“I’d like to speak to a human first,” was one of the first sentences which characterized the contact between me and our next interviewee. A serious appreciation for anything that gets close to real, physical, palpable and human. All these traits encompassed in her Art, with an enormous emphasis on the Feminine, the Divine and the Transcendent. Please join me in a deep dive into the how and what of Aethers’ Artistic venture into the Crypto universe!
Hello Aether, Tell us a little bit about yourself, what are your areas of expertise? (Tech, finance, other), how did you learn about Cardano and what led you to adopt the role you currently play in the ecosystem?
Hi Bas, Thank you for this opportunity to share a bit about myself. I have a formal education in law and finance and had a career in the hedge fund industry until the 2008 financial crisis, at which point I decided life was too short for the many compromises I was being asked to make.
I was fortunate to have other meaningful interests to fall back on, even if it meant making some radical life changes. Well before I discovered yoga philosophy in my early 20’s, I was already passionate about Art and was attending a series of summer programs in the south of France to learn how to make the rare pigments necessary for the restoration of high renaissance paintings, panels and frescoes. My fascination with color dates back to that period in my very late teens before I went to college.
I seriously considered applying to the École des Beaux Arts in Paris but gave in to the pressure to study “something marketable”, which eventually allowed me to learn a hard earned lesson in the merits of following one’s heart… Instead, I soon began collecting Art and I developed a keen interest in photography, both as a collector and an amateur photographer. On a positive note, my background in finance (by that I mean the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the industry) is certainly one of the reasons I ventured into the world of crypto early on.
From the start, Crypto appealed to my pacifist anarchist sensibilities and I gradually became more interested as I started thinking about viable ways of debanking. I first took an interest in Cardano about a year ago now, so unfortunately not especially early on.
So from getting to know Cardano, you inhabit this somewhat transcendent realm in which you are finding your place, shaping it, so to speak. How are you feeling about all of this?
Cardano is a beautiful project, which somehow feels more spacious to me than more mature platforms, possibly precisely because it is relatively early days for the project. I observe that Cardano is populated with super bright dreamers, which is incredibly inspiring to me, even if I can only perceive a slice of the universe of possibilities because in truth I largely experience Cardano through the CNFT lens.
More personally, I would add that being a committed yogini while dabbling in crypto makes sense to me: they are not two separate disciplines I need to somehow reconcile. If anything, my personal practice makes me a better candidate to board the proverbial rocket to the moon! For starters, I have the benefit of suspecting that we are not on a direct flight: sitting with the unknown is the essence of my meditation practice after all.
Finally, the kindness and enthusiasm of the CNFT space are infectious. I am incredibly grateful for the absence of cynicism, pettiness, name calling and other bad behaviors one must so often reckon with on social media. I also appreciate that the CNFT space is not limited to Twitter and that Discord, and to a lesser extent Telegram, have opened up much needed alternate communication channels.
We met on the phone, after having seen Bas on a podcast you reached out and you insisted on ‘talking to a human first’ before delegating or taking any action. How so, are there limits to the usefulness of anonymity? Please elaborate.
I’m highly attuned to energy. There’s only so much that comes through across a screen, even when it’s unedited audio (such as in a podcast), because folks typically have a script, even when it’s not an actual physical script. If I am speaking to someone for the first time and asking the questions, I also get to pay attention to what the person does not say. A spoken conversation is also an occasion to pick up on nonverbal cues.
Beyond what might look like a quaint personal idiosyncrasy, I think talking to the stranger you are going to delegate your crypto to is not unreasonable due diligence, especially if it’s your first time delegating in a given cryptocurrency. It worked for me and I’m glad you took the call because I made a friend that day!
As for anonymity, I find that even if/when I share my name, crypto provides a level of anonymity which is totally lacking in FIAT operated financial institutions, where one must disclose a whole lot of personal information in order to do any business.
