Time Atlas 🌐 launch on Art Blocks

For the launch of my second project Time Atlas 🌐 on the platform Art Blocks I was interviewed by Ponyo on December 8th, 2021. This is the transcript of the dialogue in which I have added links and images for reference.

Three iterations of Time Atlas 🌐 on the Ropsten network

My education was based on human sciences, then I studied communication at the university. But around the year 2000 I entered the Web Design scene and this changed my life. I was absolutely fascinated by the Macromedia Flash experiments of great authors like Yugo Nagamura, Brendan Dawes and Joshua Davis with his Praystation website.

At that time, I was hungry for knowledge and looked at dozens of websites a day, which with a 56K dial-up modem was an activity that required a lot of patience; but I was more than used to waiting because I had a Commodore 64 that loaded videogames from tapes.

Yugo Nakamura’s website in 2000.

Among the many sites I saw, however, some had a strangely powerful visual force, something that almost magically attracted my eyes and my attention. I’m talking, for example, about the works of The Designers Republic or the late Arnaud Mercier who, with a couple of lines, a rectangle and a font, created very powerful visuals. Over the years, thanks to the study of art and graphic design, I realized that this style was not only the result of the creativity of those authors but was the result of a process of evolution of hundreds of years; and so, proceeding backwards I discovered the Swiss school of graphics of Josef Müller-Brockmann, the Bauhaus school, constructivism and Italian futurism. This is my background in art.

The Designers Republic for Wipeout

About a year ago I was queuing for a takeout pizza and I was scrolling through the Instagram feed when I came across a post from Bradley G Munkowitz promoting his first NFT on Superrare. At the time I didn’t know what an NFT was so immediately after eating pizza I started doing a thorough research on NFTs. Art Blocks was already appearing in all the posts and reviews and due to the way it was structured I understood that it was ideal for disseminating my works … I immediately sent a request to participate and a few months later Jeff Davis wrote to me asking if I was still interested. I had never been so interested in my life!

Time Atlas 🌐 is a very ambitious and radical project, as defined by a user in Discord.
Time Atlas 🌐 declines the abstraction of generative art into a functioning representation in time and space of our anthropocentric earth.
Its main feature is the representations of random geographical areas based on the positions of world cities; then for each city there is: current time, day twilight or night status furthermore the length of the seconds pendulum that represents the population of that city. To get a clear vision of the concept and how it is developed in the project, I recommend watching the 3-minute video presentation that you can find on my website.

To get a clear vision of the concept and how it is developed in the project, I recommend watching the 3-minute video presentation that you can find on my website.

Time Atlas had a long gestation. Probably the desire to work on something like this arose from watching a video installation by Ryoji Ikeda at the Venice Biennale 2019. It was a huge wall where thousands of geographical data were projected in various information grids and it is easy to be hypnotized and kidnapped by Ryoji’s works.

But I had promised myself to do something that interacted in real time and not a video with immutable data.

Ryoji Ikeda at Venice Biennale 2019

As I said, this project had at least two years of gestation; it started out as something else: a promotional screen saver for the studio I work for. At that time the studio was changing its name to Tangity and many studios around the world would join under this name. So I wanted to prepare a new screen saver, always in a minimal style, text only, which would show the time of study in various parts of the world but also in many other cities. I wanted the typography grid to also become a topographic grid and for cities to arrange themselves on the screen in relation to their real arrangement on the globe. As if that weren’t complicated enough, I had made up my mind to also visualize the night and day for each city and regulate the font size based on the number of inhabitants.

A screenshot of the screensaver for Tangity

It had taken weeks of calculations and attempts,, I had also asked for help from my colleague Iacopo Miorini, a Front-End programmer who really has a deep knowledge of Javascript, compared to me who am a UX Designer.

In the end, the script was ready, it was enough to insert it into the software to encapsulate the HTML in the Screen Saver but the one I had previously used was no longer compatible with the current version of macOS and therefore everything ended up in a “virtual drawer”. However, the script is still functional and viewable on my website.

Written Circles by Paolo Tonon

In the moment of thinking about the second project for Art Blocks I wanted to recover this script and create a “Written Circles style” visualization, a generative algorithm that I have created several years ago and that has published on the generative art book Written Images.

Over the course of the project time, I worked on a more specific view which became the main one although I decided to keep Written Circles as a possible variation.

Time Altlas 🌐 in Written Circles variation

There are 160 possible color palettes in Time Atlas. In part they have been selected from databases on the net, in part generated with sites like Coolors. The interesting thing about palettes is that you need to give it a name for display in the features table. To name each of the palettes, I asked my 14-year-old daughter who studies art for help. It was a good time to share my work with her and make her participate in what I do. At a certain point the imagination in finding new names failed, so I said to her: “Tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you see the colors!”. In this way some really strange names were born, I will tell you only three: “Serious T-shirt”,“Car scent” and “Campsite parking”.

Generative art has always been a way for me to escape from work activities that are sometimes repetitive and not very stimulating.

But since I became an artist in Art Blocks, I have poured a lot of effort into this activity, sometimes sacrificing time with my family. For this reason, after closing a project, I try to spend more time with my wife and children and to calm my creative anxiety a little, I practice meditation and listen to ambient music.

Yes, I have various creations on Hic Et Nunc that tell of my artistic path in the last 10 years. https://hicetnunc.art/paolon

Hic Et Nunc selection of artworks created by Paolo Tonon

Yes, I have two simple tips:

  • First learn from your idols. Choose the authors you like most and study their approach to art and their way of coding. Don’t be afraid to contact them, generative art is a wonderful community full of helpful people.
  • Second tip: find your way. At some point you will stop reproducing concepts you have already seen and totally new ideas will come to you and it is precisely there that you will become real artist. But remember that you never stop learning.

Yes, I want to thank everyone who collected and supported Panelscape 🅰🅱 , my first project on Art Blocks. I received so many compliments and encouragement and this gave me a great energy that I was able to bring to this second project.

Now I ask you to also believe in Time Atlas, it is a very complicated and profound project and if you try to get to know it, I’m sure you will love it.

Before closing let me thank Iacopo Miorini for his fundamental support in coding, Stefano Contiero for his advices and psychological support and Jeff Davis for his fundamental artistic direction. Finally, I thank you Ponyo for this interview!

Time Atlas 🌐 #0 snapshot

Time Atlas 🌐 by Paolo Tonon on Art Blocks

I am a digital media artist and UX designer with humanistic and technical background.