Supermental is a long-form generative art series consisting of 400 editions releasing April 5th 2022 on Art Blocks.
The seed of inspiration for Supermental stems from Max Tegmark’s book Life 3.0. In the opening chapter he grabs the readers’ attention with a fictional story about the inventions of the world’s first general AI.
In this story, the corporations behind the AI decide to commercialise it by creating animated TV series in which each show and episode can be tailored to the viewer. This resonated deeply with me and I spent weeks imagining this future and what the first steps towards this future might look like.
The first clue outside of AI and machine learning came when I heard Snowfro – the creator of Art Blocks – describe on-chain generative art on the Kevin Rose podcast in early 2021. I immediately made the connection to Max’s fictional story and wanted to explore the technology.
I saw generative art as this machine that could produce endless unique outputs. First as on-chain art, and later as larger animated on-chain productions.
So in May 2021 I began working on the project that is now known as Supermental. An exploration of how far I could push my generative art to resemble an animated TV show.
Not long into the project I reached out to a good friend and shared my vision and early prototype. We soon joined forces and have been working together on the project ever since. The project was then known as The Nomies but we changed the titel to make a deeper connection with mental health, which we see as one of the bigger challenges to get right in the Web3 space.
Now a team, we soon realised that our goal was somewhat ambitious.
We worked through thousands of iterations to get a feel of the balance of the algorithm. Too constrained and you would get predictable good results but get bored looking through hundreds of iterations. Too loose and mayhem would erupt with uncontrollable creatures – also known as Nomies – flying everywhere.
We further complicated the project by creating three separate mental states. Each output will have one of these three mental states as a default but viewers can toggle between the three states simply by clicking on the animation.
This meant that every tweak we introduced needed to work across all three states. This meant a lot of thinking and a lot of testing.
Can generative art tell stories?
One of the most difficult aspects of Supermental was to get the compositions right. Having multiple Nomies in the same frame makes the compositions fun and dynamic. They tell stories of love, loss… and superheroes. This was one of the main goals – to use generative art to tell stories.
We also experimented with dialogue but found it impossible to implement in a meaningful way due to the limitations of the Etherium Network (read: very expensive). In the future though, or on another chain…who knows.
The various compositions
To get a balanced body of work we created multiple compositions, here known as formations. This way we could make room for various interplay, while also making sure that we got clean compositions with just a single Nomie which can give some iconic results.
Below are the various formation types.
The color palettes was one of the most fun things to explore. Often working with a gradient in the balanced mode, we pull the two colors from a semi random spectrum.
Here, you can see some of the earlier experiments with light direction, shadows and color depth.
Early work with gradient, light direction and shadow
Early work with gradient
For the Loss aversion and FOMO state we pull the color from the top corner and use this as stroke or fill depending on the state. On the FOMO state the color will often work as both the background color and fill color for the Nomies. To give the FOMO state more variety we introduced a white color towards the end of the project. This makes some features on the Nomies stand out more but can also result in a white-out where the background and Nomies are all white, even though the balanced state is a different color.
In total we have 18 different color palettes. Below each color palette is shown in the balanced state. Depending on the background – also known as Worlds – you might get very different results when toggling between the three mental states.
The backgrounds – or worlds as we have called them – are one of the more interesting parts of the Supermental project. This is really where the variations and surprises comes to life. Each world is shown differently across the three mental states and depending on the combination of world and color palette they can look very different. To save bandwith for both humans and machines I have screen recorded three of the worlds, where you can see me toggle through all three states. The rest is a still image. If you enjoy the collection I encourage you to explore all worlds in all three states.
I hope you enjoyed this breakdown of the project and I hope that you enjoy the art. Supermental has been so much fun to create. I’ll let you be the judge of how far we made it on our mission to push generative art towards on-chain storytelling and animated TV shows.
We are only just getting started…
Take great care of your mental health and those around you.
Love & Peace ❤️