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Episode 70
"Life in Our Minds" Generative NFT Project

  • 22 min read

Episode Description

A discussion with the team that has collaborated to bring the “Life in Our Minds” generative NFT project to life. The project extends the work artist collective Random International has done around flocking simulations through a collaboration with digital artist and art director Danil Krivoruchko. The project features NFTs which evolve dynamically based on a number of data points, including those taken from the owner’s crypto wallet. The individual flocks then combine to create a giant “Mother Flock” whose starling-like swarming appearance will be viewable to a wider audience both online and in person. Joining me for the conversation is Random International Co-Founder Hannes Koch, artist Danil Krivoruchko, Snark.Art Co-Founder Andy Alekhin and Head of Pace Verso Ariel Hudes.


Craig: [00:00:09] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On today's episode, I speak with the team that has collaborated to bring the life in our Minds NFT project to life. The project extends the work artist collective Random International has done around walking simulations through a collaboration with digital artist and art director Danil Krivoruchko. The project features NFTs which evolve dynamically based on a number of data points, including those taken from the owner's crypto wallet. The individual flocks then combine to create a giant mother flock whose starling-like swarming appearance will be viewable to a wider audience, both online and in-person. Joining me for the conversation is Random International Co-Founder Hannes Koch, artist Danil Krivoruchko, Snark.Art Co-Founder Andy Alekhin and Head of Pace Verso Ariel Hudes. And now, a discussion about being both one of a kind and part of something larger with the "Life in Our Minds" team.

Craig: [00:01:28] Guys, I want to welcome this great panel of guests onto the Art Sense podcast this week to discuss the new NFT project "Life in Our Minds". With me today are Hannes Koch from Random International, Danil Krivoruchko, who is the digital artist and art director, Andy Alekhin, the Co-Founder of Snark.Art, and Ariel Hudes, the Head of Pace Verso. And so "Life in Our Minds" is a very compelling, generative NFT project and Hannes maybe you can kind of set the stage for us and give us an understanding of of what the project kind of entails and what it looks like.

Hannes: [00:02:12] So life in our mind is a project that is rooted in collective movement and our human instinctive need and ability to develop an emotional relationship with. Movement that we see with things that move. And the collective movement here we're talking about is flocking something we observe in many different forms in nature. And as an artist, as a studio, we've been interested in that since 2006, 2007 or something like from our early days. To begin with, it was a very esthetic fascination with a with this efficiency of hundreds of thousands of starlings flying in beautiful, flawless synchronicity, but crash, no superfluous movement. There is something hypnotizing and there's also something incredibly frustrating, which I'll come back later. You can't capture that very easily and A) you don't see it very often depending on where you live and you can't capture it in a field of view. You always are left with some kind of longing for for really diving into it and observing that over a longer time. Because, you know, their animals. On the water front, you don't have the viewing angle or that it's not possible to satisfy our need to actually relate to it. So as artists, we started simulating that in many different ways, none of them simple. Immediately algorithmic from 2008, 2009 with lights. We developed algorithms based on very simple flocking simulation algorithms from the first guy who digitally simulated that Mr. Reynolds, who was a researcher in a predecessor of Pixar...Sony Research Labs in the '80s.

Hannes: [00:04:11] We took his algorithm and implemented it in light installations, made it our own and developed non species specific artworks and sculptures, mostly three dimensional, mostly based on light that were working with flocking. And as a fascination in flocking that you look at this flocking behavior as a human being and you immediately assign attribute sentience to it. You think that thing is alive. So immediately, the intuitive comment of people since 2012, 2015 was like that, "It's an AI, it's alive." They're not AI sculptures, they are simple algorithms. They're generative, so that you don't look at an animation that they have something really vivid and that makes us emotionally respond. Fast forward to 2019...2018-2019, we started looking at simulating that in two dimensions, taking it back to two dimensions, developing much higher quantity algorithmic expressions of flocking behavior. Again, not fairly graphic, fairly abstract. And that was a lot of...that was very rewarding, I think, artistically. And then at some point we stumbled across the format of NFTs. Format is important because it allows this kind of sculptural work to have a really, really, genuinely new expression as a public work, as something that is not only collectively behaving collectively, addressing you as an audience, but it can also be collectively owned. Individual constituent parts can be shared, can be individually owned and traded and swapped. And together they can form a sculpture, something that can be publicly and collectively enjoyed.

