by Julia Flamingo
"The landscape has been very present throughout art history and now I think that technology can also take part in the evolution of watching nature", says Spanish artist and art historian Solimán López, who is turning the camera to 90 degrees: instead of looking at us humans, he is directing it to the sky.
We know space is much more powerful and bigger than we are, and something we cannot control, even so, man is always trying to dominate it. For some years now, the cloud is also the metaphor for where information is shared. By looking up, López not only questions where data is but he also questions the "limits of technology, faith, and the creation of this new sphere of knowledge that is the air!"
Celeste is the title of the ambitious and mesmerizing ongoing project by López, who created a multimedia installation with beacons spread out in different parts of the world that are equipped with video cameras and microcomputers. Each beacon captures incessantly real-time images of the sky and turns them into a digital aesthetic that is captured in the self-generative movement of different algorithms fed with the colors extracted from the celestial vault.
These organic and mutant images in the manner of a kaleidoscope can be accessed by any of us on Celeste's website. With Artpool, the project is reaching a new scale. Starting in May, people anywhere in the world will be able to own small pieces of Soliman's sky as NFTs. Secondly, the NFTs will further allow anyone to build their own sky and share it in the Metaverse of Celeste. Moreover, Artpool is co-organizing a physical presentation of the work at MAAT, in Lisbon, which will host an ephemeral exhibition of Celeste in September 2022.
As a media artist who believes he is co-creating with technology, López has always been concerned about the materiality of the digital and the intangible in art. The skies took over his oeuvre in 2017, when he started questioning the way we look up to technology as if it is the maximum expression of our faith - it will always be there for us, it has no limits. "At the same time, it is a romantic strategy for developing an artwork that was talking about the space of the non-frontier in many different ways", says the artist. In a time when a horrible war is happening, in which a man says he owns another country and its landscape, Celeste project stresses the fact that no one can own the landscape, the nature, or the other. The sky is something that no one can possess and yet belongs to everyone.
This symbol of connection, hope, freedom and limitlessness has been in the imagination of a handful of artists such as conceptual Yoko Ono, who looked at the sky as a facilitator of experiences and a foster of engagement between individuals. Her Sky T.V. dating back to 1966, as well as her Instructions like Painting to see the sky served as calls for peace. Celeste also calls attention to the sky an exceptional, eternal and ephemeral event that still may pass unnoticed to us humans. Going back to art history, celebrated German artist David Friedrich embraced the notion of the sublime and created enormous paintings to show the infinite power of the natural realm. Later in the 19th Century, Impressionists wanted to capture the momentary and transient effect of light and color of landscape and with this aim painted on the spot and out of doors.
The whole concept of the project gets an ever more insightful significance when the layer of NFTs is added to it. As NFTs make it possible to own intangible digital assets - they block data in the blockchain - Lopez plays with the idea of freezing those special moments in nature and selling them as NFTs. By installing a beacon at MAAT in Lisbon on May 17, 2022 - where the physical exhibition will later take place, and another beacon in Paris - where the artist's studio is, López will be generating images that will merge both skies, which will be available on his website. As soon as collectors buy an NFT, the auto-generated algorithm will freeze one of the images of the sky. "You can have an artwork that is the exact moment of day one of the sky in Paris connected to the sky in Lisbon and have this small piece of time that belongs to you." The work is freezing time - something very similar to what Henri Cartier-Bresson called the "Decisive Moment" in photography.
So, Is he really tokenizing the sky? No, he is actually selling his representation of it to shed light on crucial current debates. What is the value of nature? How much does it cost? Can it belong to anyone? For Centuries, man has been creating wars over landscape and natural resources. Titled OLEA, Solimán's other ambitious project also added value to nature by creating a genetically altered olive oil with the DNA of cryptocurrency inside. This very special olive oil was sold as an artwork at Arco Madrid for US$ 25 000.
Apart from the economic and political spheres, there is an environmental point of view also urgent in Celeste: "If the air is clean, we can see colors in the images generated by the beacons. But if it is polluted we cannot see colors at all."
The powerful discussions triggered by Celeste will be intensified as soon as a whole Metaverse dedicated to it kicks off. The NFTs sold by Artpool starting in May will work as a fundraising campaign for the construction of this Metaverse, and collectors who buy the NFTs are also going to get early access to it. In a further step, the community will also get all the technical information to build their own beacon and put the images of their skies in the Metaverse. "Because of the community side of Artpool, I was interested in connecting the project to it. Now we are reaching for collectivity in Celeste. People will be able to create a collection of these special moments, discuss them and share them with other people. It is a romantic gesture and tribute to life", says López. "Let's together create this Metaverse where people can see different skies from different people around the world. It will be a small piece of air on the Internet." One digital sky, where there is no noise and pollution, only peace, collectiveness and union.