Doing the Math with Daïm Aggott-Hönsch

This article is part of the Alpacawhal interview series A Couple Minutes on Crypto Art, where we talk with brilliant and emerging crypto artists.

In this edition, we are delighted to bring you the apeirographer or artist-mathematician, Daïm Aggott-Hönsch who joins us today to help us understand the world through his lens of mathematical realism.

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch. "Warhol's Gregarious Celestial Flower," 2020 (SuperRare)

Alpacawhal: We are so thrilled that you agreed to talk with us and share more about yourself and your art with the community. Please tell us about yourself, your art and the journey to crypto art for you thus far.

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch: I am a husband and a father, a Hungarian-Canadian immigrant, a Muslim, and, as an artist, an algorist and apeirographer.

My first exposure to art was in the cultural and creative hub of my hometown of Szentendre, through the visual arts classes of a renowned Hungarian artist and educator, the late Jenő Zaszlavik.  Class outings with "Uncle Jenő" to sketch aesthetic architectural details and intricate metalworking accents abundant in the scenic downtown core are among my fondest childhood memories.

Despite this early priming, I found my artistic niche only much later in the early 2010s, when I started exploring fractals.

Years of early experiments, shaped by my novel approach to mathematical art, allowed me to start offering unique visions of the mathematical realm to my viewers and collectors since I started exhibiting in 2016.

Cryptoart, I first encountered mid-to-late 2019, starting out on KnownOrigin and SuperRare in November that year; but it was in the second half of 2020 that I really found my place on the scene, after a surprisingly creatively productive three month quarantine.  Then since my September debut on MakersPlace, I’ve been broadening my artistic range to include AI/GAN art along with more traditional generative works.

Alpacawhal: Fantastic, thank you! Your roots in art are certainly quite unique from the perspective of having an excellent mentor in early art development, to the specifically mathematical nature of your current vision.

Let's talk for a moment on a base level about what these terms you mentioned eariler, algorist and apeirographer actually mean, and how they interrelate with your art. You are calling upon the classical nomenclature to describe the algorithms behind your art and your practice around them in the former term, correct?

What does it mean to you to be an algorist today as compared to those historical algorists who did not have access to modern computing devices?

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch: In calling myself an algorist, an artist who creates their work through the thoughtful use of algorithms, I claim the title that covers the broadest range of my creative output.  And in favouring it to more colloquial terms, I mean to explicitly affirm my work as sharing the transcendental creative stream nourished by the kindred artists that came before me, including the likes of prolific pioneers such as Molnár, Mohr, and Verostko.

Being an algorist with all the privileges of not-so-early 21st century technology, is a curious experience: the power at one's fingertips is nothing short of intoxicating, allowing simultaneous exploration and experimentation in a myriad directions; all the while the legitimacy of digital art, in many people's minds, continues to be an as yet unsettled question.

Early algorists presumably relied a great deal on their visualization in order to conceptualize and refine their works so as to minimize wasted computing cycles, while I scattershot mash my keyboard to update 2-3 lines amidst spurs of inspiration, before recompiling and seeing what comes of my changes--an admittedly inelegant approach that I blame at least partly on my aphantasia.

On the other hand, contemporary algorists, unlike our predecessors, have the added challenge of an unstoppable flood of amateur algorithmic art setting the context for the broader perception and reception of our works.

It was in response to the latter that I first came to write my manifesto and style myself an apeirographer, an artist-mathematician who uses algorithms to capture mathematical entities, properties, and relations in an aesthetic yet faithful manner.

The distinction between algorist and apeirographer has largely to do with intent and methodology.  An algorist has no prescribed one, they are wholly free; an apeirographer, however, is cautious and mindful to select their algorithms in a way that allows them to create fine art that through or despite its aesthetics conveys something truthful about the mathematical entity that is the subject of the given work.

In other words, while the algorist generally tries to wrangle their pre-existing vision into reality through algorithms, whatever happy little accidents may occasionally alter their course notwithstanding; the apeirographer scours the mathematical realm like a natural historian with camouflaged trap cameras, never certain what they’ll find next.