Hannes: [00:06:18] And that's something that fascinated us both with with our physical work. We're very interested in public exposure and public availability of our work in public art. And we find the advent of of the metaverse now really offers the third kind of public space which this work is really offering itself for as a first sort of market, as an experimentation platform of what we can do here. Can we be addressing several different forms of debates, of ownership, of public consumption, of artworks, making available something that you own to other people, to a community, to trade, to swap it with the community, and to see an evolution of something that is seemingly alive because there's always this third kind of intelligence, I think landscape and the hovering and the background with these artworks. There is a computer intelligence that you intuitively feel that we're increasingly get in touch with. This is the sort of wider context in which we work to study the impact. So this is the perfect landscape to experiment with that and then again, bring it back and to a very physical output, a physical art installation that can be enjoyed in real life and to the enormously fun and beautifully developed digital NFT component that Danil and Snark.Art have really gone above and beyond to develop and make it so that it really is an engaging and extremely a high quality work of. Individual constituent artworks that then become a larger flock.

Craig: [00:08:20] Well, you know, I live in an area where it's the time of year for the starlings to come through. And I mean, the swarming behavior is captivating to look at. And that is something that's very compelling because it's really hypnotic. But, you know, for this project, I think what's really interesting is it's offering someone to own a piece of or feel like they're part of that swarm, they're part of that flock, they're part of something larger. But it starts with being an individual object in that swarming flock. And that's the opportunity is to have your mini flock. And maybe Danil can talk about the design of the individual units that make up the swarming mother flock as a whole.

Danil: [00:09:10] In general, my part was translating this beautiful ideas Hannes and his team have been developing for, I don't know how many years...dozens. So to translate it into an art collection and how can these ideas be adopted basically to blockchain media because it opens a lot of new possibilities and I didn't want to miss this thing. It's hard to compress like five or six months of your work and development into a few sentences. But so, initially we started with the idea of having like a separating the whole flock to individual boids, how they call these small elements and selling them separately as individual NFTs. But it felt that it missing a bit of the feel, because all this beauty in the mother flock...this happens because of emergent behavior. And for that you need more than one, right? It should be like a few at least the pieces working together and creating this interesting behavior. So that's where the idea of having small flocks came from. So it's not just individuals because you lose all the energy or all of this potential. That's why we have smaller flocks and to make it like connected to NFT and crypto space in general, we decided to make each individual NFT as a reflection of activity of and content of wallet of each owner.

Danil: [00:11:07] So over time it absorbs the qualities like collections you already have in your wallet, how like how long you are in a market. So it checks when was your first time you actually use this wallet and how active is your wallet? So all this data is collected and it affects how their NFT behaviors and how it evolves. Because initially in this mini flock, you will have just a few boids and over time, if you keep this NFT, it will evolve and add additional boids to to this mini flock and what boids, how they look like, it depends on content of your wallet. So that makes this NFT basically a reflection of your activity in NFT and crypto market. And then we combine all of NFTs into like bigger collection. If we zoom out and see the whole collection, it makes the flock...the mother flock combined all the voids we have in the collection as a reflection of the whole NFT market, because each individual person who owns NFT somehow affect how the NFT looks like and their activity combined together forms the market. And that's where this connection between individual and emergent behavior of the mass comes to play.

Craig: [00:12:39] Yeah. So I mean, that probably leads to a good question for Andy which is, you know these NFTs aren't your normal JPEGs or MP4s. You know, they're dynamic and evolving. And so, Andy, can you kind of talk about the protocol that allows for these flocks to evolve and changed based on what's going on in people's wallets?

