Urs Fischer’s Pioneering NFT Series ‘CHAOƧ’ Reaches Its Denouement
All 500 of Fischer's living juxtapositions are on show at the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles. 'Each juxtaposition is made like any other artwork—sometimes you know why, and sometimes you don't,' he said.
Urs Fischer, CHAOƧ #273 Thespian. Courtesy the artist.
A ping-pong paddle and a coffee mug. A grenade and a dragon fruit. An octopus and a hairbrush. Seemingly random objects spin and collide in the Urs Fischer exhibition CHAOƧ #1–#500, on view at the Marciano Art Foundation (MAF) in Los Angeles through 29 October.
500 digital sculptures are being projected at MAF, with CHAOƧ #501 (2022)—a 2D render of all 1,000 objects used in the preceding 500 works—debuting on a 14-by-30-foot 8K wall display at Gagosian through 15 October in an exhibition entitled Denominator.
Urs Fischer discusses why he leapt at the chance to mint NFTs, how to exhibit them IRL, and whether he'll ever mint them again.
The 'CHAOƧ' series was among the first NFT projects by an established contemporary artist to really gain traction. What made you want to experiment with NFTs?
Having used computers as a tool for my artistic process for over two decades, thinking about what a digital file is, how it could be a medium for an artwork, and how to validate them came naturally. When NFTs started to gain traction, I became more aware of the opportunity this provided and it felt like a natural step. These days we most often experience artworks as reproductions on a screen. The NFT space is a promising step toward a different understanding of how we engage with art. It makes sense.
The works are collisions of high-resolution scans of different objects slowly rotating, merging, and passing through each other. Do you see the 'CHAOƧ' works as photography, sculpture, or something else?
I have always understood the 'CHAOƧ' series as digital sculptures. I chose 2D renderings because they are easier to share and view with current technology. Each 'CHAOƧ' NFT contains all the data and information needed to create a 3D experience. In that way, I hope that these works can progress with the availability of new technology.
How did you choose which items to collide?
The selection process of the 1,000 objects was a progressive experience—one thing leading to the next. I started with the simplest thing around me [a lighter and an egg], and as I moved through the process, I tried to cover as much ground as possible, sampling all of the different things humans make or create—be it broccoli or a painting. Each juxtaposition is made like any other artwork—sometimes you know why, and sometimes you don't.
It is notoriously difficult to make NFTs look good at an IRL exhibition. What was your approach for activating the work at the Marciano Art Foundation?
At the Marciano Art Foundation, I decided to project the renderings on a large scale so that you see and understand the metamorphosis these things went through from their physical state to their digital one. We put a lot of effort into preserving all the details of each object in our scanning process, such as the scuff marks, dents, or fingerprints.
The concept for the exhibition was not to emphasise the digital medium per se, but to exhibit the works as you would any other artwork, regardless of the medium. All 500 NFTs combined in a loop amount to over ten hours of video, presented as a continuous loop.
I invited a friend of mine, the pianist Pete Drungle, to accompany the projections with music, not unlike the pianist in a silent movie theatre, creating an abstract, ever-evolving soundtrack. Pete plays for the entire duration of the show, every day, experimenting with poly-rhythm and poly-harmony, somewhat in the spirit of two objects intersecting and colliding.
The Marciano Art Foundation is a very big space, so we made sure that visitors can make use of the many sofas and beanbags to just relax and enter a mind-space fuelled by the experience of the projections and the music.
Now that the 'CHAOƧ' series is finished, will you continue making NFTs?
If there is a work that requires a digital medium, I will definitely continue working with the NFT format. For me, that's a question that comes from the artwork, not from creating content for a format. —[O]