The bulk of my earlier works are apeirographs, often featuring anthropobrots and exotic Pickover biomorphs; whereas my recent efforts have yielded a broader variety of algorithmic works in addition to my continuing apeirographic explorations.

"In calling myself an algorist, an artist who creates their work through the thoughtful use of algorithms, I claim the title that covers the broadest range of my creative output."

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch. "Drifting Dührer," [detail] 2020 (Makersplace)

Alpacawhal: Your manifesto is excellent, and we heartily encourage other artists and would-be apeirographers or contemporary algorists to give it a careful read. You are certainly onto something important an meaningiful in the definition of this type of art, and for that we salute you.

You mention having aphantasia, and that is possibly a condition that not many in the community reading this might be familiar with. If you do not mind, could you please tell us about this condition from your perspective and perhaps share a resource where one might learn more about it?

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch: Aphantasia, definitionally speaking, is a spectrum neuro-atypicality that is characterized by something between a relative poverty of one's ability to consciously mentally visualize, and a complete absence thereof.

I am on the far end of the spectrum.  Upon closing my eyes, there is only the brownish/reddish/blackish darkness of my eyelids failing to stop all light from passing through.

I have never once, while awake, pictured myself on a sandy beach or a lush forest meadow.  I cannot conjure up to myself the faces of my children.  Indeed, I am unable even to make appear to my mind's eye a simple monochrome geomatrical shape like a white circle or a grey triangle.

Statistically speaking, a guaranteed subset of your readers will be incredulous reading this.

Most because they mistakenly assume that conscious visualization is fundamental to a variety of complex mental processes in a way that it is, in fact, not. And a few because they spent their entire lives thinking that mental visualization was an indulgant synonym for "thinking really hard about", much as I used to.

In practical terms, I cannot visualize anything while awake.  Period.  I do dream visually like most people though.  I can hear things with my mind's ear and, for an example, I can "read" things in Morgan Freeman's voice at will.  

My inability to visualize is not an obvious barrier to memory or spatial thinking.  And most significantly, I absolutely can and do constantly imagine things--just not visually.

So as to avoid getting too far down this rabbit hole, let me stop here.  I am, however, happy enough to discuss aphantasia with folks on Twitter or Discord, so don't hesitate to hit me up even if that's all you want to ask me about!

In the meantime though, Blake Ross' excellent article "Aphantasia: How it feels to be blind in your mind"  does a pretty good job of addressing most additional questions people might have.

Alpacawhal: Thanks so much for that clear explanation and personal reflection on Aphantasia. It's fascinating that you can continue to imagine things in non-visual ways. We hope that if our readers want to learn more, they will read Mr. Ross' article on the topic.

Not wishing to dwell on this one characterstic of your physical being, let's please ask instead and again if you do not mind, about your spirtual being. Specifically do you either impart or find elements of spirituality in your art?

Can you explain to us how so?

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch: Apeirography is a fundamentally spiritual activity for me.

Eternally timeless mathematical entities with organically winding shapes and complexity conforming improbably well to anthropic conceptions of beauty have always struck me as being akin to fingerprints of God, whispering of a divine that is beyond bounded understanding yet deeply connected to the very core of what it means to be truly human.

So in a sense, the creation of many of my works is in and of itself an act with spiritual dimensions; a sort of conveying of revelation.

In a less religious sense of spiritual, several of my AI/GAN works embody exhortations to re-examine prevailing ethnoracial norms; an issue that is deeply personal to me, as a caucasian-racialized immigrant with an African American wife and black and mixed children.

"Apeirography is a fundamentally spiritual activity for me."

Alpacawhal: Many artists mention the need to create in order to bring calm, or inner peace in a spirtual way, and some speak of creating art as a meditative process. Do you find this to be a component of the spiritual aspect of your art? Are you for example, entering into your studio to meditate on specific algorithms or processes and then experiencing the spirtualism through the art revealing itself?

