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Herbert W. Franke & Voice Gems

72-HOUR OPEN NFT EDITION: 29 March - 1 April 20203


Herbert W. Franke & Voice Gems
Bespoke Generative System
01:24 min
0.03 ETH

Editions: 454
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In 2021, Herbert W. Franke and Harry Yeff started a conversation about the concept of VOICE GEMS and an audio-visual collaboration. Franke suggested using the lyrics of ASTROPOETICON because they are a minimalist and associative approach to language that could have been created by an AI. These lyrics were frozen as gemstones, the VOICE GEMS ASTROPOETICON, created by Herbert W. Franke, Harry Yeff, Trung Bao and an AI. (The first three 1/1s have been minted and collected in 2021.)

The lyrics used for the VOICE GEMS ASTROPOETICON (DESTINATION IN UNCERTAINTY) belong to a cycle of 16 poems called ASTROPOETICON. Written by Franke in 1979 to be published in a book alongside artworks by German space artist Andreas Nottebohm, he voiced them on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 2007.

Every voice is unique, and with that comes unique fingerprint-like data that can be used for bespoke and human centred generative design. Harry Yeff (aka REEPS100) and Trung Bao have developed a voice-centred generative system utilising data found in a human voice to synthesise the artworks’ form and colour. Features like pitch, resonance, harmonics and pace sculpt 200 000 particle data points in a simulated digital space. The VOICE GEMS series is a vibrant, unprecedented meditation highlighting remarkable and influential voices. Each VOICE GEM is added to the VOICE GEMS: 1000 Year archive.

Herbert W. Franke (1927–2022) was a pioneer of computer art who anticipated the metaverse. For several decades, he separated three lives: the caver and scientist; the artist and curator; and the science fiction author. In the early 1950s, caving led him to experiment with light and technology. He kept his curiosity throughout his life; it was his drive to examine new technologies for their artistic potential. His pioneering spirit made him one of the first computer artists who was more than six decades ahead of his time. In 1979, he co-founded Ars Electronica. Franke has been called “the most prominent German science fiction writer” by Die Zeit, and a “short story fireworker” by the FAZ. In 2022, his first NFT Drop MATH ART sold out within 30 seconds on Quantum, and he was the headliner at the Tezos Booth at Art Basel with MONDRIAN, a work from 1979. Herbert W. Franke died on July 16, 2022, at the age of 95, leaving behind an extensive oeuvre.

Presented by EXPANDED.ART in collaboration with art meets science – Foundation Herbert W. Franke and ELEMENTUM.ART on the occasion of Herbert W. Franke’s solo show CODED BEAUTY at EXPANDED.ART in Berlin. The art meets science – Foundation Herbert W. Franke will use their portion of the sales for a designated purpose: translating significant texts by Herbert W. Franke to English and making them publicly available.


Destination in uncertainty
solar sail unfolded
ride on the ion beam
home port: beyond space and time
sensors, directed to the void
signals from the dark field
circuits on hold
ice crystals in the cells
veins without blood
memory wiped out
the past: obliterated
existence between dream and death
will there be an awakening?
will there be any hope?
in front: clouds and cosmic dust
behind it maybe
a galaxy
star systems, suns
planets bathed in warmth and light -
wake-up call from the tape
uncharted territory!
behind it, perhaps:
a void

Herbert W. Franke (1927-2022) was a pivotal figure in bridging the gap between art and science. He was a scientist, author of science fiction, curator, mathematician, physicist, and speleologist. He has consistently explored new territory with analytical methods and the assistance of machines for over 70 years, looking into the future of digital art until he arrived in the metaverse as an artist and curator in the early 2000s. He began experimenting with generative photography in 1953, used an analogue computer in 1954, and the first mainframe computers for his abstract algorithmic art in the 1960s and 1970s, before beginning programming himself in 1980 with one of the earliest Apple IIs. Franke was represented at the Venice Biennale in 1970 with a silkscreen from his QUADRATE series. It is his first work created with a digital computer in which he allowed chance to collaborate with an algorithm.