Andy: [00:13:05] Yeah, definitely happy to talk about this. At Snark.Art we've always been fascinated with what they call programmable layer of NFT, like not that many projects using it. And it's still like, probably like, like almost no one. But I think like for us it's like the most interesting thing that actually each NFT can be programed, so it can be like more than just a picture. And so like we started this experiment with our previous projects and now we came to this concept with the idea of evolving and developing nfts and we are super fascinated with this idea and glad that Hannes and Danil like this approach and they use this approach. We believe it's like very powerful and very, very rich. So on a technical level, it consists of like three elements. First, is the what we call the blockchain listeners or oracles. So we can absorb every data, like it could be blockchain data or it can be also real life data. I don't know, we can like track like phases of the moon or track the weather on Mars. And actually, like, these parameters can influence the, the change of the NFT. Then there is a second part. They actually like model recalculation.

Andy: [00:14:22] So like this is like really like intense algorithm where like on the go, like we are recalculating the model and then it goes to the render farm and we got like the image and this image got back into an NFT. So all this cycle like takes like about 30 seconds. So like it makes...and so like on the conceptual level it makes like and potentially each NFT like can react to any event, it can can be blockchain event, it can be real life event, it can be like change, whatever artist wants, like it can be like you can breed two NFTs, you can fuse NFTs, like you can do like whatever you want. It opens a lot of possibilities and we're super excited to try more projects that can experiment with this and important thing that like still this NFT that we are created is still follows the 721 standard. So it's still like the regular NFT, so it can be traded anywhere. So, I think this is adds a lot of simplicity for collectors, you know, they can like it like from the collector standpoint, there is no difference with any other static NFTs.

Craig: [00:15:36] When you first purchase your NFT, is it going to be like a handful of boids or these component pieces and then it's going to continue to evolve? Is there a point where it stops evolving or is it always changing?

Andy: [00:15:54] Yes. There is a point that...the evolution will last for first 100 days and then the evolution will stop. And you, as a collector, can actually influence your evolution, like Danil said, by having different NFTs in your wallet. So you can have like zero NFTs and then you will have just like a like a clear mini flock with like any other influence. Or you can have one NFT and it will like 100% will be infinite, or you can have like, like a really rich collection with like different NFTs and they all will influence your flock. There are some changes that depend on your luck. I would say how lucky you are. Some changes depend on the NFT itself. Some NFT that will be generated will be more lucky than than others. So there's a chance that your NFT is like will be like your look will be completely golden or like, like I'm like there are some like special features. So, what you can do except the just like, like put other NFTs into your wallet. You can like not sell it. Once you put your NFT on sale it stops growing. I mean, we made this like, like experimental techniques, just maybe to incentivize behavior of the collectors not to sell those nfts within this growth period. I don't know, like, will it be enough for people not to sell or not? We'll see. But it's an interesting experiment.

Craig: [00:17:33] I think it's very interesting to to see the gamification that's kind of been built into the release that discourages flipping and encourages the collecting of specific partner projects. Can you maybe talk about the community building behaviors that are being rewarded by the project?

Andy: [00:17:52] Yeah, it's like with community, there's always the the big question like personal versus communal and this project experiments with this a lot actually like what artists are doing they just they created a framework, they created an idea, and then it's the goal of the community to fine tune and to shape the project. So it's actually depends on each owner, on each collector within the community how the final model flow will look like and how like the individual NFT is and how the whole collection will look like. So in a sense it makes these collectors not just like passive holders, but more like co-creators. And this is like super interesting and this is like what the community is interested in to kind of to help artists to be like creative themselves, to help them to shape this project, even with like minor activities. And yes, and this, this is like the biggest, I think like communal versus personal interest. And again, like how kind of like trying to sell those items earlier that probably will make each person slightly better off because if they will be selling and no one else will, probably they can get the higher price. But by this they will be harming the rest of the community because the NFT will stop growing. Again, this is an interesting experiment. Will the individual kind of like like willingness to maximize their profits, will they grow stronger than the communal aspect and help each other and help the project to develop? I'm really interested to see like how it will play out.

