Futuristic Art Conversations with Willea Zwey

Futuristic Art Conversations with Willea Zwey

Pulled up to Chicago's Web3 staple @im_not_art to check out Willea Zwey's exhibition "Through The Spectrum" as a live mint.

According to statistics I arbitrarily made up for this article, 99.99% of NFTs are minted (think purchased) from collectors' laptops in their home. They visit an artists' website or nft-marketplace, connect their browser-wallet to the website (and smart contract on the backend), approve a transaction to send a predetermined amount of Ethereum to the contract, and in return an nft is sent to their wallet. That is an overly simplified explanation of minting.

Recently the industry has been exposed to "live mints". The end result is the same. Collectors receive the nft they purchased in their wallet. However, the digital and inherent technical nature of NFTs allow projects to create immersive experiences of the transaction and/or reveal. These live mints are typically reserved for grandiose industry events like NFTNYC or NFTLA where larger projects commit considerable resources to create an in-real-life (irl) experience for an otherwise entirely blockchain and internet based process. Doodles was a project that made a lot of noise on twitter during NFTNYC for their elaborate live mint setup.

Photo from https://en.cryptonomist.ch/2022/07/08/doodles-live-mint-experience-at-nft-nyc/
photo from https://en.cryptonomist.ch/2022/07/08/doodles-live-mint-experience-at-nft-nyc/

Showing up promptly at the public event time of 7pm, there were only a handful of people in the main gallery. For the uninitiated, this gallery is made up entirely of digital screens. It allows ImNotArt to have exhibitions of various digital artists who offer their works as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT).

Upon walking in, I register at the door and glance around the gallery. One screen has Willea Zwey's profile, another screen has a 30ish second video loop showing Zwey going through the process of creating the collection, and another which seemed to show the interactive art slowly but methodically changing colors. While I was pacing the space, Willea Zwey walks in from the back patio wearing a sweatshirt i recognize being from Pangaia. I stopped her just to say hi and congratulate her on the collection, but the conversation organically turned into an off cuff interview of sorts.

I opened up the conversation by asking her if she had any other NFT collections or art pieces. To my surprise (mostly embarrassment) she mentioned that she had a couple of pieces on SuperRare, and a showing at @TokyoDigitalArt. Willea explained this imnotart exhibit came from the fact that her fanbase wanted her to release a collection. While explaining this, she pulls out her phone (with battery hanging on to dear life) to show me some of her pieces.

In my head I'm thinking "Ohhhhh so you DO this, do this". That prompted me to ask her how long she's been making digital art in the first place. Willea said 2.5 years, but she started out as an architect by trade. I blurted out that I was familiar with the fact that architects use CAD (Computer Aided Design) Software by trade, so I was sure that's how she made the transition into digital art. She laughed and confirmed that’s exactly how it happened.

We start walking around the gallery together while I look more closely at her digitally displayed works. Zwey explains that she wanted to fulfill her collectors' request to release a full collection. However, she didn't want to go the "print" route of just creating one new piece of art that had 50 identical copies for people to buy. Willea went on to explain that she wanted a unique blend of pieces based off  what she called "The Blueprint".

I imagine everyone in the NFT space is aware of how a collection has varying traits and rarities, but Zwey put her own unique sauce on the concept. In the main gallery hall hanging above the speakers playing traditional "boom bap" hiphop, Willea's blueprint is displayed.

Per her tweet on September 26th:

"The collection consists of 50 individually developed artworks that play with visual parameters originating from a single Blueprint..."

So what does that mean? It means you COULD  think of this collection as a typical nft collection of varying traits and rarities but you'd be missing the subtle detail that is the "play with visual parameters". The video clip below is not one nft, it is several NFTs from different owners being looped, and you can see the sharp red prism-like object in the lower-right move up and down the grid depending on the rarity of the nft.

Clip taken from https://mint.imnotart.com/through-the-spectrum
Willea Zwey's explanation of Through The Spectrum rarities

This detail, in my opinion, perfectly leverages the uniqueness of the digital art medium and where I think NFT artists can explore further.

At this point, a collector walks up wanting to talk to Zwey, so I excused myself and thanked her for her time. I then went to the back patio to briefly hang out with other enthusiasts. Ended up casual chatting with @aegiuscreator, and as a side note if your music palate enjoys any sort of Djent-style metal (Veil of Maya, Periphery, etc.) you'll really dig the "music video" style nfts he has created with the help of @eddiesupaa, who also produced the "Through the Spectrum" live mint video.

When I visited the gallery initially and met Willea, I hadn't yet purchased the mint pass, but @imnotMatt_eth was kind enough to schedule another time for me to come in and actually experience the mint.

Matt showed me to the back of imnotart's gallery where they have their live minting area. It's a reworked apartment that has a bunch of production equipment in one room, and a smaller room they have entirely painted black, with a high resolution screen, and hidden speakers for an immersive effect.

This was all sort of a "back stage" look at the process. Normally it's all curated and refined for  collectors to have an immersive and exclusive minting experience. It definitely brings a unique value proposition when you tie in these "meet the artist + live mint" experiences.

It's one thing to have a digital artist you like, but to have a physical location collectors can visit with the artist, hang out in a gallery, have a few drinks and then have this immersive "reveal" of your new piece... it's pretty sick.

Portions of the 4 minute reveal of a "Through the Spectrum" nft