Hexagones - Art for Bots for Humans for Print

I figured it'd be a good idea to explain the "Hexagones: Art for Bots for Humans for Print" project a little. More than just it being a print-based generative art drop on fxhash (the prints of which you can buy here). We'll start at the beginning with...

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Hexagones: Art for Bots.

It all started with "A Slight Case of Overbombing", a generative art drop on fxhash of 256 NFTs. For those that don't know, fxhash runs on the Tezos blockchain, itself a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Etherium, but far more ecologically friendly, also called "clean NFTs".

For the Tezos blockchain, a person has a "wallet" that keeps hold of their balance and allows them to perform operations on the blockchain. Typically (for generalisation here), those operations are buying, selling or transferring NFT artwork. But, if you're an artist, those operations will also include registering a project and then launching it. Once launched, other people can then buy ("mint") the artwork until they are all gone.

For various reasons, a few automated "bot" systems were set up to watch my wallet for the publishing and launching actions in preparation for A Slight Case of Overbombing. Partly because I'd previously announced it on Twitter and partially because my previous projects over on ArtBlocks sold out almost instantly, especially the smaller "Bonus" projects with very limited numbers.

The idea is that the moment those bot networks saw the instructions to launch the project, they could swoop in and buy ("mint") the artworks ahead of people watching the website and going through the process manually.

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These bots would then "flip" the artwork, trying to sell it for a mark-up to people who wanted one but couldn't snag one before they all went. The margins are narrow, but with a bot network grinding away buying and selling enough work, a steady profit could be pulled in.

Bot networks are also set up to watch the secondary market for specific projects, looking for people accidentally listing sales far below the proper value.

One bot can sweep in, grab a mispriced artwork, and immediately "flip" it to another bot and so on until finally, a human buys it. There are all sorts of reasons why some art could get passed around various bot networks over a period of time.

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Which led to the question, what would art designed for just the bots look like? If there's this underground network of bots trading in art, why not make some that they can "enjoy". Suppose the bot networks that work on tiny margins used AI to learn what aesthetics humans liked by observing buying and selling patterns. Could they spot a successful project with their "curator's eye" before everyone else? After all, they just need a slight edge, faster reflexes and more turnover with small margins to make a steady passive income.

This is, of course, a design fiction, but one of the jobs of art is to ask questions from within the framework they operate.

In this case, the framework the bots were operating in was to watch my wallet for a project to launch, which we'll come back to in a moment.

I decided that bots probably like Hexagons, clean, sharp lines, and solid blocks of colour. It was also a little reflection on Twitter launching NFT integration. If a Twitter user connects their account to their NFT wallet, they could pick an NFT to be their avatar, displayed not in a standard circle but in an on-the-side hexagon.

As there are bot networks on Twitter, too, it seemed logical (in our design fiction) that a bot operating on the social network, while also trading in NFTs (and trying to manipulate the price of those NFTs via its network) would want an NFT that fitted neatly into that hexagon format.

Now back to our artwork buying bots. A quick observation was that the bots weren't set to attempt to just automatically buy the next project launched from my wallet, (putting them into competition with humans), but rather just to watch for any project launch from my wallet.

This seems reasonable because I'd only announced one project, the "A Slight Case of Overbombing" drop. However, I didn't reveal that almost immediately after that drop, I was also launching the "Hexagones: Art for Bots" project. So-called "Hexagones" instead of "Hexagons" because I knew they'd all be "gone" ("Hex-a-gones", see, a hilarious play on words, I'm so smart) instantly before any actual person knew about them.

Art made explicitly for bots.

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Hexagones: Art for Bots for Humans

As a follow-up, I worked on an updated version ("Hexagones - Art for Bots for Humans") with a design heavily influenced by the retro-future aesthetic of the Designer's Republic, something I remember people back in the late 1990s enjoying.

This was specifically designed to "Air Drop" (the act of transferring an NFT directly from the artist to the collector of a previous piece of work) to holders of an "Hexagones: Art for Bots" artwork, most of which had now moved from the bots to people.

The first "Hexagones" drop was made and sold to bots, the second was gifted to the humans eventually holding those pieces, and the third, well...

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Hexagones: Art for Bots for Humans for Print

Hopefully, it's apparent that the "Hexagones" trilogy is not a set of typical projects but rather a chance to play and explore different mechanisms by which projects can be created on the fxhash platform.

