Simple Systems, Complex Outputs - The NFT Art of Leander Herzog

Leander has been playing and creating with generative code for more than a decade...

Today we’ll learn a bit about Leander Herzog’s career and NFT journey. He is one of those NFT artists that broke into the metaverse on the Tezos blockchain and has amazed substantial success by making generative art (or coded art). In 2021, He minted his first piece like many other creators. Nevertheless, his design career dates back to the mid-2000’.

I started making images with code in 2006, as a student. Because I shared my work on Flickr, I got a lot of opportunities to work with agencies, publications, organizations, and people from all over the world. So I was able to survive, not as an artist, but as someone who makes interesting stuff in a design and branding context. Another dude at the intersection of art and technology as they say.

Growth by Leander Herzog. ETA 2007

Growth by Leander Herzog. ETA 2007.

As we have seen from many artists featured in my newsletter, NFTs provided a new medium to showcase and monetize Leander’s artistic talent.

When the 2008 crisis hit, it was all game over. I then focused on making websites, which is what I did full-time from 2009 to 2021. As a designer and engineer, your job is to be invisible. But the tools we use to build brands and experiences online have a lot of overlap with the toolset I use to make generative art. So in the last decade, I did not make a lot of art, which is due to the difficult situation with the digital art market, but also a lack of perspective. NFTs have changed that and now there is at least the possibility to make art with code. Does this mean we're all gonna make it? I don't think so. But some of us, maybe, actually could. In 2010, that was just not possible.

ic-28154fac-389e-45df-aeb5-c9d7da671c95 by Leander Herzog

ic-28154fac-389e-45df-aeb5-c9d7da671c95 by Leander Herzog

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How did you discover NFTs?

I did not discover NFTs, NFTs have taken over timelines in 2021 until it was too much to ignore.

At some point, you have to jump in to figure out if and how this actually works. I was lucky to start exploring NFTs on HicEtNunc via Tezos, thanks to Mario Klingemann and a few other artists I follow. They were the most reasonable voices in the discussion around this technology.

Personally, I am a big fan of his Very Large Array collection. This autonomous system produces audiovisual output that keeps “looping” infinitely. The audio can certainly shock you the first time you open this work (you are advised!), but it adds to the concept very well. It reminds me of a software program crashing by running out of memory. The cheapest available Large Array in the market is around 18 Tezos (~$60), but there are only 20 pieces listed for sale.

Very Large Array by Leander Herzog

Very Large Array by Leander Herzog - Very Large Array is a generative token, and it creates one vast array to generate both visuals and audio. It is made with javascript, WebGL, and the web audio API.

Can you tell me a bit about your creative process?

My process is often based on a specific idea or visual inspiration, everything from prior art to dreams to random images I scroll by. Sometimes this works out, sometimes not. Maybe I manage to build what I had in mind, but then it's just not as interesting as expected. Imagination and rendering tend to be even more different than expected, even if I really should know better by now! So it is more common that I'm just playing with a specific technique or method and exploring the results.

Returns #12 by Leander Herzog

Returns #12 by Leander Herzog - Interactive piece, click on the image to generate a new form

I'm trying to keep a very short feedback loop between input and visual output. That's why I love simple systems that allow for complexity to emerge. It's about the asymmetry between expressing an idea with simple means and the complexity of the visuals it can generate. Some of it is an inherent property of the medium, the rest is whatever we build on top of that. I always work on multiple ideas and have a lot of drafts in my monorepo which is also my studio and website. Sometimes I get stuck, then I move on to some new idea. Sometimes I pick up an old idea and take it elsewhere. Or I delete it if it does not feel interesting anymore.

One thing that NFTs add to the process, is the need to declare something as finished, or at least final enough to mint.

Alp by Leander Herzog

Alp by Leander Herzog - A collection of minimal abstract swiss landscapes.

Who are your favorite NFT artists?

Because they are friends, or because they engage with this new tech in an interesting way. There are so many more, I'm still catching up with all the new names from 2021.

Andreas Gysin, Andrew Benson, Arc, Coco Magnusson, Dmitri Cherniak, Eran Hilleli, Galo Canizares, Glauber, John Karel, Kim Asendorf, Kjetil Golid, Lirona, Loackme, Loren Bednar, Makio135, Marcel Schwittlick, Marius Watz, Martin Houra, Matt DesLauriers, Mchx, Nicolas Sassoon, Pixelfool, Rafael Rozendaal, Sam Tsao, Shir Pakman, Zach Lieberman. And, again, so many more.

112b-1634755146 by Leander Herzog

112b-1634755146 by Leander Herzog

What does your NFT future holds?

I think my generation has a trauma because we've been very very excited about the so-called intersection of art and technology, for a long time. But almost nothing happened, nobody cared, there were few opportunities and tiny budgets. So my path to working in the design and tech industry, instead of doing more art, is probably representative of a lot of people who were into generative art long before NFTs.

I'm still making websites and web applications, also working on a website right now. If the markets go back to a 2021 vibe, I will probably stop making websites because making art *is* just more fun and there is more money in it too. If not, there will be more websites and commercial design and development work. I can't imagine NFTs going away, but sadly I can imagine the world and markets becoming even more of a trash fire, and that'll have a big impact on what we do. We'll see, hoping for the best.

Don’t forget to follow Leander on his Twitter account. You can also check out his website here.

Until next time,


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