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Rendering of Drift’s indoor drone performance, “Social Sacrifice” (2022). (Courtesy Drift and Aorist)
Rendering of Drift’s indoor drone performance, “Social Sacrifice” (2022). (Courtesy Drift and Aorist)

Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs (one-of-a-kind digital assets created using blockchain technology), have divided the art world: Some, like the artist Kenny Schachter (who speaks about the medium on Ep. 59 of our Time Sensitive podcast), see them as pathways to a promising future, while others express concern around the sky-high price points and carbon emissions they generate.

Aorist, a new cultural organization that commissions artists to make NFTs (and often, corresponding physical works) and sells them on its digital marketplace, seeks to redefine NFTs as part of an exciting creative revolution, and to make them more approachable in various ways. It prices its NFTs in USD, for example (NFTs are typically bought with cryptocurrency), and accepts forms of payment such as ACH wire and credit cards as well as crypto. In addition, Aorist’s NFT marketplace is powered by Algorand, a blockchain platform that uses a consensus algorithm called Pure Proof-of-Stake that, in lieu of traditional mining (a process that occurs every time an NFT is created or traded, and involves computers solving complex puzzles and a tremendous amount of energy), randomly selects a small number of validators from the entire group of Algorand crypto holders, consuming less power per transaction. For every sale made on the platform, Aorist offsets twice the carbon emissions generated by its day-to-day operations and purchases carbon credits, via a company called Climate Trade, that benefit the reforestation of Colombia’s coastal Andes.

Then there’s Aorist’s practice of presenting exhibitions and events related to, and in conjunction with, the sale of its NFTs, allowing the company to act as a liaison between the physical and the digital. The latest such event, “CodeX” (April 19–May 8), will take place in Venice during the first few weeks of  the 59th Venice Biennale. The program’s artists—Drift, Rafaël Rozendaal, and Jonas Lund—will present original works that visualize normally invisible systems, such as algorithms and the rhythms of nature, inviting viewers to think about the ways in these forces shape how we relate to, and live within, the world. Each work will be accompanied by a series of NFTs, available on Aorist’s NFT marketplace.

The projects will take place in three locations. Drift, an Amsterdam-based studio founded by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta that has presented several outdoor flying sculptures made of drones, will unveil its first indoor drone performance, “Social Sacrifice,” at the TBA21–Academy’s Ocean Space. Inspired by the swarm dynamics exhibited by schools of fish, the work explores interactions that occur between collective action and individual freedom, and how external threats can shape both. (Performances will take place daily from April 20–May 1, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. CET.)

At the Navy Officer’s Club, Rozendaal’s installation “Observation” will bring the vast, seemingly limitless online environment into a physical space using mirrors, screens, and colored beams of light. In it, the Dutch-Brazilian artist, a pioneer of net art and post-internet art whose earliest works took the form of websites, immerses viewers in a labyrinth of psychedelic patterns, and invites them to focus on the act of sensing their ever-shifting surroundings.

Lund’s MVP (Most Valuable Painting) will be presented exclusively on Aorist’s website, and consists of a series of 512 digital paintings, each of which are tracked by an algorithm and constantly evolve based on audience engagement (“likes” and clicks) until they are sold. When a painting is bought and minted as an NFT, its visual properties inform those of the remaining works, which gradually optimize themselves by imitating the features of the seemingly more desirable pieces. The project isn’t the first time the Swedish artist has questioned how digital ecosystems influence the way art is produced and valued in the market: MVP is an extension of his 2014 work VIP (Viewer Improved Painting), a self-optimized digital painting that tracked viewers’ gazes.

Taken together, the works in “CodeX” consider some of the big issues and ideas concerning the intersection of art and technology. Ximena Caminos, a curator and entrepreneur who co-founded Aorist with NFT artist and entrepreneur Andrea Bonaceto and economist, mathematician, and investor Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile, sees the program as a vital opportunity for introspection. “‘CodeX’ questions the nature and existence of control, the ubiquitous notion of free will, and the limits of our perception,” she said in a statement. “Demanding a deeper connection with the underlying mathematical codes driving natural law, the works reveal the primeval background from which all other more institutional forms of life are fashioned. Realizing how deeply intertwined they are, we might even end up reconciling our perceived personal uniquenesses and freedoms, with the collective and systemic dependence and responsibility on which they are rooted.”

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Debates about whether encyclopedic museums—institutions that collect and contextualize cultural artifacts across time an—should act as more than mere repositories date back decades, but have taken on a new urgency as of late. Now, institutioEp. 12 of our At a Distance podcast), tackled these topics through interviews with nearly 30 leaders, and compiled the conversations in a new book, Under Discussion: The Encyclopedic Museum (Getty Publications). We recently spoke with Grau about the future of institutions and the layered, ever-evolving narra What central issues do encyclopedic museums face today, and what prompted you to explore them?

Fashion stylist Kate Young in her studio.

When attending runway shows, stylist Kate Young keeps her eyes peeled for premiere dresses—gowns to be worn by actressesOn the sixth episode of her YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, Young talks about her process for selecting and securing premiere dresses, and highlights f

Fashion stylist Kate Young in her office in New York

New York–based stylist Kate Young devotes her YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, to explaining the ins and outs of celebrity styling. Her wide-ranging explorations about whOn the series’ fifth episode, Young answers various audience questions, submitted in the comments section of her YouTube channel and on her Instagram.

A concrete home with a large window flanked by two trees

The Covid-19 pandemic, by its very nature, has led to a universal turning toward—or even retreating to—home. The very noTadao Ando: Living With Light (Rizzoli), out this week, that presents 11 extraordinary residential projects designed by the Japanese architect, who has created more than 100 ho

Journalist Annie Daly sitting on the steps of a brownstone

Frustrated by the high cost of wellness in America, Brooklyn-based journalist Annie Daly set out to find meaningful alteDestination Wellness: Global Secrets for Better Living Wherever You Are (Chronicle Prism), out May 11. What may sound like a travel writer’s cushy, decidedly pre-Covid boondoggle in fact offer

Split screen of jewelry designer Elsa Peretti and fashion stylist Kate Young

Italian jewelry designer Elsa Peretti, who passed away on March 18, is a constant inspiration to stylist Kate Young’s lifourth episode of her YouTube show, Hello Fashion, created with The Slowdown, surveying some of the brilliant things Peretti made in her lifetime. Young begins by discu

Philosopher Simon Critchley having a drink at a bar

The British-born, Brooklyn-based philosopher Simon Critchley has no shortage of interests. He’s written, in his refreshiThe New York Times, where he moderates its contemporary thinkers opinion forum, The Stone. For his forthcoming book, Bald (Yale University Press), out April 27, Critchley—who teaches philosophy at The New School for Social Research, and was tEp. 42 of our Time Sensitive podcast and Ep. 3 of our At a Distance podcast—compiled 35 of his favorite Times essays, forming an engaging series of short reads that suggest new ways of understanding the world. We recently spoke w