Harry Yeff (aka Reeps100) is a London born neuro-divergent artist and technologist specialising in voice and technology based artworks. Yeff has been visualising the voice for over 10 years and is globally celebrated as a leader in a new wave of voice, technology and A.I. focused experimentation. Yeff is the executive curator of the A.I. Visionary Initiative for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), part of the United Nations agency for Information & Communication Technologies. His role as an ambassador for art, technology and voice is highlighted by a global lecture portfolio with notable talks on creativity, the arts and innovation at Google Exec, Davos, United Nations, SXSW, Art Basel Hong Kong, Harvard University, Glastonbury Pyramid Stage and most importantly his old primary school.

Trung Bao Nguyen is a multidisciplinary Vietnamese artist, a leading vocal experimentalist, and the founder of Fustic, an award-winning creative studio that originated in Vietnam. His works lie at the intersection of technology and art, sound and image. He is included in the list of Forbes 30 under 30 Vietnam 2020 as one of the most influential individuals in Vietnam for his innovation in design and his exploration of human vocal expression. Exhibitions and collaborations include, among others the World Economic Forum (MESSAGES OF HOPE), KÖNIG GALERIE, Francisco Carolinum Linz, W1 Curates, and the Berggruen Institute.

The Beauty of Nature and An Archive of Voices


In conversation with Anika Meier, Susanne Päch, the wife of Herbert W. Franke, Harry Yeff, and Trung Bao talk about the collaboration that began in 2021. Päch, who today heads the art meets science – Foundation Herbert W. Franke and lived with the artist and scientist for 40 years, also tells more about Franke's fascination with stones and what this has to do with the beginning of his artistic career.

Anika Meier: Harry and Trung, your project, VOICE GEMS, is ambitious. You create a voice archive by collecting, as you state, “the most unique, remarkable and most vulnerable voices“. What do you hope to achieve with this project?

Trung Bao: We collect voices and generate unique digital representations as a method of celebration and preservation of voice. Our current collection of 120 works will continue to grow, with the aim of having 500 pieces generated by 2025. Each has its own purpose and story in the archive.

Harry Yeff: The project is growing steadily, and collaborating with Herbert W. Franke in 2021 has been a highlight so far. We only create gems from voices that have received some form of direct blessing to generate the work. We are creating gems that have the potential to hold a legacy, a voice-generated digital ceremony.

AM: Is the human voice for you the fingerprint that stays because it is unique and somehow preserves the character?

HY: Your voice is vast and withholds millions of years of evolution. Every conversation you have is one of the most complex acts in all of nature. The human voice is a miracle of engineering; just observe how fluently you control the 100 muscles it takes to speak. We are born to be masterful with our voices. It’s established that we should stretch our bodies, but do you stretch your voice? Do you explore the potential of your own voice? If not, why?

TB: Helping people see and now hold a voice takes voice from a smoke-like state into something tangible and beautiful. This leads to many opportunities for art and storytelling.

You are not just what you say. Your voice is your identity.

“You are not just what you say. Your voice is your identity.”
– Harry Yeff & Trung Bao

AM: You have translated Herbert W. Franke’s voice into a visual form. Could you tell us about this process and idea?

TB: The VOICE GEMS project has some very strict rules. We only generate gems from voices that have themselves submitted archive audio or whose voice in the audio has a direct tie to the person who submitted it. So only a family member, associate, or friend can put forward a VOICE GEM to be generated.

HY: Trung Bao and I discussed the rules for some time. Without rules, digital projects have no form, in our opinion. We also only work with short clips. This forces the voice, or selector of the voice audio, to be precise with what exactly they wish to preserve.

Also, I believe longer than 90 seconds, and the piece becomes media and not an artwork. This process has a ritual-like nature, something we are very proud of. Limitation is what gives many things their purpose, in life and in art.

“Herbert W. Franke always said that to see the mathematics behind human sentences and their meaning is the most complex and most difficult thing to translate into code, a code that could produce artistic work on its own."
– Susanne Päch

AM: Susanne, what fascinated Herbert and you about the idea of an archive of voices?

SP: Herbert and I reached out to Harry because we were fascinated by the visualization of spoken words in a crystal structure. It’s important to know that Herbert loved the beauty of nature and its structures. He was a collector of gems like crystals, stones, and stalagmites. So you can imagine that being able to see spoken words frozen in a gemstone was very intriguing for Herbert.