Colour Time Marfa, 2021
Colour Time is a series of twelve on-chain animated SVGs created during a motorcycle trip from Montreal to Los Angeles in November of 2021.
This is the third iteration of the work, which began as a website in the net-art tradition, www.colour-time.com. The second edition of the work were three video-based NFTs created in March of 2021 and minted on Opensea.
The project stems from earlier explorations around colour - I had a collection of digital colour selections remaining from the development of Colour Calendar which I put into a video editing program and set to music. As I played around with the idea of a colour sequence animation, I became curious about slowness, perhaps influenced by my friend Timothy Thomasson’s slow CGI video work.
I set out to make colours shift as slowly as the movement of the sun; movement perceptible over time but difficult to observe as it happens.
As with all simple goals, this was more difficult to achieve than expected; I had various pieces of desktop software that could create interesting effects on my computer, but trying to record these animations I ran into issues. Video compression would create jumps between colours, breaking the effect by giving the viewer a perceptible moment of change to hold on to.
I ended up creating a web-based version of my desktop software using WebGL in order to acheive adequate smoothness. To generate the colour sequence I built a timeline editor tool, which I used to create the 20 minute sequence that lives on www.colour-time.com. What I found in creating this sequence was that the slowness of the transition creates optical effects in the eye; colours appear that are not onscreen, hard edges blur. The change is slow enough that the eye has time to become saturated with colour, which generates complementary colour afterimages of the on-screen colour. The sequences for colour-time.com were designed with these afterimages in mind; blues slowly shifting to meet the hallucinated red in the eye.
Presenting this experience online creates a challenge for the viewer; in the browser where we are used to scrolling through endless content, the viewer must release control and let the work unfold at its own pace.
These new on-chain Colour Time works carry this gesture of slowness into the NFT space, resisting quick assessment. Where Proof of Work makes value easily legible, each Colour Time requires durational viewing for its qualities to be perceived.
Each animation in the series consists of two planes of colour, which shift between two points of colour. Each shift happens over a varying timeframe, ie 20 seconds for the background, 17 for the foregound. Each plane of colour loops on its own timeframe, allowing new hues of colour to meet and new rhythms to build, the visual equivalent of a Phillip Glass piece. These phasing effects add a generative element to each piece, building complexity over time as loops move in and out of sync.
The works reference the colour work of Joseph Albers and the skyspace installations of James Turell, studies of colour and perception within the frame of the on-chain NFT.
These twelve pieces represent a selection of those produced. After a day of riding, I would produce a series of studies, letting the colours and rhythms of the day work their way in to the animations.
As in Proof of Work, there is a hypothesis that intangible experience can be transmitted visually. I see Colour Time as the completion of a year of exploration into the materiality of the NFT with an offer of pure experience.