tropopause Contemplation, Centre Culturel et Communautaire Françoise-Dunn, Sherbrooke, QC

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Martin Lukas Ostachowski makes art work about clouds. He professes this in his artist bio, that “He explores the blockchain through the subject of clouds in physical and digital mediums.” It’s interesting for an artist to self-professedly fill their oeuvre with the exploration of a single object, approaching it from a multitude of forms and angles, but there’s something enviable in it as well. Coming to know a thing, understand a thing, examine a thing more than anyone, becoming an exclusive emissary of its deepest traits, exploring its mutabilities, there’s a serenity in that, like the long meditative contemplation of a single flower petal. Tokenized Cloud Sphere Ten (ATL to YYZ) is a warped photo-stitch of the cloudy skies between Atlanta and Toronto as seen from an airplane window. This is the tenth of twelves images in this series, each depicting the cloud formations between separate tracts of sky. Ostachowski makes it clear that the colors were not enhanced, that we’re looking at clouds just as a deity would look down at them: in their natural state, from high above.

There’s something inherently contemporary in the depiction of clouds from above. Commercial flights, after all, were not possible until the mid-20th century, and were not affordable for the layperson until much later. Even still, there was not the camera technology needed to capture the sights from above until the last 50 years, and so this simple image of clouds grounds itself in an era of technological advancement. Tokenized Cloud Sphere Ten (ATL to YYZ) is a masterwork of technological advancement, marrying not just this contemporary perspective with contemporary photography, but utilizing cutting-edge software to arrange the photos into something entirely new, a fresh perspective on something so simple, so ubiquitous as clouds. And that it is minted into an NFT on the blockchain, that’s simply the icing on a quasi-futuristic cake. Really, this is more than an exploration of clouds, it’s an imposition of humanity’s current capabilities upon something so primordial it predates life on Earth. It is a marker of where we currently are as told through the lens of something that has always been here. It is chronologically savvy. And gazing at the piece, feeling that true pull between Alpha and whichever Omega we currently find ourselves in, is rich and engrossing. Tokenized Cloud Sphere Ten (ATL to YYZ) is a kind of time travel. It’s a celebration of how far we’ve come.

They’re also an exploration of place. Ostachowski took these photos on passenger flights in North America, which makes them all representations of a very specific place in the world. These skies, these clouds, do not and cannot exist anywhere else, having been created through ultra-specific climatic situations. In a way, this mirrors Monet’s explorations of the Water Lilies behind his house in Giverny, France. Although photography and not painting, we can draw parallels between the impressionists painting what they see, capturing light and air and place, and Ostachowski capturing what he sees, his “place” from above, a new angle with which to look upon a familiar place, but perhaps with grander scope than has been attempted elsewhere.

The image itself, framed by a futuristic-seeming border of white with sporadic gray cubes, appears almost like the inside of a flower, almost like an eyeball. The cloud images have been spliced together into a sphere, with the clouds themselves at the innermost level of the sphere, with the sky above the clouds spliced together further outward. One gets the impression, because the splicing is so carefully and cleanly done, that we are looking at a single cloud amidst a spherical sky. I am reminded of Georgia O’Keefe by the final construction, the way flower petals emerge outwards from a single spot, and the way the artist controls our vision, pulling us into the piece’s center. The undulation of clouds therein, the simultaneous inward and outward traction of cloudbursts merging, its similarity to a flower brings about really interesting associations within the natural world. As above, so below…that kind of thing. We are reminded of flowers, of the human eyes, of stars and the sun and the moon, cosmic bodies, all things with dense innards and spherical constructions. Ostachowski manages to conjure all of these associations through his clever blending of cloud imagery into the shape we see. Yet, he is not heavy-handed with his approach. Perhaps this is a quirk of the artist, or perhaps it’s a reflection of the subject, but the clouds together take on an abstract quality, not abstract enough to be misleading, but just enough that we as observers can position our own experiences, associations, and emotions atop it. In this way, Ostachowski has revealed the artistic properties inherent in the natural world. 

By taking something as seemingly blasé as the cloud cover we spend much of our lives perpetually under, and by subverting the angle from which we see it, exerting thoughtful human influence upon its consistency, and by presenting it to us uncolored, untouched, just slightly reformed, Ostachowski is doing what the greatest photographers dream of doing: unveiling the staggering, almost religious beauty that exists in even the simplest of natural scenes. Ostachowski is doing a deity’s favor, exposing the divine touch within a cloud, a plane-ride, a human perspective. And akin to being exposed to anything truly divine, Tokenized Cloud Sphere Ten (ATL to YYZ) might well change our perspective on its subject permanently. Look up at the clouds; though you cannot see them from above, the perspective nevertheless exists. Has Ostachowski’s piece not given us the tools to understand that? Every perspective, of any thing anywhere exists. What a gloriously overwhelming reality. 

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