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Bård Ionson: Am I an Artist? Journey to SuperRare

Nov 10, 2020 Artist Statements

4 years ago

A Time To Protest (owned by Pindar)
Edition 1 of 1
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to embrace and a time to distance, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. a time to be silent and a time for protest

You may ask how did I get here? I have to credit, lucky timing, lots of entropy and curiosity.

I have always been a creative person but it was always centered on the written word.

My path in life always seemed to be to driven by technology. I began programming after I bought the cheapest computer I could afford. (TI/99 4A) I actually created early digital art with it but of course there was no market for a teen in the 80s.

In college I majored in computer information systems but my favorite classes were literature and creative arts. But the demand for labor led into the computer and programming field. I did have fun getting my first employer onto the world wide web however.

But in 2011 I began thinking that I could be an artist. I was visited by Nam June Paik in that year. It was at a resort that had a large collection of artwork. Every room had at least five works of art displayed. The game room had a Nam June Paik sculpture with his signature videos running on the TV CRT screens that made up the sculpture. It was a work called “Internet Dweller

Communing With Internet Dweller mpbdcg.ten.sspv (owned by roses)
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A glitch scan of Nam June Paik’s Internet Dweller mpbdcg.ten.sspv sculpture installation. I used my unique glitch scanner to scan this from the catalog from Paik’s traveling exhibition called “The Electronic Superhighway: Nam June Paik in the 90’s”. Read about it -> http://bit.ly/internetDweller

Perhaps Nam June Paik left his soul in the Dweller and it spoke to me. As I studied the career of Nam June Paik and searching for the other Internet Dwellers in the series it became clear that I could be an artist.

My present reality had formed in 1974 before I had even started programming. The convergence of art, programming, the internet and a network for artists had been conceived by Nam June Paik in his paper: Media Planning for the Postindustrial Age – The 21st Century is now only 26 years away In it he coined the phrase Electronic Superhighway and asked for funding to build a worldwide network exclusively built for artists.

So I began sketching my art ideas. I was searching for a style I guess. Most of my early ideas were interactive installation sculptures. I made sculptures and mobiles from old electronics. I started making videos. I came across software that would turn SVG drawings into sound and when played on oscilloscope would make images on the screen. Then I warped the sound to make it animate and recorded it to play on iPod Nanos for a multi-channel sculpture.

Battledore 21st Century (owned by boypreviousdoor)
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A battledore is tablet used to teach children the alphabet. It often had images for each letter and a poem or prayer. This version contains brands and icons of modern weapons of war which include information technologies, social media and finance. Made by hand drawings of letters and images using vector graphics on a digital tablet. Then converted into sound and manipulated with signal processing and output on an oscilloscope then back to digital gif files and formed into a matrix. Analog, digital, analog and then digital. http://bit.ly/battledore21

Why oscilloscopes? The first digital art ever created appeared on early computers outfitted with oscilloscopes for screens. The Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) computer was one of these computers that I have featured in my art.

The HODL Frame of North Bay Canada (owned by tokenangels)
Edition 1 of 1
The SAGE Anomaly An underground computer in North Bay Canada in 1966 starts generating unknown symbols. Recreation of events using artificial intelligence techniques. Read the story: http://bit.ly/sageAnomaly Image from: http://bit.ly/WikipediaSage

I tried to enter these works into art shows that required entry fees but that did not seem to work well for me.

I learned how therapeutic it was to make art. I would just forget about everything that was depressing me and just make something.

Subversion Of The Cross (owned by roberthouse)
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And the flame still burns.

During the beginning of this time of exploration in 2011 – 2013 I was struggling with my spirituality. I think art was replacing my old beliefs. I lost faith in what I had been taught all my life. Creating art filled in and was more mentally healthy than trying to justify the paradox of what I used to believe in.

Then 2016 ended and the election sent me deep into making more art. It was now a form of political protest for me. The many protests of 2016-2020 inspired the title image which I made using gas mask images.

The Scream of Anxiety (owned by hex6c)
Edition 1 of 1
Glitch scanography – created by moving the scan bar of a broken scanner over a computer screen showing this video from Eric Souther https://vimeo.com/285885318 Inspired by Edvard Munch

Along the way I read “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I started creating one of the machines described in the book. The Soul Scroll or as it was called by Offred – Holy Roller. A person would pay a small amount of money for a prayer to be printed and read aloud. This was important for women because they were not permitted to read and it generated money for the “church / government”.