What if you were not allowed to make art? Could you go on living the same as you do now and find a similar spirtualism in something else?

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch: I wish I had such a pastoral experience of my own artistic process; but as much as finding and revealing to the world never-before seen mathematical entities of striking aesthetic qualities feels like a spiritual calling, it tends to be accompanied by a restless yearning for the next discovery over the horizon that is antithetical to feelings of serenity.

I would say my spiritual satisfaction comes less from the process itself and more from the achievement of having reified and spread forth a wonder that might otherwise have forever remained outside of human experience.

If I could no longer be artistically productive, I'm not quite sure how I might go about filling the ensuing void.  Perhaps I would immerse myself in comparative Abrahamic theology?  Prior to becoming an algorist and apeirographer in earnest, I spent a lot of time reading about the origins of Christianity and Jewish theology, and continue to have a special love of midrash, both as genre and as method, even as my religious interpretation now obviously involves a Muslim lens.

Alpacawhal: We have always looked at artists as those who boldly dive into depths unknown to the rest of us, learn about those depths, and record what they find to share with the rest of us and it seems your satisfaction is aligned with that sort of sharing the unknown to the universe. We have touched a bit on your  apeirography, and you mentioned your AI/GAN styles too. What about new work, what kinds of new projects are you working on and have you released any new work of late?

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch: I have a few projects underway.  I almost always do.

Firstly, I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks ago when I was approached by VIVΞ, a new cryptoart and NFT market due to launch any day now.

Among the works I submitted to them were some freshly reconceptualized, never-before tokenized works from an algorithmic art series I am calling "Les carrébêtes", born of some years old intellectually stimulating email exchanges with geneticist and evolutionary theorist dr. Eugene M. McCarthy.

I am also actively working on a new algorithmic series that reconceptualizes historic art and iconic photography into still recognizable yet highly abstracted algorithmic works.  These are at a stage, where if I were impatient, I could start tokenizing today... but I think they will prove to be artistically significant, and I would like to find the partner platform and the launch approach that will do the series justice.

Last, but definitely not least, I am incredibly thrilled to be mere days away from tokenizing my AsyncArt debut piece “Extracts from The Mystical Microzoology of Mathematics” after months of labour, of which I can only offer a necessarily limited preview here.

"Taking all layer states into account, this cryptoart work has no fewer than 6.75 trillion visually distinct possible states..."

It is an apeirographic collage of Pickover biomorphs contextualized as a form of pre-verbal symbolic supplicatory prayer purported to be handed down from centuries old tomes of arcane mathematical knowledge.

Through the technological magic of Async Art, this work gives control over the configuration and content to the owners of the constituent layers, allowing collectors to collaboratively change its appearance from the colour of the background and the language of the corner note, down to every last biomorph and the global connective diagram between them.

Taking all layer states into account, this cryptoart work has no fewer than 6.75 trillion visually distinct possible states, each and every one of which is uniquely identified by the folio numbering in the lower left corner, which is not itself an independently controlled layer.

Were we to try to view every possible configuration for only a single second, seeing “Extracts from The Mystical Microzoology of Mathematics” in its entirety would still take in excess of 200,000 years, longer than Homo Sapiens has been around.

My promotional plans for this work, and the incredible apeirographic wonders showcased therein, include offering a series of lagniappe incentives for collectors who purchase certain layers; ways to receive not openly purchasable cryptoart visually and conceptually tied to the Async Art piece.  One of these will benefit only one (presumably the initial) owner of a given layer, but will involve a puzzle that I expect will only be solvable through some degree of community-based collaboration.  

Whereas most of the lagniappe incentives will keep rewarding even secondary-market buyers for years (or even decades!) to come with scarce and exclusive cryptoart pieces not otherwise obtainable, which I hope will keep sporadically refocusing the limelight on this very special first programmable cryptoart project of mine.

