#FreeAlexey by Trevor and Violet Jones
#FreeAlexey is the first ever artistic collaboration between Trevor and Violet Jones, in response to CoinDesk’s brief to create a painting and NFT representing Alexey Pertsev, a developer of the Tornado Cash app.
Alexey and Tornado made headlines in August of this year when the open-source, fully decentralized ‘coin mixer’ app was sanctioned by the United States government for allegations of laundering the proceeds of cybercrimes, including over $455 million stolen by a North Korean state-sponsored hacking group. Pertsev was arrested in Amsterdam and his assets seized. The arrest sparked multiple protests worldwide, compelling the Web3 community to share their opinions about the future of open-source technology. Many argue that Pertsev’s arrest is detrimental to the future of open-source software development and that a developer should not be arrested for how someone else chooses to use their open-source code.
Trevor and Violet decided to begin the exploration of visual possibilities and composition using DALL • E – an AI system that generates imagery in response to text prompts. Prompts for this project included: young man with glasses, portrait, 3D-rendered, abstract, prison, tornado, handcuffs, Web3, North Korean flag, Russian flag, red, white, blue.
Over 110 images were created with DALL • E. The image that most struck the artists was of a North Korean flag with red and blue tube-like shapes twirling and intertwining, in what was apparently an AI response to the ‘tornado’ prompt, along with warped and twisted locks, perhaps signifying ‘handcuffs’. This image was then further developed and refined with Photoshop, and new elements and symbols were incorporated including the Tornado Cash app logo replacing the star in the North Korean flag.
The artists agreed that a portrait of Alexey Pertsev should be depicted, along with references to Roman Semenov and Roman Storm (the ‘two Romans’), the founders of Tornado Cash. The Roman symbols of scales and columns were chosen to represent them. Traditionally scales are shown in balance, often held by Lady Justice to symbolise fair and objective consideration to all evidence. However, the unbalanced scales in this painting indicate that a particular ruling or law unfairly favours one side over another. Roman columns symbolize power, agelessness, and the roots of democracy.