Hannes: [00:19:44] And if I may just throw in, I mean, this is also for every I think this for us that the central point of this project in terms of experimentation and also we're terrified. As any self-respecting artist, most self-respecting artists, will tell you that art is not a democratic act. You don't become an artist to let others make your creation. And the idea of co-creation in a serious public art project is terrifying. However, it's also really, really interesting because there are ways here where we can experiment with levels of control. We're touching upon really foundational questions of our life together on this planet. It's not a game anymore, but we're using a gamification to look at this. And that's where for us, it becomes no matter if everybody in the community decides to kill their NFT and we end up with a void that will still be a social sculpture, which we are incredibly interested in and proud of because it'll, it'll give us the satisfaction of bringing people together around a work and having a debate kicked off.

Hannes: [00:21:05] And I think and that's what I think that's the this major contribution of bringing Danil in. It's not only this excellent visual development, but also this idea that he made it and with with with Snark, that he made this act of co-creation technically possible. It's an enormous step I think where to implement that and even in a conceptual form and they've managed to do that and that's...I think is excellent. That's a really, really interesting point...talking point because it's a genuinely interesting field. How much of that do we want? Because in the in an increasingly disembodied future, this will be increasingly possible that people co-create that the act of presenting and consuming art will be more collective. The boundaries between creator and consumer will blur more and more and we will see this more and more and we will have this debate. And I think this is a fantastic early manifestation of it where we can see how things pan out and how people react to things.

Craig: [00:22:26] So, I have so many questions. One, is the mother flock, is it actually owned by anyone or is it just a visual representation of the entire community? I mean, is there like a Dow that these individual owners are owning a piece of of the mother flock? Because in...and maybe this kind of a heads into Ariel's area of expertise, I imagine that the display of that mother flock being something that is very much the sort of thing that someone like Pace would want to display on a huge LED monolith in a space.

Ariel: [00:23:11] Craig, you've definitely put your finger on it, although we have some details we're not yet ready to share. But I'll say what I can say and I'll maybe hint at what's to come. The flock will be visible online, I believe.. Andy, Danil, Hannes correct me, but as soon as the project launches, you'll be able to go look. 

Hannes: [00:23:27] No, two weeks into it.

Ariel: [00:23:28] Two weeks in. Okay, so by early November you'll be able to go see the full flock online. Anybody can see it open to the public. If you own an NFT, you'll be able to see where you're NFT fits in the flock, etc. So that's sort of like the big public sculpture. You make really good points, Craig. And we've thought about a lot of what you said and we do want to have the flock itself as sort of a standalone artwork, so we will have an opportunity for someone to own a version of that and we will also have an opportunity for the community to have collective ownership over a version of that. And I'll just have to say stay tuned over the next couple weeks for more details about that.

Craig: [00:24:18] Well, Hannes, let me ask you, I know that you have been doing these sort of installations of these swarming models, these flocking models for a number of years. And I know that most recent iterations have included an element of interactivity with the viewer, that the flock's swarming behavior responds to presence of someone in front of the display. Is that something we're thinking about including in the display?

Hannes: [00:24:52] I think the important point here for us is to bring...because that's what we're rooted in, in the sort of border between digital and analog. You know, for us, the physical engagement with that is the the point that where we're coming from and going back to your emotional reaction to that. So I think in our ideal futuristic scenario, we would have tiny, really soft, self propelled min-boids autonomously swarming around you and you can enter it and we can't do that. So the next thing would be maybe to have a VR version of that which you can immerse yourself in, which is a representation of the communally owned flock as a sculpture. But then you have to run around with these silly glasses. So we won't do that either. I isn't quite there yet. So the next bit then is the screen which which allows you to engage with, which has sensors in front of it, a really fluid interaction, something you can step back from, and it lives on its own. When you step into it, it responds to you. You get a physical encouragement to dive into it. And that's something we're thinking of to bring this one not home, but bring this back into real life because we have physical bodies still the foreseeable future. We're real people with arms and legs and bodies that also support our audiovisual intake. So that's something we're planning for this very much. Yes. So that's what we want to bring that's why it's called the mother flock. It it has a very strong IRL exhibition component.

