About “Is Art”

This is the text for the current showing of “Is Art”.

“Is Art”, 2016/2017, Ethereum DApp, Rob Myers.

Late 1960s Conceptual Art and mid 1990s net.art are useful inspiration for thinking about the blockchain and smart contracts. These art movements stood in critical tension with the systems of communication, law and commerce of their eras. Each treated rootless information, whether about sense data or network messages, as the critical subject of art and a new potential artworld. Their promise and their eventual recuperation by the existing artworld chimes with the historical experience of the blockchain.

“Is Art” takes the Conceptual Art ideas of dematerialisation (art that is not presented in a fixed physical form) and nomination (something that is art because someone or something says it is) and combines them with the net.art idea of the interactive artwork that exists in or interferes with network protocols.

In it, an Ethereum smart contract contains the assertion that it either “is” or “is not” art. A web page connected to the Ethereum network displays the state of this assertion to anyone who can access the contract and allows them switch it between states. When they do so this will become a fact secured in Ethereum’s blockchain with the strength of millions of dollars of computing power a day.

Is this sufficient to determine whether the contract is or is not art? Where and how is the claim really being made and determined? How does this relate to historical examples of such artworks? And how does it relate to other claims of fact stored in other smart contracts?

To Change The Status Of The Contract

1. Click anywhere on the screen.
2. In the dialog that opens, click “Update”.
3. And in the dialog that opens in response to *that*, click on “Accept”.
4. Watch for the update on both screens.

“Bad Shibe” at New World Order

Lina Theodorou’s installation at Furtherfield’s “New World Order” featuring their wonderful illustrations for my story “Bad Shibe”.

You can buy the print version of Bad Shibe, featuring those illustrations, at the show or online via PayPal or with Bitcoin.

Via Furtherfield – https://twitter.com/furtherfield/status/865569017515438084

“Is Art” at Ethereal

Is Art” in the FOAM space at Ethereal summit in New York. You can manipulate it using the MacBook and watch its state update via the blockchain on the tablet next to it.

From show curator the awesome Sam Hart (thanks Sam!) – https://twitter.com/hxrts/status/866447265229156353

New World Order

My novella “Bad Shibe” and Lina Theodorou’s amaze illustrations for it are in Furtherfield Gallery’s show “New World Order” from Saturday 20 May – Sunday 25 June 2017.

Click here for more details, including the press release and catalogue for the show.

As well as Bad Shibe, I have an essay in the book “Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain” being published during the show and blink and you’ll miss me talking about smart contracts in the blockchain documentary “Change Everything Forever.”

From the press release:

A mysterious and controversial technology is among us. The Blockchain underpins digital currencies and makes possible dramatic new conceptions of global governance and economy, that could permanently enrich or demote the role of humans – depending on who you talk to.

A self-owning forest with ideas of expansion, a self-replicating android flower, a tale of lost innocence, a DIY money making rig, a Hippocratic Oath for software developers, a five minute marriage contract; this exhibition presented by Furtherfield shows us life with blockchain technologies – through artworks by Jaya Klara Brekke, Pete Gomes, Rob Myers, Primavera De Filippi of O’Khaos, Terra0, Lina Theodorou and xfx (aka Ami Clarke).

Imagine a world in which responsibility for many aspects of life (reproduction, decision-making, organisation, nurture, stewardship) are mechanised and automated. Transferred, once and for all, from natural and social systems into a secure, networked, digital ledger of transactions and computer-executed contracts.

The artworks in this exhibition envision future world-making by machines, markets and natural processes, free from interference by states and other human institutions.

Bad Shibe – Out Now!

Cover Illustration for “Bad Shibe” by Lina Theodorou.

Bad Shibe, Novella, 2017.

“Bad Shibe” is the story of a young member of a near-future cryptocurrency-based utopia. YS works in an orchard in the day, goes to school in the evening, and tips everyone like a good shibe. Until one day they start feeling jealous of a newcomer and start digging in to how their world really works…

My page about the project, with some reading notes, is here: http://robmyers.wpengine.com/bad-shibe/

It’s published by Furtherfield and their page about the project, where you can order a print copy or download the electronic version for free, is here: http://www.furtherfield.org/projects/bad-shibe-sci-fi-novella-rob-myers

Massive thanks to Lina Theodorou for their wonderful illustrations, and to Ruth Catlow for their excellent afterword (and tireless advocacy for the project). You are amaze.