Designing the Divine
A Trip into the Mind of $ASH Creator Filip Zaruba
For some, the date Tuesday, February 22, 2022 or “Twosday” will carry spiritual meaning as a day composed of angel numbers while for others it may just be a mere coincidence in the way humans measure time. For Filip Zaruba, the palindrome date will mark the public release of their first ever $ASH-exclusive, non-fungible token (NFT) drop in their decades-long career in digital art and film.
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Zaruba has been experimenting with animation and digital art since the early 1990s. He has recently embarked on a journey in cryptoart and NFTs first releasing works on Foundation and MakersPlace in May 2021.
In partnership with his collaborator Maok, a renown meditative, ambient Slovakian musical artist, Zaruba offers an $ASH exclusive collection that envisions a psychedelic, digital deity entitled “Divine Amnesia.” Inspired by the Philip K. Dick quote "We are all sleeping avatars of God, with amnesia,” “Divine Amnesia” is comprised of a 42 edition animated artwork priced at 15 $ASH per piece and six 1/1 $ASH auctions: five static image variants of the central figure depicted in the piece as well as one additional animated piece entitled “Divine Recall.”
"We are all sleeping avatars of God, with amnesia,” – Philip K. Dick.
In the leadup to the drop, $ASH Wednesdays connected with Zaruba to discuss “Divine Amnesia” and to learn more about his entry into the #ASHCreators community. In case you missed everything anyway, Zaruba’s upcoming collection was covered in the February 16th edition of $ASH Wednesdays.
Thank you so much, Filip, for taking the time to reflect on these questions in advance of your upcoming $ASH collection, “Divine Amnesia,” that will be released in the coming days on February 22, 2022.
You are a multidisciplinary creator and educator with decades of experience who has lectured at major universities, collaborated on award winning films, worked with Fortune 500 clients, and founded a number of your own creative endeavors – how do your past experiences inform your leap into NFTs?
NFTs are an opportunity I've been waiting for. I have tried to sell my digital work in the past, but it has been difficult. In 2008 I started a company called 3Decor Design and sold my abstract artworks printed on canvas, glass, aluminum, furniture, and especially as wallpaper.
I included certificates of the origin of the artworks and sold them in a limited edition of 10. I sold hundreds of them, but their price was usually around $200 to $1,000. When you subtracted the cost of production, taxes, and marketing, it was impossible to create any more sophisticated works.
Thanks to NFT, I'm able to create what I really love and spend a lot more time on it, because now I can sell an artwork for much more. Plus I can sell animations with original music. It is a dream come true.
Mainstream media mainly covers PFP projects. But I think that the real revolution is happening in digital art. A lot of people don't realize that digital artists didn't have the ability to sell "originals" before. Now they do. And it's really easy to buy and sell them.
Beeple made his everydays for 14 years for free – anyone could download them. And he was "happy" if he could sell a few prints for $100. Now he's able to sell them for tens of millions.
Digital art is art too, and its creators deserve to be appreciated for their work, which is what NFT technology allows them to do. When it comes to 3D art, people tend to think that somehow the computer does it all by itself and that it has no value. In fact, in some ways it is much more demanding than classical painting.
Creating in 3D requires a deep knowledge of optics, physics, cinematography craft, lighting, texturing, digital sculpting, composition, and also a good mastery of the necessary very complex software that takes many, many years. Plus a very powerful workstation, a fancy graphics card and expensive software.
In the NFT environment, everything evolves incredibly fast and there is a lot of competition. The number of artists and markets are rapidly increasing and this forces the creators to get the best out of themselves. And that's ultimately a very good thing. Because now they can be paid well for it.
I am convinced that when future generations look back on this time, they will see it as the greatest artistic revolution and explosion of creativity since the Renaissance. And we can be there now and build it together.
With “Divine Amnesia,” you will be releasing your first collection in Murat Pak’s native cryptocurrency, $ASH, how did you discover Pak? Are you a collector? Why release a collection in $ASH?
When I was trying to find my way around the NFT world a year ago, I browsed all the markets and saw Pak's work on most of them, which immediately caught my attention.
When I sold my first works, I was tempted to buy NFTs and gradually spent all the money from the sales. And most of them are from Pak: several “Lost Poets,” “Merge,” and “Censored.” You won't see them on my official Opensea profile though, they're in my vault.
And why am I selling for ASH? Pak himself sums it up nicely: "Ash is not just a currency. It's a community."
Are there any other #ASHCreators that inspired you to invest your time in creating collections that could be bought and sold in $ASH?
The main inspiration was definitely Del and his first ever drop in $ASH. I really like the community around Pak and $ASH, but I was more of a passive collector. By becoming an $ASH creator myself, I can at least help the $ASH community flourish a bit more and be an active part of it.
I am also a member of Ashnation, which is a collective of many Ash enthusiasts, collectors and artists. I recommend listening to their space every Sunday, where you can learn a lot of interesting information from the Ash/Pak ecosystem and listen to interviews with Ash artists. The Ashnation Discord is also great. Make sure to visit.
It is clear that you have not only put a lot of effort into the high quality design and seamless animation of your 3D art, but also into the title and description of each piece throughout the collection.
In the descriptions, you cite two sources of inspiration: Philip K. Dick and the Wachowskis. In the 1/1 pieces, you include the quote, "We are all sleeping avatars of God, with amnesia,” by Philip K. Dick. You also write in the animated 42-count limited edition animated piece: “Blue and red pill[.] No need to explain. Thanks Wachowskis.”