I created a machine that would print out random prayers when requested by a tweet and then read them out loud. But I wanted a digital micropayment system that would allow people to pay for the prayer.

Well, this sent me into a wormhole I have not returned from. I found cryptocurrency and began following people in the cryptocurrency space like SteemIt and Ethereum.

The next series of events happened so quickly I cannot remember what sequence they happened in. It was the summer of 2018.

I came across ArtNome Jason Bailey’s blog in my searches for art and cryptocurrency. He had just posted that SuperRare was looking for artists. So, I sent SuperRare a request to be on the platform with some of my oscilloscope and scanography art. They seemed interested in June 2018. But when I sent Jon Perkins what I had in mind to tokenize I did not hear back.

I had sent them some of my experimental works and political pieces with little context. Not sure why but I did not hear back from them.

Around this time I found out about Robbie Barrat. Being a programmer I had already been following the artificial intelligence / machine learning space. Later I saw he was showing work on SuperRare.

But I became really interested when I saw Edmund de Belamy sell at Christie’s. I had already been thinking about trying Robbie’s ART-DCGAN project. It turned out that the AI model the artists of Edmund used was created by Robbie.

I spent about a week trying over and over to get the software to work. It relied on older NVIDIA packages so the configure process was time consuming. But when I got it working, the first set of training I gave it, was my oscilloscope art – 20,000 frames of oscilloscope images.

The output was amazing. I immediately started sharing it on twitter and tagging Robbie on it. Robbie replied within minutes saying how much he loved it.

I wrote a blog post describing my process and presenting the images I had created. I wanted to give the work a story and some context this time around. I sent an email back to Jon Perkins about joining SuperRare again with the blog post. He replied saying that he had already read the blog post and that they had accepted me to the platform.

Alien Intelligence (vk_crypto)
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The SAGE series. In 1959 a classified massive computer with 24 building size processing units spread across North America came online. Called SAGE its goal was to detect Russian nuclear bombers and fire missiles in a semi-automatic way to shoot them down. It was operated by thousands of military personnel and computer scientists watching oscilloscope screens. One day in 1966 in the underground bunker in North Bay Canada, the large projection screen, instead of displaying a map with dots for aircraft, progressively showed a series of images, icons and eventually letters. It was as if an alien intelligence was learning to communicate with humans by reading the knowledge in the computer. (fiction) See full story at https://www.patreon.com/posts/sage-anomaly-22775973 There is a secret message in the last frame.

On November 20, 2018 I minted my first artwork. Accompanied by a short story about the SAGE computer possessed by an AI entity. It got its first two bids the next day. I accepted the final bid to VK Crypto about six days later.

The Entity Meets Homo Sapien (owned by artwhale)
Edition 1 of 1
In 1966 two military computer nodes in Canada begin generating unknown symbols in an incident known as “The SAGE Anomaly”. http://bit.ly/sageAnomaly This is one of the possible symbols reconstructed using the DCGAN machine learning technique. (Historical Science Fiction)

The journey was just starting and yet I keep mining the experiences of my past into the present as art.

Desolation Of Empire (owned by zaphodok)
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With apologies to Thomas Cole. The empire is extinct, the landscapes burn and regenerate after being destroyed by the political power and money. Manifest Destiny was a lie. Look closely and you will see signs of a crumbled empire. A collage of many landscapes (including those by Thomas Cole) and images of Trump campaigning made with machine learning software created by Robbie Barrat and a model he curated with historical landscapes from wikiart.org bit.ly/art-dcgan. Robbie did not collaborate on this work as I just used a portion of his model with permission.

The Journey Continues

The artists on SuperRare are amazing. Coming in as a new artist they accepted my ideas and art. It made me even more sure that I could be a better artist. Hackatao asked for my work to be in his exhibition “Fight Fear” It was a great honor and exciting to be in my first international exhibition. And then on top of it all he purchased the work I showed.

Big Net Of Dreams (owned by Hackatao)
Edition 1 of 1
The big dreams of my neural network. Special release for @Hackatao’s https://superrare.com/hackatao art show in Italy. I used Robby Barrat’s art-DCGAN against 20,000 images of my personally created oscilloscope art and this is what happens when attempting to create a 2,336 × 2,336 image. See how I made it – http://bit.ly/aiofart I find this particular one artistic.


Bård Ionson

Bård Ionson is an artist who is a relative beginner with art but has spent a career working with computers and programming. He is now creating digital art and video art using oscilloscopes, scanners and artificial intelligence technologies.



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