Another facet is that there is also a natural limit to anonymity in a situation where one is marketing their own artwork. Of course it’s possible and common for artists to use an alias, but more often than not people reveal themselves somewhat in that process, which is not to say that personal information ever needs to be exchanged. Not everyone can be Bansky. My work feels too intimate for me not to engage on a level which requires me to share more than just an abstract Twitter handle.
Were there any problems, obstacles to overcome on the way, and if yes, how did you tackle them? I remember you finding the space overwhelming in some sense, how did this play out?
I don’t know about overwhelm but I would say the learning curve is steep when entering a new ecosystem and Cardano is no exception. And while I had been buying NFTs on ETH since late 2018, I wanted to mint my own and was figuring that out as well. There were a lot of moving pieces then, including a bull run across crypto in general and I wanted to make informed decisions and found myself having to wolf down significantly more data than I can comfortably digest in a few sittings.
So, about your Art, the central theme of this SPOt-light, can you briefly tell us about it, and is there a place where more extensive information is available?
The overarching theme of my work is Eros, a word which comes from the ancient Greek and which we encounter in English through the word erotic. Eros is much more than the erotic however, it points to desire and is also a form of love. The Greeks had at least half a dozen words for love, where we, in English, sadly have just one…
I am similarly captivated by the Feminine, the ungendered energy which flows through us all, regardless of the form we inhabit. Like Eros, the Feminine is something we all experience, as a force, it is both unrelenting and ineffable. My Art is a celebration of what the power of those energies–which are inextricably linked–look and feel like in my mind, body and spirit. In my personal practice, I access the Feminine through a relationship with the Goddess, who has many names and takes on many different forms across time and cultures.
In terms of expression, visually speaking, I am foremost interested in observing energy through light and color, which are one and the same. I mostly work with photography to create stills, including nude self-portraits and nude portraits of models who identify as women.
I also create digital collages, often in the shape of orbs, which I experience as the foremost feminine shape. I create these orbs using a combination of images shot or digitally manipulated by me. Recently I finished a collection I’m naming Light Orbs, which focuses on photographs I took of the projections of various LED light installations I created in my loft. I really love mixing the analog and the digital in this way. I feel strongly that nothing needs to be either/or.
Godesses, feminine energy and spirituality seem to be abundant in your work, and in some of the earlier pieces I’ve seen eroticism is present in a broad sense, how do they tie into each other and do you have specific ideas on how NFT art can connect something so bodily and sensual in a digital medium?
NFTs are the vehicle, or the wrapper, if you prefer. A work of Art carries an energy, regardless of the form in which it is rendered. Sensuality transcends the medium.
NFTs have facilitated the creation of a new market by leveling the playing field for new entrants who can bypass the stuffy Art galleries of a bygone era. I see the NFT world as a sweeping tornado of invigorating fresh air: for artists and art collectors alike.
As regards the CNFT space specifically, where there is so much amazing Art to fall in love with, there is also ample room for more diverse expressions. My work, in some of its forms, including some of my writing, is deeply countercultural, when not downright fringe. I know there is room for that and I trust that the work will find its audience.
After the current projects you’ve been launching, are there any combinations we can expect? I’ve seen some Unsig influence in your pieces, but I also feel the more traditional drawings and photography can really go hand in hand. Any ideas, dreams, aspirations to collaborate with anyone?
In addition to the Light Orbs I mentioned, I have two other distinct orb collections underway: one which is calligraphy/typography themed (two of my ongoing loves) and the third being dedicated to abstract erotically charged images, which is challenging to describe verbally!
I’m creating fewer mashups these days, although there will always be a place in my heart for unsigned_algorithms. I shot some surprising photographs of some unsigs using a projector and some LEDs. Again, it’s interesting to see what happens when you play with something digital in a more analog way. I see these particular unsigs differently now.
