As Lazlo Lissitsky picked up on Opensea, I randomly came in touch with a childhood friend that goes by Tartaria Archivist now and does data engineering. We started to collaborate on refactoring and making revisions to Lazlo and brainstorming about other projects we could try. He volunteered to help me sort out some bugs and quality-of-life changes with the Lazlo code in exchange for a small cut of the sales, but we both wanted something that would feel more like a real collaboration. Eventually we came up with something we could both contribute equally on – making “Mod” designs that look reasonably authentic to the period. Over the course of doing art I’ve tried to sort of dip a toe into all sorts of kind of modern art styles and movements. Mod is really more of a fad that defies strict definition, but basically the simple circle logo and the concept of bold simple designs lead eventually to entire trends of modifications of Swiss Modern in the 60’s- late 80’s. I think it’s interesting that Swiss Modern, at least in my mind, hits kind of a wall where the more wavy and flowing designs that came later don’t quite fit into the earlier paradigm. Mod is a nice kind of transitional concept going from Swiss Modern into whatever came next, but even more interesting was the historical moment it fit into.
I make no secret of my love of The Invisibles – and basically any theme that gets touched on in Grant Morrison’s magnum opus is a theme I like to conjure when I can – and King Mob had an alter ego of the spy Gideon Stargrave somewhere in there that bridged the Mod and Psychedelic scenes. I liked the idea of a spy and some intrigue being involved. I’ve also always been fascinated by the alternative history speculations about what could have happened if analog computers had become a real phenomenon. Soviets had built some analog hydraulic computers, and there was an economics computer that also functioned using water called the Moniac that was designed right around the same couple of decades that fit the Mod scene. It’s huge reach, but if you don’t think about it too much – you can imagine one of these analogue computers being used to somehow start doing encryption instead of economics – spycraft – and then in turn having a soviet spy make their way into that world trying to crack the computer with the excuse of using it to make mod designs.
In sum: it explains why there would be generative art that was dated to that time period. It was done with a hijacked analog computer. This was also a part of the programming challenge – I knew that Processing can do neat stuff kind of like Photoshop layers with images and blending modes, and Tartaria Archivist worked with me to add a huge library of paper and paint textures that position as a part of the algorithm and make finished-looking pieces instead of being taken into post the way I would if I just wanted to fake them being old. This also fits the narrative where we can imagine that they are archives, numbered also via the program, and that MI6 caught this spy and archived all these prints – a kind of fictional source of origin.
As the program goes on we’ve been working hard on finding code that makes Mod-appropriate designs via algorithm. It’s easy to make things that look too complex for the style, and easy to make things that are so simple they feel worthless – it’s finding that perfect zen-like in-between that is difficult. A lot of what went into this was figured out by Tartaria Archivist using complex math that I couldn’t have figured out on my own – but both of us came up with line patterns and methods in such a way that it doesn’t feel like either one of us was “Robin” in this work – I like to call it “The Double Batman Triumph.” We put this project on Hic Et Nunc because it felt like the right moment in the space to experiment there, and simple designs for cheap don’t work very well when gas is high. Gas has been lower recently, but now that the series is established on the Tezos chain we’re both reluctant to experiment with minting any elsewhere.