"My promotional plans for this work, and the incredible apeirographic wonders showcased therein, include offering a series of lagniappe incentives for collectors who purchase certain layers"

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch. "Spilt Blood is Remembered," 2020 (SuperRare)

In terms of recent releases, I have "Spilt Blood is Remembered" going on Danil Pan's auction block today in support of the #EndSars movement in Nigeria.  It is a work that was created specifically in response to that cause, while conceptually making a broader statement about justice.

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch.. "Fringe Mathematics," 2020 (MakersPlace)

"Fringe Mathematics" is a sort of surrealist textured Pickover biomorph that I am very fond of, playing with the idea of something going inexplicably wrong when one goes against the grain and explores in the wrong direction with a fractal equation.

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch and PxlQ. "Conway's Singularity," 2020 (KnownOrigin)

And "Conway's Singularity" is an absolutely mesmerizing HD video art collaboration with none other than the Cryptoart Queen of Cellular Automata, PxlQ herself!  While being unable to foresee the final outcome is a standard occupational hazard of apeirography in general, in the case of this collaborative work, I was even caught off-guard even more than usual.

PxlQ and I decided to try to do something that combined the most iconic aspects of our respective œuvres: my exotic Pickover biomorphs and her cellular automata.  Given the frequently dynamic nature of PxlQ's cryptoart though, I recognized the opportunity to try something different and new that I have never done before, a biomorph with dynamic textures.

Along the road, I decided that the dynamic nature of PxlQ's cellular automaton texturing would be well complemented by additional motion, and so I decided to rotate the figure, only to realize long after it was done that there was something quirky with my methodology.  The final piece features--alongside the rotation and the dynamic step-movements of PxlQ's work--an incredibly hypnotic dilation and contraction of the biomorph over time.

It just has to be experienced full-screen at least once!

"Upon my acceptance at MakerPlace, I started exploring AI/GAN art with very encouraging results through works like 'Drifting Dührer', 'Le Gioconde', and 'Ancestral Memory'"

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch. "Le sorelle Gioconde dell'orbitale 29," 2020 (MakersPlace)

Alpacawhal: We are virtually speechless.

You are certainly doing innovative and extremely thought provoking work, Daïm and we are absolutley thrilled to help you showcase some of it and share your vision of art through algorism and apeirography here. We wish you all the best of success in your upcoming projects and showings and many successful returns from the gift you have shared with us through your art.

If you'll just humor us on last parting thought...

The crypto art scene is expanding at a rapid pace, with more new people entering daily. What do you think the crypto art community could do to make the space more accessible and welcoming to newcomers? Or what was most helpful for you when onboarding yourself? Feel free to call out any people, platforms, or others that helped you.

Daïm Aggott-Hönsch: I think there is a very genuine openness to new artists, but accessibility could definitely be improved, as there are both technological and social barriers to entry for people who aren't already at least on the margins of the scene.  We are getting better over time though, with a steadily growing list of resources developed specifically with onboarding and artist education in mind, as shown in a recent Twitter thread.

I and many others have also done our fair share of informal direct person-to-person onboarding, walking people through aspects of the technical stuff, community dynamics, market/platform politics, et cetera; which I honestly think is the best approach, giving newcomers some in-the-know contacts from the get-go to rely on.

Some days, we as a community could do a better job of inclusion and promoting diversity, and there can sometimes be an unfortunate inertia in confronting and condemning toxic or otherwise inappropriate behavior when it comes from influential quarters.  But on most days, it's amply clear to me that the majority of cryptoartists and collectors approach one another with nothing but good faith and goodwill; so I expect that as we get more social justice and inclusion-minded individuals with the know-how and leadership skills to show the way forward, our community will not hesitate to take the opportunity grow and evolve in positive directions.

My own cryptoart journey was a long one that began with a lot of baby steps and a few stops and starts.

An invitation to an algorithmic/generative art Telegram group by Helena Sarin (@glagolista) in 2018 or 2019 brought me into a community of like-minded artists, some of whom were already involved with cryptoart, and others who were in the process of taking the leap.