Alongside the orbs, I’m very excited to be launching a publication in the form of a feuilleton. It’s called The Chrysalis and will be minted on a quarterly basis. The first issue is inspired by the concept of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold, and contains writing and a series of my self-portraits accompanied by koans, or probes if you would rather, inviting the viewer to consider what it means to be in a body. This work is the result of two fruitful collaborations which brought forth precious contributions from two incredible artists and NFT friends: @chiarascuroNFTs and @Poetonic_Art
Going forward, I am calling for submissions to The Chrysalis, which I hope can be the home for some of the weirder and/or more risqué artwork created by fellow artists. I’m very interested in curating the work of other artists and in collaborating with artists in general.
What is cryptography’s greatest potential in regards to creative expression? The floor is yours 😉
The classical answer is smart contracts, which is a no brainer. Beyond empowering artists and allowing them to make a living–no small feat–, circling back to an earlier response, I would reiterate that the lowering of the barrier to entry to show and sell art is huge. This is what allows for so many new entrants and thus greater diversity. My experience is that more players also raises the bar naturally, because there are so many artists creating great Art in the space.
I’ve written here that the NFT marketplace helped me grow as an Art lover and a collector. No doubt this is true for others. I’m excited about Art in ways I hadn’t been in a long time and I’ve branched out in terms of my taste, which has naturally evolved over time, only it feels like my metaphorical taste buds are exploding in an accelerated manner with NFTs thanks to the plethora of artwork I view on any given day.
In short, I think more people will be buying a broader range of novel, beautiful, thought provoking Art than ever before. Will there be ample garbage to wade through to find the gems that pluck your heartstrings and make your retinas orgasm? Yes. Will folks get burnt by rugpulls and cave in to FOMO more often than is in their best interest while walking the long, bumpy path leading to a greater capacity for discernment? A resounding yes! That’s the very nature of the market, at least any market worth participating in.
Where can your Art be purchased? And most of all, who do you think will have a need for more feminine divine energy in their wallets or on their walls?
Light Orbs are being minted and will be available on @tokhun.io on 03/10. A selection can be viewed at tokhun.io/aether.
The Chrysalis, the quarterly publication mentioned above, will also be minted in the coming days. I will initially be selling the publication privately. The first issue contains 28 pages of nude self-portraits and writing, which were artistically designed and edited into a pdf by @chiarascuroNFTs, the aforementioned amazing artist, designer and editor, who is also at the forefront of publishing in the NFT space. The cover page was designed by @Poetonic_Art, the über talented multimedia artist and my fellow Franco-Californian compatriot.
My DMs are open on Twitter: I invite anyone interested in purchasing a copy of The Chrysalis to reach out to me at @aethersovereign.
And to fully answer your question, Bas, setting my work aside, our world itself would vastly benefit from more Divine Feminine energy: in wallets, on walls, in the mind at large, as Aldous Huxley called collective consciousness, not to mention the Body.
Any final thoughts? People you’d like to thank? Twitterhandles are always welcome!
I’m immensely grateful to have taken this ride and met so many talented artists and lovely beings on the journey. Any newcomers should know that they are not too late to the party!
And yes, I would love to thank some friends, thank you.
Impossible to name everyone but I’d like to give a cyberhug to the delightfully sweet duo of artists @AmoebidApes & @kwillterz, as well as @CardanoNoodz @Orbital_Lexicon @SukiEditions @Almondcookie7 @infinity_vis @nf_trinity and all the usual suspects who make me want to open Twitter.
Changing gears, I’d like to voice my deep and ongoing sadness in response to the sudden departure of the artist known as @artaphakt, who made the most beautiful unsig derivative work I’ve seen. He was possibly the kindest person to me when I joined the Cardano community. For reasons unknown to the community he decided to sever ties and he is dearly missed. I send him love and many auspicious blessings, wherever he may be.
Finally, of course I’d like to thank you, Bas! It’s been wonderful getting to know you better: I thoroughly enjoy our conversations and appreciate your knowledge, open mind and wisdom.