For those that are not yet “red-pilled,” can you talk more about why you included these references in the descriptions?
In creating this piece, I was looking for some easy to understand metaphors that would express what I wanted to convey. And the Wachowkis concept of the blue and red pill combined with virtual reality or the Matrix seemed ideal. The term "red-pilled" is very well established even in mainstream culture and everyone knows what it means.
In my work, however, the meaning is a bit shifted. It shows the being of a creator who knows exactly what he is creating and why. He creates a virtual universe, then divides himself into many individualities. They are still conscious, aware of unity, but in order to fully enjoy this cosmic play, they deliberately forget their essence and original unity. An ego, an individuality, and a seemingly separate entity arises. And the cosmic adventure can begin.
Tell me about your collaborator, Maok: as someone who has experience in music production, why was it important for you to bring in a partner on the music side of this collection?
My music production is more focused on the dance floor and I have created a few spiritually oriented tracks for my NFT in the past, for example. Here I didn't want to leave anything to chance and turned to Maok, who composed the music for my three previous documentaries.
His music has always sent my animations to a new level and I believe it has done so again. He can bring very deep spiritual experiences into his music. Maok is a musician, improvisator, multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, but primarily, a human being whose inseparable part and the most distinct component of self-expression is music. His unique style is easily recognized in his dreamy, almost mystical compositions even without knowing specific pieces.
In his own words, “I see music as an expression of freedom and love. As an expression of creative moments where the beauty is born which can captivate and guide us into the colorful and constantly changing world of our Soul or which can lull any motion within us and we can dissolve in a singularity, in the full emptiness which is a pupil of the eye at the same time. It can bring us to a pulsating ecstasy of burning Heart or guide us through a journey of dance and movement where we merge with our bodies in our inner rhythms. Or we can just have a pleasant nap.“ I encourage people to discover Maok´s collection of music on Apple Music and Spotify.
There is an undoubted psychedelic tinge throughout your work and “Divine Amnesia” definitely feels psychedelic looping unto itself infinitely. We are in an age where art, psychedelics, and even technology like VR which is also depicted in the collection are being used as therapeutics — what are your thoughts on how NFTs can be used to open minds to things that might still be stigmatized?
Art has always been able to point out the problems in our society and it is no different with NFT. There are many projects related to philanthropy. Quality NFT projects often have the support of charities in their roadmap. The auctions of NFTs to support Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are another great example. That's what fascinates me about the web3 community, how it can raise a lot of money for a good cause very quickly.
And when it comes to psychedelics, I think they have tremendous potential to solve many of our current problems. I've been trying to destigmatize them for a long time. I've been promoting their research and organizing conferences, workshops, lectures, publishing books, and making films about them. I did graphics for one of the biggest events that took place in Prague here in Czechia. It was also the world premiere of my award winning film, “Bufo Alvarius – The Underground Secret.” The graphic is my profile picture and also the very first NFT I sold, “Transpersonal Brainstorming.”
The “Divine Amnesia” animated edition concludes with the creator lost in his own creation in a cube. Is that a reference to Pak? How long did you yourself get lost in creating the art for this collection?
I hadn't really thought of that interpretation, but I find it very amusing, thanks for that. It's just a coincidence. And I don't think Pak is lost in his work. On the contrary, he has a long-term vision and knows exactly what he's doing. And it's usually only in hindsight that we understand the purpose of his actions and just marvel.
I used the cube on purpose because it is perceived as a symbol of matter and also because when the meditating creator sits inside and reflects infinitely many times, there is still a certain order in the reflections. Any other geometric shape would create just chaos. The use of the cube created the Matrix.
This piece was also the first time I used black for the background, which I don't normally use much, unlike Pak. But this time I wanted to illustrate the fact that everything takes place in a completely empty space, when nothing created exists yet, so it had its own reason and meaning.
As for the time I spent creating it, it took about 10 weeks and a couple hundred hours of 3D rendering. The rendering times were pretty crazy in the last few sequences with the mirrors. It sometimes took 30 minutes to render all the reflections for a single frame, and there are thousands of frames. I'm hoping that if the sale goes well, I'll be able to buy a faster workstation.
Your collection explores futurism/technology, psychedelics, the divine, and the interconnectedness of humanity. What is one message that you hope people will take away from “Divine Amnesia”?
I describe it in great detail on my website and also provide a shorter version of the description on the collection’s OpenSea page. But to sum it up in a few words: we are divine, we are all One, we are all connected, we are God but we forgot about it.
Part of the drop is also a 1/1 piece called “Divine Recall,” where, on the contrary, there is an awakening from the amnesia and everything goes back to the source. However, if someone takes away a different message, that's perfectly fine. There's more layers to this than meets the eye.
Speaking of futurism and the interconnectedness of all human beings, what is your hope for the future of the $ASH and #ASHCreators community?
It would be very nice if $ASH became a globally used currency in the NFT art world. But for that to happen, it would need to be accepted by more marketplaces, artists and buyers, and its value would need to be more stable or better yet growing gradually in the long term. It would be very nice if a marketplace was created where only $ASH would be used.
The price of Ether is determined by many external factors, but $ASH could only be influenced by art itself. And one other thing would be great: imagine if Pak marked certain select collections he likes and enabled a burning mechanism for them for Mid-tier $ASH. That could help certain collections and artists a lot, to have a sort of “seal of approval” from Pak. It could motivate other creators to start using $ASH.