Later in 2019, Tariq Rashid (@rzeta0) was organizing an algorithmic exhibition at the Royal Cornwall Museum in the city of Truro in the United Kingdom, and had approached me asking that I participate, leading to my art being exhibited internationally for the first time as part of Algorithmic Art Season 2019.

Though I have had a number of Canadian exhibitions and had been featured in a few online and hardcopy publications in prior years, the UK exhibition was a strong professional affirmation that emboldened me to strike forth into cryptoart.  By year's end, I had been accepted to both SuperRare and KnownOrigin, tokenizing my genesis works on each platform on December 6th, 2019.

Beyond the platforms themselves, I count Mattia Cuttini (@MattiaC) among my earliest supporters, and I am also grateful for the encouragement I received from WhaleShark (@WhaleShark_Pro) and TokenAngels (@TokenAngels).

The works and professional successes of Matt Kane (@MattKaneArtist
), Tyler Hobbs (@tylerxhobbs), and Frederik Vanhoutte (@wblut) showed me that algorithmic art can be viable and legitimate, at a time when I was struggling with fears about my own art's legitimacy being questioned.

I had an early collaboration with Omar El Sayed (@VansDesign_) that ended up in WhaleShark's Vault, which opened my eye to the breadth of possibilities within my reach in cryptoart.

Then came our petit mal apocalypse in March, 2020, and my life took some unexpected turns, leaving me without access to my primary computer and my ETH wallet for months.  During that time, I found out who the people were in my life that I could count on, and to my surprise with few exceptions, my newfound cryptoart friends and contacts proved both more reliable and more compassionate than many of my long-standing real-life connections.

It was in July that I eventually regained access to my laptop and wallet, and in a way that's when my cryptoart journey experienced its true take-off, thanks in large part to my coming to the notice of Pablo (@pablorfraile) and Colborn (@colbornbell) of Museum of Cryptoart (MOCA) (@MuseumofCrypto) fame.

Alongside their purchases of more than half a dozen of my works in the past five months, I also received a sizeable commission for a permanent solo-exhibition in Somnium Space organized by MOCA and built by the Museum’s own incredible virtual architect Desiree Casoni, which will hopefully be launched later this year.

I see my involvement with MOCA not just as the financial blessing that it was, but also as being positively foundational and direction-setting for my career as a professional cryptoartist going forward, since Pablo and Colborn have shown me that a positive Artist-Collector relationship can be so much more than just a fleeting commercial transaction.

Building on these successes, I then applied to MakersPlace and Async Art with the intention of expanding the artistic breadth and impact of my work.  Upon my acceptance at MakerPlace, I started exploring AI/GAN art with very encouraging results through works like "Drifting Dührer", "Le Gioconde", and "Ancestral Memory"; and at Async Art, I started my months long labour of love that became "Extracts from The Mystical Microzoology of Mathematics" that we touched on earlier.

Throughout all this, I found cryptoart acquaintances steadily becoming friends and supporters, both among fellow artists and collectors.

Fabin Rasheed (@fabinrasheed) in particular has been a rock of support and encouragement to me, even after rising to his well-deserved position as a top cryptoartist through his artistically striking and conceptually brilliant works, including his numerous trailblazing projects in the area of algorithmic and interactive art, like "Pilgrimage" and "Regalia".

On top of those already mentioned, I am also grateful to many other incredible artists and amazing collectors for their kindness, support, and encouragement, as well as for amplifying the reach of both my voice and my art, including @artbymitrai, @tsmoreau, @stina_jones, @pxlqqq, @Arjitkapoor, @skygolpe, @theAngieTaylor, @MehakJainArt, @Gala_Mirissa, @MadolfD, @timrix, @xray9876543210, @b0esium, @SteveCeppaluni, and too many others to list exhaustively, without whom I could not be where I am today.

So my big heartfelt thanks to all of you, fam!

And thank You, Alpacawhal, for the incredible opportunity of doing this interview with you!


We hope you enjoyed A Couple Minutes on Crypto Art with Daïm Aggott-Hönsch, and make sure to share this with a friend and donate to Alpacawhal if so.

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