The Magical World of Morning Calm

Flock Talk Issue 2: Conversations about AI Art and Culture

Encouraged by your responses to FLOCK TALK Issue 1, we present our second effort. Today's essay finds us falling down David Sheldrick's rabbit hole; Where at the bottom we find, unsurprisingly, many easter eggs.

1. Newest FlamingoTV Episode: Ambien(t)

13 short films that offer an ambient view on life. Ups. Downs. But the beat goes on. Featuring pieces by The Mike Elf, Le Moon, Panaviscope, Legio X, Leo Espinoza, Chris Royal King, Iv Solyaev, Jon Uriarte, Puff Yachty, Belowsubconscious and Timur Nugmanov.

2. FLOCK TALK X Space:

Join Jonas, Chikai and guests on Friday at Noon ET to talk about AI Art and Culture.

Follow this link to set a reminder to join our X space this Friday.

3. Essay: The Magical World of Morning Calm

Occasionally you come across a piece of art that makes you stop and stare.  What is happening here, you ask?  Upon closer inspection you note layers of complexity that contrast with each other.  You wonder how all these disparate images come together to form a cohesive whole.  Perhaps, you are looking at a work of Collage Art.  

The earliest works of collage appeared from the cubists in early 20th century France. Paintings by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso show a layering of often unrelated images, while mid-century artists brought the technique to widespread collectability. 

Robert Rauschenberg’s Signs (1970) summarizes the iconic symbols of the 1960s.  The piece was commissioned by Newsweek magazine, and then rejected as being darkly political and anti-war.  Even the optimistic astronaut couldn’t save the piece.

David Hockney pioneered photo-collage including a nude montage of his wife Theresa Russell, for the movie Insignificance where she was playing Marilyn Monroe.  Fast forward to our Web3 world, where artists including Coldie and Justin Aversano have minted the medium.

Decentral Eyes - Vitalik Buterin - Variant 02 by Coldie: https://superrare.com/artwork/decentral-eyes---vitalik-buterin---variant-02-645
Cognition #117. Everyone Has A Moment by Aversano: https://opensea.io/assets/ethereum/0x6b6dd0c1aab55052bfaac891c3fb81a1cd7230ec/117

Which brings us to David Sheldrick and Morning Calm. Morning Calm is the name of the 100 piece collection that Sheldrick recently released as part of Fellowship Trust's Post Photographic Perspectives III: Taming The Machine exhibition. David Sheldrick is a British Korean artist, and this collection takes the viewer on a tour of his Korean life experiences - past, present, and imagined future. His work is both a criticism and a celebration of Korean culture. As a self-proclaimed "Englishman in Korea", Sheldrick's work walks the line between an idealized vision of Korea and the undeniable reality of a population roiling with uncertainty and unrest.

The Beauty Of It All. Sheldrick.

To understand Sheldrick, you need to get his mantra: Things that are complicated are better. He says that even as a child, he believed that things are more interesting when they are difficult. To wit he has designed an impossibly complicated workflow that involves generating hundreds of thousands of candidate images from which a handful are selected and ruthlessly upscaled against other candidate images until the details become fractal. Sheldrick's works are technically astounding. His process creates two distinct hallmarks that I have yet to find elsewhere in the AI art world.

First, his works become collages through the recursive upscaling process. By using his own upscaling algorithm that makes a piece more detailed, he is giving his AI permission to insert patterns and images beyond what the artist considered. This leads to a plethora of "easter eggs" that are exciting to discover. Did you contemplate The Beauty Of It All shared above? Perhaps you paused long enough to see the man standing at water's edge? What about the man below him who is part moss and part waterfall? How about the woman to the far left? Or the ones in the trees? Or the dog?? These collage-like artifacts are the byproduct of Sheldrick's process; which pulls images that may have started as a face in the crowd of one of Sheldrick's iPhone photos into this wonderland.

The Beauty Of It All, Revealed

I found 27 artifacts in this piece, and i'm sure i've missed some. Almost all of the Morning Calm collection has this kind of intrigue. Here is a link to the piece in high resolution.

Secondly is the fractal detail of his work. Zoom into this work and the view becomes otherworldly. A reflection of the colorful leaf canopy turns out to be a whole coastline. A shallow pool becomes a sheltered ocean cove, complete with roads, boats, and seaside accommodations.

Detail from The Beauty Of It All

Sheldrick comments that his work is "designed for print". But that is probably an understatement. His work is designed for immersion. At least I for one want to put on my Apple Vision Pro and get up-close and personal with this collection. Simple screens do not do it justice. Morning Calm has several pieces available on the secondary market. You can see them here on Artblocks Marketplace.

4. What we collected this week

After last week's minting maelstrom, this week has been much more restrained. I minted Vector Spam, a conceptual AI piece from friend of the Flock ChrisF | Starholder. His collection 20 Minutes into The Future explores a trifecta of novel concepts: 1) Token-incentivized free to mint art 2) The Base Blockchain 3) Websim.ai, a meta-platform for simulating the world as you want it to be. 0xChrisF is a must-follow on X. IYKYK.

5. Further readings:

  • SORA Wrangling. Early reports from the bleeding edge of the hotest new AI generation tool that is yet to be available to mere mortals. https://www.fxguide.com/fxfeatured/actually-using-sora/

  • The Oscar Goest To.... David M. Comfort! For this amazing X post recreating cinematographer styles in Midjourney using the style reference function (--sref). The thread covers the work of 20 different cinematographers.

  • Down Bad. Its been a rough 12 months for bluechip NFTs versus eth. The convention says that when ETH goes up, NFT's go down vs ETH. And when ETH goes down, NFT's go down vs ETH. But when ETH goes sideways, NFTs go up vs ETH. Sheesh. I need a glass of Pinot.

    h/t the fine folks at Squiggle DAO https://www.squiggledao.com/data
  • Antxx's original tweet which was the genesis for the Sheldrick deep dive essay. I'd like to claim that I knew of this complexity when I max minted Sheldrick, but my knowledge at the time was purely aesthetic surface level.

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