How The Passage is redefining what it means to buy digital art

Antony Rahman
February 21, 2023
“That’s at the heart of everything we do, creating experiences around the collection of art” — Michael Beets, creator of The Passage

Despite rapid advancements in crypto art, the process of purchasing it remains soulless. An immersive gallery in which every choice matters, Antony Rahman explores how The Passage reinterprets how we should buy digital art.

In the fast-paced world of cryptoart, innovators are constantly trialling new ideas. Talented artists join the ecosystem every day, and the tools that they use to mint their art as NFTs are improving at a rapid pace. While minting art has become more convenient than ever before, the process itself remains somewhat monotonous, just like any purchase on the internet, rather than something befitting of the deeper meaning that artists and collectors see in their pieces.

Michael Beets’ The Passage completely flips that narrative. Created with his immersive cryptoart organisation HERE & NOW, the experience seeks to recreate the feeling of walking into an artist’s gallery, seeing their art on display, and speaking directly with them about their work. “The process of minting an NFT right now is cold and lifeless; there's no emotion behind it,” Michael says. “The art carries emotion, but there’s no emotion in the experience of buying it.” 

Each exhibit is designed to be experienced in a different way, whether by walking, climbing, or flying.

Choices are presented to you as you continue through The Passage. You choose whether to turn left or right, whether to exit a passage or continue through it, whether to climb down a hole or ascend the stairs beside it, and in the process of making these choices, you create the data points around which your generative art piece is created.

Eventually, as long as you keep moving forward, you reach the end of The Passage, where awaiting you is the art generated by the choices you make and the artworks you see. “That’s at the heart of everything we do,” Michael says, “creating experiences around the collection of art.”

“The process of minting an NFT right now is cold and lifeless.”

— Michael Beets, Creator of The Passage

The Passage is an immersive and interactive NFT minting experience that takes participants on a virtual journey through a breathtakingly vivid gallery of generative art comprising the work of twelve talented creators, including Sasha Stiles and Jimena Buena Vida. When you enter the token-gated gallery, you have as much control over your POV as you would in a first-person video game, and you’re given instructions on how to continue.

As you move through the space, ethereal music accompanies you with intriguing vistas, which could not possibly exist in the real world, beckoning you forward. Limitless skies and structures that defy the rules of space permeate the gallery, instilling a pervasive sense of having been transported to another world.

An excerpt of Daeinc’s ‘Knowledge’, the full version of which will be released on The Passage.

Dispersed in this space are exhibits of artworks from twelve generative artists, totalling 300 pieces and curated by Chris Ostoich. “We found a really amazing curator in him,” Michael muses. “We told him the concept and got him to think about it and approach artists with it. So you kind of got all these interesting perspectives from different artists, all taking that concept and putting their spin on it.”

These works are inspired by pitch drop experiments, long-term experiments which measure the drip of very thick liquids over many decades. The longest running such experiment has been in action since 1927 at the University of Queensland, Australia, where pitch, a type of polymer, has dripped just nine times over the course of almost a century.

In contrast to the web3 ecosystem, where events move at breakneck speed, second only to the fear of missing out, The Passage creates a slow, soothing experience. Michael explains that the pitch drop experiment theme is intended to bring attention to how time is perceived in web3. “Things move so fast, we don’t breathe, or take in the art that we are collecting.” In The Passage, viewers are instead prompted to take their time, much like in a pitch drop experiment, and absorb every detail of the artwork in front of them.

Each exhibit has its own, unique aesthetic, some expansive, some compact, and each designed to be experienced in a different way, whether that be by walking, climbing, or even flying, as you view the artworks therein. Moving from exhibit to exhibit, every choice that you make — which door you open, how long you gaze at a piece of art, whether you go left or right at a fork in the road — is recorded, and eventually influences the appearance of the art that is generated for you at the end of your journey through The Passage.

This will be the second iteration of The Passage, the first having been released to a warm reception last year. Many of the ideas explored in that genesis iteration have been carried over to this season’s The Passage. However, and newly, this season has seen an integration with fx(hash), the leading generative art platform on Tezos.  

“That’s at the heart of everything we do, creating experiences around the collection of art.”

— Michael Beets, Creator of The Passage

“fx(hash) were fully on board,” Michael explains, enthusing how his team had access to their new fxparams tool, which makes it easy for external creators to release art through the fx(hash) platform. “It’s almost like a layer on top of fx(hash),” Michael explains. “This is the big difference: we’re really plugged into an entire ecosystem.”

The Coin, which is used as an entry ticket to The Passage, is currently available for minting, with the gallery itself opening on March 7th. Each coin allows you to mint one generative art piece from a featured artist. In addition to Sasha Stiles and Jimena Buena Vida, the current lineup is completed by 1mposter, Aleksandra Jovanić, Kesean, Karan4d, Victor Doval, Daeinc, Sam Tsao, William Watkins, Jeres, and Ivona Tau, though it will change many times over the course of the year.

“Things move so fast, we don’t breathe, or take in the art that we are collecting.”

— Michael Beets, creator of The Passage

Augmented by the immersive design of The Passage, the art created by these artists makes for an NFT minting experience unlike any other with The Passage. The experience brings an element of order to the random nature of generative art, tying your own journey and choices to guide the creation of the art you see at the end.

The emotion that comes with being able to move through a gallery and see the artwork in a three dimensional space like you would in a physical gallery is deeply satisfying, and it sparks a feeling of gratification knowing that the art that will ultimately be minted at the end of your experience is a collaborative work between the artists, the platform, and your own choices within it. 

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Antony Rahman
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Antony is an Israel-based writer who has written for and advised publications from across the world. He has been a journalist for a Bangladeshi business magazine, a marketing copywriter, an analyst for an applied blockchain research organisation, and now directs his energies towards learning and writing about all things at the intersection of culture-tech and web3.

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