Exploring ArtScience Museum’s ‘Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI’

ArtScience Museum, Singapore is presenting the art exhibition Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI, which provides audiences with a glimpse at digital art activated by artificial Intelligence (AI), along with a look into the NFT (Non-Fungible Token) space. The show is curated by ArtScience Museum’s Deborah Lim, along with independent curator Clara Che Wei Peh, who, outside her curatorial practice, is also the Founder of NFT Asia, which is a web3-based non-profit collective that focuses on Asian artists within the blockchain ecosystem.

‘Deep Meditations A brief history of almost everything’,2018, Memo Akten | Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI | STIRworld
Deep Meditations: A brief history of almost everything, 2018, Memo Akten Image: Courtesy of Marina Bay Sands

The curatorial duo explores Notes From the Ether in an interview with STIR, and Lim introduces the exhibition, saying: “It arose from an awareness that the fields of Non-Fungible Tokens and Artificial Intelligence have rapidly evolved in recent years and taken over our social consciousness. If the ArtScience Museum had abided by a typical exhibition timeframe to develop a show addressing these topics, the technologies themselves might have evolved drastically in the next two to three years and any discussion around them might then become obsolete or irrelevant.”

‘Err Hold’, 2022, Botto | Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI | STIRworld
Err Hold, 2022, Botto Image: Courtesy of Botto

Wei Peh adds to this, explaining that the exhibition regards not only the rapid developments in technology occurring these days but also what this proliferation may mean for arts and culture to come. She was brought on board the exhibition as a Guest Curator by Honor Harger, the Vice President of ArtScience Museum, as she has been working with artists utilising these facets of technology for some time now, while she continues to think through how digitally-native works can be presented in physical exhibitions.

‘x | o 40, 2022’, Holly Herndon and Matthew Dryhurst | Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI | STIRworld
x | o 40, 2022, Holly Herndon and Matthew Dryhurst Image: Courtesy of Marina Bay Sands

Lim creates a clear difference between exhibitions, talks, or happenings that attempt to deliver definitive commentary on NFTs or generative AI art and Notes From The Ether. The exhibition adopts a position of presentation first and foremost, and through that, creates an offering that will benefit both, those who are well-versed with the topics of NFTs and generative AI, as well as newcomers. Some among the new media artist lineup could be treated as “foundational” to these topics, as Lim puts it, with Rhea Myers, for example, having created blockchain-based art before NFTs entered mainstream conversations, and Larva Labs being recognised for creating Autoglyphs, which is regarded as the first generative art collection stored and processed on the blockchain. Other practices were picked up for the diversity of topics that they address, from digital ownership and creative agency to environmental concerns and evolution.

‘ENZYME 1.2’, 2023, jo + kapi | Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI | STIRworld
ENZYME 1.2, 2023, jo + kapi Image: Courtesy of Marina Bay Sands

Peh tells STIR, “With Notes From the Ether, we are taking the pulse of this moment to present an exhibition looking into some of the most innovative artists working in the budding fields of NFTs and AI. These are two distinct fields of technologies, but both have brought forth new ways of making and new systems of value in how we look at and evaluate digital files and media, including digital art. The exhibition considers what has been explored around these areas in recent years to present a glimpse into what may follow.”

‘Solitary Grave I’, 2022, Rimbawan Gerilya | Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI | STIRworld
Solitary Grave I, 2022, Rimbawan Gerilya Image: Courtesy of Rimbawan Gerilya

The curators identify that the exhibition continues ArtScience Museum’s ongoing commitment to present practices that sit at the intersection of art, culture, and technology. However, it also takes into account that visitors to the museum might not be too familiar with the topics that Notes From the Ether brings to the table, and therefore the duo adopted a broader approach to its thematics. “We hope to ignite curiosity in visitors for further research beyond the exhibition and to showcase how artists have always pushed boundaries with the adoption of emerging technologies,” Lim tells STIR. Peh shares her views and mentions that accessibility and immersion were key considerations for the curatorial team when they were designing Notes From the Ether. She adds that she also wishes the exhibition’s audiences would take away the merit and criticality that such practices hold.

‘Portrait photograph of Deborah Lim’ | Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI | STIRworld
Portrait photograph of Deborah Lim Image: Courtesy of Marina Bay Sands

When asked where they would like to see the NFT space go in the future, Lim echoes the sentiments of many creatives: “I would like to see less fixation on speculation and volatility and more discussions on concepts and art itself.” Peh acknowledges that the term “NFT” in itself has become something of a buzzword, and believes that this will change in the time to come. She brings our attention to the new communities and ecosystems that blockchain technology has catalysed, and maintains hope that “we can continue to support new media artists and look at art as a channel for bettering the world around us.”

‘Portrait photograph of Clara Che Wei Peh’ | Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI | STIRworld
Portrait photograph of Clara Che Wei Peh Image: Courtesy of Marina Bay Sands

The digital artists lineup for Notes From the Ether: From NFTs to AI includes both, Singaporean and international creators. They are—Memo Akten, Burak Arikan, Botto, Mitchell F Chan, DEAFBEEF, Simon Denny, Harm van den Dorpel, Sarah Friend, Rimbawan Gerilya, Holly Herndon and Mathew Dryhurst, Tyler Hobbs and Dandelion Wist, jo+kapi, Larva Labs, Jonas Lund, Ninaad Kothawade, Sarah Meyohas, Rhea Myers, Aaron Penne, Aluan Wang, Emily Xie.

‘Notes From The Ether: From NFTs to AI’ is on view at ArtScience Museum in Singapore until September 24, 2023.

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