Craig: [00:26:43] Another question is, has come to my mind, which is if I were to own more than one of these mini flocks in my wallet, would they have the same data points? Would they be twins? Or if if I own three, would they be triplets? Maybe that' that a question for Andy?

Andy: [00:27:01] Oh, it's a question for me, yeah. Danil can also help me. But the answer, the short answer is no, because as I mentioned earlier, some of the qualities of each NFT depends on the NFT. So like, kind of like different NFTs, like we use the NFT ID as a data point as well. So, they will be different. And also there's a game of luck. So some NFTs can be more lucky than others. So yeah, the short answer is no. Like, even if you have like several NFTs, like they might be kind of like sister NFTs. So you can like, understand that they came from the one flock, but they will be different.

Danil: [00:27:49] Yeah, I can add it, especially because I have twin boys with my kids, so I'm expert having similarities and differences.

Hannes: [00:28:01] Genetics.

Danil: [00:28:02] So yeah, Andy was absolutely correct even having like two or many or dozen of NFTs in your wallet doesn't make them similar because there are things that are like derived by random probabilities based on NFT number. There are things driven by content of your wallet and your wallet ID. So and on top of that, there is just like random, basically like luck. So it's based on microseconds at transaction of mint can happen and that will be different for every single NFT. Even if you buy them like a batch of them still the receipt for and the possession will be different. So they will be like a like a relative's because they based on the same idea. But you need to have, I don't know, like few thousands of them to see like what, what is similar and what is not. Because it's's probability-based and it's all works on bigger numbers. So if you have five, it will be hard to track that they are from the same wallet. If you have 100, it will be like have more footprint of your personality or wallet in it.

Ariel: [00:29:20] We're selling a few sets. We're making a few steps available to people to buy. So you can buy multiple entities upfront that that come with to Andy's point, different embedded traits and I think there will be interest in those. So it will be and I think probably the people who buy the sets will be the people who have the most robust wallets. So it will be interesting to see how those...the NFTs and those sets that are purchased evolve differently from each other.

Craig: [00:29:47] Well, Ariel, can you maybe talk more about Pace Verso and how a project like this, how you anticipate it being received within the fine art community and fine art collectors?

Ariel: [00:30:01] Sure. Great question. We have started talking about this project a lot to our community and the reception has been very strong. It's the way I always talk about what we do at Pace Verso is it is a seamless extension of what we do at the gallery, which means we are producing, we are supporting the production of high quality art, selling it in a very elegant and elevated way, and selling and producing and working on projects that are natural extensions of artists practices. So you'll never see us doing some sort of like speculative gaming little collectible thing that some artist puts their name on, but it's really not their work at all. We'll always be doing projects that are really artists using new tools to expand their practices, and this project is such a perfect example of that because the project so clearly ties to so much of what Random has done for a long time in terms of the interactivity, thinking about these swarms, using technology to enable collective experiences. So in that way, it's very easy to talk about the project to a traditional art community because it's just an extension of an artist's practice, a collective's practice. And so I think people who we're talking to from the community think of it that way less as a standalone NFT project and more as something new and logical from random international.

Craig: [00:31:38] And, you know, and I guess it's an opportunity to own something that is of a more manageable size because Random International's projects are usually kind of large scale installations may live in corporate atriums or seen in installed in museums. Right? And so the ability for a collector to have something that they can own and display on a on a digital art display, that makes it a lot more personal in in touchable, right?

Ariel: [00:32:14] 100%. That's exactly what I've been saying, that this is a very rare opportunity as an individual collector to own a work of art by Random International.

Craig: [00:32:24] Yeah, I think one last thing I'd like to touch on is just, you know, I think it's funny, you know, we're talking about a flock, you know, bringing together a group. I've never had this many people on the podcast together, and it's kind of it's kind of funny. It's kind of reflects the the project itself. Right? And so, you know, would anybody like to just kind of chime in on the importance of collaboration in the benefits of collaboration in this current art market? And is this level of collaboration kind of a blueprint for success going forward?