People who know me and follow my work understand my love for print and physical work, so I was looking for a way to fit that into what you can do on fxhash.

There have, of course, previously been generative art projects where the result is a print. Some take the form of a website where you can play with sliders or keep refreshing results until you see something you like and then order a print of it. Others take the form of highly curated results from a generative system and making prints of the best ones.

And it's not uncommon for a project to offer a print of an NFT to the owner of the NFT, something which has happened on both ArtBlocks and fxhash.

The order of operations in those cases is that you buy the NFT and then order a print of it if you wish. With the "Hexagones: Art for Bots for Humans for Print" project, I'm putting that the other way around, someone buys a print, and then the NFT can be transferred to them if they want.

Part of me wishes that the workflow would be automated; you hit the buy button on fxhash, the artwork is generated, sent to print, and finally sent out.

The puzzle pieces are almost there; I can write code to spot when someone buys one of the NFTs, I can write code to upload the results to Shopify automatically. The bit that I can't (easily) do is automate the printing with my favourite print shop, The Print Space. They don't have an API or backend system I can just plug into, and I don't particularly have an interest in working with a different print shop.

It's not unsolvable, but I also understand why someone wouldn't want to commit to "blind buying" a print; you don't know what the result will look like until you've hit the buy button.

This is less of an issue with digital NFTs, where it's relatively trivial to sell the one you got if you're not keen on it and buy a different one on the secondary market.

Instead, with this project, I've decided to pre-mint nine Hexagones, which are then all owned by me. Then send them to the print shop to get printed, wait for them to arrive in the post, number and sign, take photos and finally put them into the shop.

When (and if) someone buys one, I send it off, "mint" another piece, get it printed, and put it into the shop — always attempting to have around nine available at any one time, although, of course, there will be a slight delay when re-stocking.

I particularly enjoy the point we're at in technology that I can have a series of 216 artworks (6x6x6 = 216, to keep with the hexagonal theme) where each one is different. The physical print component can be as unique as the digital NFT part.

I am not expecting to sell all the Hexagons, and I'll be surprised if I sell more than a dozen. As with the other two parts of the project, it's more about the concept, the playing around and pushing at the edges, trying to see just what directions you can take the platform in with a little bit of work.

If you wish to buy one, there will probably be around nine for sale in the shop, maybe less, but give it a few days to get back up to nine, and all will be good. The shop accepts bitcoin/Ethereum/Tezos payments at the checkout stage via coinbase.

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Paper and pricing

This isn't part of the "What is Hexagones" post, but I thought I'd add it here for people interested in such things.

Each one is a Giclée print on Hahnemühle Pearl 285gsm paper, which I've chosen because of how well it's suited to bold colours and retains a lovely subtle texture. The Print Space have this to say about it...

Hahnemüle Pearl has a smooth orange peel texture and a bright neutral white base, it creates really natural black and white images and offers vibrant colour reproduction and great detail too. The paper is resin coated with a fibrous feel. The satin finish of the resin coating gives depth to the image which combined with the texture and vibrant colour reproduction give the image the feel of an oil painting. This is one of the most suitable of the Giclée Art Paper range for mounting.

The print is 12x12 inches, made up of the print area at 11x11 inches with a 1/2 inch border all around. They are numbered and signed.

The general rule of thumb I take with selling prints is to triple the cost of printing, then roll in the shipping costs of it coming to me and sending it out. Normally it would be x5 for signed prints, but in this case, I'm sticking with the x3.

Printing: £14.65
Shipping to me: £11.99
Shipping back out (on average): £11.99

Which means the final price is £14.65 x 3 + £11.99 x 2 = £53.28

Rounding that up to a nice £58 means that there's a profit of £58 - £14.65 - £11.99 - £11.99 = £19.37 on each one.

In various currencies, that makes the final price/profit per print at the time of writing...

Price Profit
£58 £19.37
$72.74 $24.29
26.2xtz 8.75xtz (tezos)

If on the crazy wild not-going-to-happen chance that all 216 prints sold (which they won't), the total profits would be: £4,184/$5,246/1,890xtz.

Considering the time to create the print, order the print, sign and package it, and then put it back into the post, this is most likely a terrible idea.

But it is a fun one!

Once more, the shop is over here:

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