The Future of Cyberangels

Grandfather of NFTs

The Future of Cyberangels

Like the Indian chief watching my Rembrandt inspired cyberangels flying from the spiritual world to the virtual metaverse to the universe of green grass and colorful flowers on the lawn of the Butler Institute of American Art in Ohio.

Future ethereal cyberangels will take flight from NFTs via Etherium blockchain technology. Beyond our watching them, they will watch us. They will be programmed to respond to the cries of the world by analyzing digital news signals and algorithmicaly making decisions that modify their behavior.

Web 3.0 NFT technologies extend earlier technologies with which I have freed Rembrandt’s angels from the surface of the paper of his drawings and etchings, to come alive as they leap from their static life on canvas, breaking out from being trapped in decorative frames.

Since Rembrandt was the master at telling Bible stories with angels in his paintings, drawings, and etchings, my wife Miriam and I went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to see them up close. He created an etching of Jacob’s dream for the only book he illustrated based upon the verse: “A ladder was standing on the ground, its top reaching up towards heaven as divine angels were going up and down on it.” (Genesis 28:12) The angels in Jacob’s dream go up from the Land of Israel and go down throughout the world heralding a message of peace: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

My cyberangels were born when I realized that the Hebrew term for “visual art” in the Bible is “thoughtful craft,” a feminine term. When I transformed it in my mind into its masculine form, it became “computer angel.” I rushed to tell Miriam that I discovered that my role as a male artist is to create computer angels! I was equipped to create them as the head of the art department at Pratt Institute where I created and taught the course “Fine Art with Computers” and was simultaneously research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies.

When I invited Francoise Gilot to give a lecture at Pratt about her new book Matisse and Picasso: A Friendship in Art, she dedicated a copy to me by writing: "To Mel Alexenberg who sees angels in computers and computers in Angels."

Reading how Rembrandt would be celebrated worldwide on October 4, 1989, the 320th anniversary of his death, it dawned on me that I could applaud the great master best by having his winged angels wing their way around the world. I phoned AT&T and asked if I could use their telecommunications systems to send a cyberangel on a circumglobal flight. The public relations people liked the idea and AT&T sponsored my memorial fax-art event.

I launched a cyberangel from the AT&T building in New York on October 4th. It flew to Amsterdam to Jerusalem to Tokyo to Los Angeles, returning to New York on the same afternoon. When it passed through Tokyo, it was already the morning of October 5th. Cyberangels can not only fly around the globe, they can fly into tomorrow and back into yesterday. They reshape our concepts of time and space. See more about this global event through images and the text from my book The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age at AT&T Circumglobal Angel Flight.

The range of my artworks is considerably more extensive than my Rembrandt inspired cyberangels in flight. For example, during the same period, I linked my background as a biologist to the emerging digital technologies to create an artwork that integrates wet molecules of living systems with dry molecules of high tech systems to create a moist-media artwork.

In my studio/laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I collaborated with my son Ari in creating a generative art work called “Inside/Outside”. It is an interactive self-portrait that leaps out of its golden frame to come alive. Ari’s high tech and conceptual art background that helped develop “Inside/Outside” is invaluable as my partner in exploring the leading-edge of NFT technologies for developing future art forms.

Inside/Outside is a digital biofeedback system through which one’s internal mind/body processes generate continually changing video self-portraits. The subject’s facial features change color and change size and form by stretching, elongating, extending, rotating, replicating, or by other computer graphics effects. “Inside/Outside” became part of my 1989 “LightsOROT: Spiritual Dimensions of the Electronic Age” exhibition in New York praised by the ARTnews critic: “Rarely is an exhibition as visually engaging and intellectually challenging.”

Flash forward three decades from the fax-art generation of 1989 to the ubiquitous digital culture of smartphones and social media. It was the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s leaving his legacy for posterity. Unlike fax technology where the cyberangel went from one city to the next on its circumglobal flight, I launched cyberangels on October 4, 2019 into the cloud, a vast number of computers interconnected through the Internet. My Rembrandt inspired cyberangels ascended from the Land of Israel and came down into the thirty museums on five continents that have my artworks in their collections. See Global Tribute to Rembrandt.

Rapidly developing technologies are giving rise to NFTs that are expanding from static to dynamic forms. Cyberangels can reside in a blockchain as reproductions of the images on my Rembrandt inspired prints and paintings that never change even if animated. As you can see from my AT&T and MIT projects, I am interested in creating dynamic NFTs of cyberangels in flight. Most of my artworks, in both virtual and real space and time, have been dynamic, interactive, dialogic, collaborative, kinetic, participatory, responsive, exploratory – art that leaps out of the box.

In anticipation of these new directions in virtual art forms, I wrote about the Metaverse in the chapter “Postdigital Perspectives” in my my highly acclaimed book The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age published by Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press in 2011. Parallel to my work as an artist working at the leading-edge of emerging technologies, I am writing a new book Metaverses: Creating Spiritual and Virtual Worlds.