Hannes: [00:33:00] Yeah, I have been, you know, Random has been structured and conceived as a not as a collective, but I think as an art group that my partner Flo and I have this sort of artistic direction. It's been clear from day one in 2000-whenever, since we started working early 2000s that to realize our creative vision and ideas, we will always rely on collaborative processes with others. So we build a collectively working studio, multidisciplinary. And for us, it's in the DNA to work like this. And I think it's what's right for us is to work with other artists in a very similar neighboring discipline. But I mean, the excellence of Danil doesn't need to's so obvious that what he does, we could never do. It's a high degree of brilliance that where it's really fun also to to see what you imagine like some of the stuff that he did we couldn't even imagine. You know visually it's like it's a true contribution. And then I think the collective execution with Snark, without that infrastructure and Pace, without the ability to pull this together, it would just not be possible. I think the ambition, even if it sounds simple of this project, is pretty serious.

Danil: [00:34:39] It's not simple. Those are my five cents. 

Hannes: [00:34:40] The stuff, but, you know, make a strong sculpture in the metaverse or something, you know, make it interesting. It doesn't sound like rocket science, but to do it well on the level that it's that we think it should be realized, it really needs that village to raise a child. It's like and especially with a project like this, it makes zero sense to have like one leading artist or one. It should be like this. And we love we really love working like this. And we love the project, particularly for this quality.

Craig: [00:35:18] Awesome.

Ariel: [00:35:18] This me, this project is such an embodiment of what we're trying to do at Pace Verso which is Haness and Flo came to us really almost a year ago with this project idea, and they had the flock and they had these beautiful boids and they had this concept and they came to us and said, "How do we bring this to life?" And it's our job at Pace Verso to bring in the right partners, the right technical partners, to bring it to life. We don't have those capabilities in-house, so we just put the pieces together. And in this case, the first...I had gotten to know some of the team that worked on Snark's project from last year, OG Crystals. They were very much on my mind, connected everybody, and it was just a perfect match right out of the gate. I don't think we actually ended up connecting Hannes and Flo to anyone else to try different partners. It was just very clear that this was the match.

Hannes: [00:36:12] Immediate match. Yeah.

Ariel: [00:36:14] Yeah, immediate match that they had. First of all, the team at Snark and Danil have been such a pleasure to work with, but also that they really had the technical capabilities to bring this to life and bring all this interactivity that we've talked about. So then, it's been amazing to watch over the course of, again, almost a year as everybody has worked together and pace, we play the role of sort of project manager and executive producer, you might say. And so we're certainly not a collaborator, but it's been really a pleasure to watch this collaboration unfold and I hope a blueprint for more of what we'll be doing.

Craig: [00:36:50] We've spent this whole time, you know, people imagining what this looks like in their head. If we wanted to send them online to some place where they can kind of get some visuals, find out more information, and most importantly, if they have interest in participating, where is the best place to to send interested parties?

Andy: [00:37:12] Just go to So this is a platform for dynamic nfts that we created and recently launched and the project is there.

Ariel: [00:37:22] And do you want to share with Andy the dates for the launch and stuff? I don't think we've even said that the project includes 990 NFTs and yeah. Andy you want to show the dates and stuff?

Andy: [00:37:33] Yes. Yeah. The project that they will like 990 NFTs and they will have two leads. So like one of the allowed list, the four collectors that subscribed earlier and the sale for these collectors will be on 25th of October. And for everyone else, it will be on 26 of October. You would need to sign up to the waitlist before joining the sale. So come to and sign up to the list.

Craig: [00:38:04] Guys, I really appreciate your time. The the project is it's really interesting and I think is again a blueprint for interesting, compelling, transformative projects that that kind of go across the physical space, the metaverse. And I really appreciate you guys all showing up this morning to tell me all about this project. And I really appreciate your guys time.

Ariel: [00:38:32] Thank you for having us.

Hannes: [00:38:33] Thank you. Thank you.

Craig: [00:38:38] It's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to Art Sense. You can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rate the show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. And if you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read the transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to and click on the podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me. You can email me at Thanks for listening.

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