In Conversation with Samsy cover photo


In Conversation with Samsy

by Jeff Davis

Samuel Honigstein (Samsy), is a creative coder, technical director, teacher and digital artist. He has been involved in various projects including large 3D music festivals, augmented reality exhibitions, virtual reality documentaries, VJ-ing, generative systems, and data-visualizations. He is helping people understand the technical and graphical challenges that might one day influence the very fabric of the web and the metaverse, and making things to help creatives answer their questions, such as 3D interactive graphics, VR prototypes, computational code and visual arts.
Jeff Davis: Hi Samsy! It’s great to meet you. How did you first get into making art?
Samuel Honigstein: I took an interest in street art (light painting, photography, graffiti, beat-making) when I was younger, and a lot of my friends were already into things like music, graphic design and filmmaking. I think that helped give me strength to undertake and believe in an artistic career.
JD: How did computers make their way into your desire for artmaking?
SH: Who can’t be interested in generative systems, computational applications, parameterization, performances, and simulations?! Real time generative artworks are fascinating: they just pop out as a result of math, physics, shading and a bit of creativity. Each frame is calculated in a fraction of time and leaves spaces for a lot of live parametrization and live retouching. Once your system is ready, the time friction between “how I want the thing to be” and “what I’m seeing now” is dramatically reduced. I’d define coding as a kind of superpower that turns any weird dreams into an interactive mode. On top of that, creating a generative system on the blockchain is like engraving one amongst infinite possible variants of the same artwork. Of those possibilities, 99.9% are unreadable—move one parameter to the left and you get chaos, move it the other way and you get order. It is like being an explorer looking for a little gem in a world of confusion and noise.
JD: You touched on blockchain, how did you discover NFTs and crypto art?
SH: In 2017, crypto was crazy and that’s when I first started. I abandoned it that same year, then came back in early 2021. I woke up one morning with a few NFT sales on my Twitter feed and was immediately intrigued. I looked at SuperRare and saw a few profiles like mine, technical artists producing for commercials originally that were finally free from the standard delivery calendar and production rushing system. I bumped into Benoit Pagotto, RTFKT Co-Founder, at that time, before they had today’s success, and had a lot of conversations with him. I then started to believe in a new way to produce my art in its raw form and finally fight the impostor syndrome with the help of the crypto and the NFT community.
Samuel Honigstein (Samsy), Capital One Brand Visualizations, 2018. Data visualization art commission for Hush Design Agency. View more..jpeg
Samuel Honigstein (Samsy), Capital One Brand Visualizations, 2018. Data visualization art commission for Hush Design Agency. View more.
JD: How has your creative practice changed over time?
SH: I originally studied to be a designer, but had a very strong attraction to interactive art. Not relying on other people while coding was a pretty good reason to start coding things by myself to develop my own ideas. I coded my first art installation back in 2013 which was turning static light-painting photography into a real-time, in-video experience in Openframeworks (C++). I was hired at a web agency while studying at Gobelins School in Paris where I started coding webGL on my own. This technology was very poorly documented at the time; it was very chaotic. Then Google Creative Lab London contacted me for an opportunity as a creative technologist for their team in London, where I developed more physical Installations/huge touch screens. Following this job, I turned freelancer and grew my signature technique into some neo-future digital pieces of real-time interactive art. As a last point, and as a retro-gaming lover with a lot of time to experiment, I recently learned to hack Gameboy ROMs and hardware to build my own Gameboy working cartridges as hardware art.
Samuel Honigstein (Samsy), World Exposition Dubaï, 2020. Art commission for @Dogstudio..png
Samuel Honigstein (Samsy), World Exposition Dubaï, 2020. Art commission for @Dogstudio.
JD: Oh man, that sounds really cool. Do you have any major accomplishments you’d like to share?
SH: The biggest project I’ve been involved in so far was as a 3D Technical Director of the Dubai World Exposition website for nine months. We recently won several awards from the web community. It is like a small metaverse where you could visit almost all the world countries’ pavilions. Because of the pandemic, I’ve been asked to work on more and more projects that bring a virtual alternative to physical events. Crypto brands are also asking me to help them on their projects. On top of that, I also helped RTFKT on the CryptoPunk Sneakers website and the recent Clonex Avatar project website, which was very “Ghost in the Shell” like.
Samuel Honigstein_Samsy_Jiometory No Compute #0.gif
Samuel Honigstein (Samsy), Jiometory No Compute - ジオメトリ ハ ケイサンサレマセン #0, 2021.
JD: Alright, let’s get into your upcoming Art Blocks project. What was the inspiration for Jiometory No Compute - ジオメトリ ハ ケイサンサレマセン?
SH: The original idea comes from the field of artistic data visualization. It considers each unique artwork iteration as an expression of an input dataset. If you feed the machine with a different set of data, shapes morph, behavior evolves, and the look changes. This felt right with a randomly deterministic system. I’ve always been influenced by abstract geometry versus organic types of art. This is an exploration field in the non-figurative dimension where occasionally, with some imagination, you can perceive some part of our figurative world such as a sea, a mountain, or a landscape. My own perception about the aesthetics of the project makes me travel back in a rainy Tokyo at night, with neon color palettes and reflective floors.
JD: What should collectors look for in your Art Blocks project as the series is revealed?
SH: Collectors should look for the everlasting system they prefer. Some will like it when there are plenty of individual units crawling the artwork, and others will like it with fewer units and very minimalist. This project is the result of a lot of explorations in the shape, vertical/horizontal/double deck, but also in the global composition. Parts of the artworks are gifted with some symmetrical aspect which sometimes turn them into a kind of Rorschach test when the floor is very noisy. Although the idea of an “ideal” computer program is very relative, sometimes mistakes turn an imperfect system into a perfect one and the other way around. I kept some of those “mistakes” translated into composition glitches, and pixel sorting.
JD: Based on what I’ve seen on testnet, I’m really looking forward to all the variants. What else should people know about your art and where can they find you?
SH: People should look at my former research and development experiments to understand my work better. They are the result of computational challenges but always fashioned in the aesthetics I have developed for years now:; I also post most of my work on Twitter, and keep my website up-to-date.
First published 16 December 2021: In Conversation with Samsy

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