Categories
Art Crypto Media

Adventures in Artistic Tokenisation

Via @squizzi on Twitter, an article that mentions “Secret Artwork“:

https://medium.com/kaleidoscope-xcp/adventures-in-artistic-tokenisation-c5adb70ceed9

Similar in movement to early net art, blockchains and blockchain platforms provide a new variation of current applications and representation of data that art niches can easily pick up on. Add into that the potential financial benefits that blockchain offers and you can see how it has easily captured a quickly growing clique of early adopters and artistic organisers.

This article is a short intro to various early artworks and ideas that have come about in this space.

There’s lots of good stuff in the article, I recommend taking a look.

Categories
Books Crypto Culture Projects

State Machines: The Quest For The One True Chain

The story that I wrote for Dogecon 2018 has been published in the book “State Machines: Reflections and Actions at the Edge of Digital Citizenship, Finance, and Art”:

https://networkcultures.org/statemachines/2019/03/19/out-now-state-machines-reflections-and-actions-at-the-edge-of-digital-citizenship-finance-and-art/

“The Quest For The One True Chain” was written to embody the themes of governance that Dogecon 2018 explored and to provide flavour for puzzles on one day of the event. To these ends it is organized in an epistolary style as a series of short segments that, apart from the first and last, are designed to be readable in any order. Each segment features a social, economic and technical failure and a cyberpunk literature trope.

It’s the second Doge-themed story I’ve written after “Bad Shibe”, they don’t share a setting though.

Categories
Art Crypto

Three Times Three Modes of Blockchain Art

Introduction

This essay draws distinctions between different approaches to art that uses cryptocurrency or blockchain technology. It does so to contribute to the debate about art that uses cryptocurrency or blockchain technology by helping us to talk about it in an inclusive and expansive but clear and coherent way.

First it distinguishes between three different ways that cryptocurrency or blockchain technology can be involved in the production of art.

Then it distinguishes between three ways that cryptocurrency or blockchain technology can feature within artworks.

Finally it distinguishes three different positions or attitudes that can be taken with regard each of these.

Each section includes examples which are intended to be illustrative rather than exhaustive of or exhausted by the categories they appear under.

1. Modes of Production of Art

The production of a piece of art as something that exists in the artworld can involve cryptocurrency or blockchain technology in different ways. Any given piece or art or art project may involve one or more of each of these, but any one is enough for a project to be considered “blockchain art” in some sense.

1.1 Socioeconomic

Art that involves cryptocurrency or blockchain technology in the social and economic aspects of its coming into being or existence in the artworld. For example the organization or funding of the artwork’s conception, design, production, authentication, sale, auction, provenance, exhibition, critique or storage.

Maecenas

Plantoid

1.2 Technical

Art that incorporates cryptocurrency or blockchain technology into its physical form, or is in turn incorporated into blockchain or cryptocurrency technology. For example the inclusion of blockchain hardware into an artwork, the inclusion of content or data stored on the blockchain into an artwork, the storage of an artwork on the blockchain, or the construction of an artwork from resources that exist on the blockchain.

Artworld Ethereum – Rob Myers

Rare Pepes

1.3 Conceptual

Art that refers to cryptocurrency or blockchain technology and its related ideology and aesthetics on the level of form, subject or content. For example art that uses imagery from blockchain projects or personalities, that makes the hidden structures and forces of blockchain networks visible, or that embodies cypherpunk principles of decentralization and trustlessness.

The Legend of Satoshi Nakamoto – @coin_artist

Terra0

2. Modes of Structure of Art

Following 1.3 above, the internal structure of an artwork can be simplistically but usefully broken down into its form (its internal organization or composition), its subject (what it depicts or denotes, what it is of or about), and its content (what it says about its subject or how it affects the viewer).

2.1 Form

Art that has cryptocurrency or blockchain technology as its form. Not as its gross physical construction, that would be “Technical” form in the sense of 1.2 above. Rather it is uses of cryptocurrency or blockchain technology as a medium rather than as a substrate, or as a means or part of the composition or organization within the work itself.

Autoglyphs – Larva Labs

Jonas Lund Token – Jonas Lund

2.2 Subject

Art that has cryptocurrency or blockchain technology as its subject – it depicts or alludes to them in some way. It may be commenting on them or it may be using them as merely metaphors, indexes, or evocative visual or material hooks for artistic engagement with matters for which cryptocurrency or blockchain technology are only tangentially related or are entirely unrelated.

What Will It Be Like When We Buy An Island (on the blockchain)? Ed Fornieles with Ben Vickers and Ruth Catlow

The Edwards Copy – Brad Troemel

2.3 Content

Art that has cryptocurrency or blockchain technology as its content – it seeks to inform or effect the audience’s understanding of them in some way.

0xΩ – Avery Singer and Matt Liston

Bitcoin Bear Whale – Matt Habel

3. Modes of Evaluation of Art

Each of the above modes may be used promotionally, critically, or contemplatively. This is true of any kind of art, but it is worth making the point that it is also true of art that engages with cryptocurrency or blockchain technology as this is sometimes forgotten by both proponents and opponents.

3.1 Critical

A naive view of art that engages with cryptocurrency or blockchain technology would regard it as essentially a form of promotion. That can certainly be the case, although that promotion is in itself a critique not least of the existing artworld, its socioeconomic form, and the naive view itself. But much blockchain art is critically engaged with the ideological and substantial impact of its materials. Art is well placed to provide this critique, turning abstract arguments into objects that can inform the conversation.

Clickmine – Sarah Friend

Bittercoin – Martin Nadal

3.2 Promotional

Social and political movements and phenomena find their reflection in art, for example both Western bourgeois and Soviet modernism. This need not be advertising or propaganda (although their is certainly much of that both for and against cryptocurrency and blockchain technology). It can be folk art, politically committed art, or art that is guided by or seeks to guide the principles and possibilities of its subject on a deeper level.

Doge Memes – Various

HODL – Cryptograffitti

3.3 Contemplative

To depict the previously unseen or unrealised is to provide a powerful resource for contemplation, consideration, and interrogation. Unlike critical or promotional art it does not seek to guide the viewer in a particular direction, rather it provides them with a new map of a new situation that they can follow as they wish.

Blockchain Aesthetics – Rob Myers

The Pareto Deck – Kei Kreutler

Conclusion

When discussing “blockchain art” or “crypto art”, we should take a moment to ask “what kind?”. The discourses of ownership, proof, trust, encryption, identity, value, decentralisation and consensus play out differently in and through on-chain rare art collectibles and gallery art critically incorporating the physical paraphernalia of cryptocurrency. Finding commonalities and differences between different modes of using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in art, rather than assuming that one is critiquing or promoting a singular phenomenon, is important for developing our shared understanding of them and for further realising their potential.

The ideas used here developed from my talk at DCTRL in December 2017 about the book “Artists re:Thinking The Blockchain”, which used a different set of categories –

https://www.slideshare.net/robmyers/artists-rethinkingtheblockchain-97004972

Categories
Art Crypto Shows

RARE AF 2

The second Rare Art Festival is coming to Bushwick Generator in Brooklyn, NY on 18th May 2019.

Tokens Equal Text” will be among the art on display (and sale!).

More information and tickets here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rare-art-festival-tickets-60307156328

Categories
Aesthetics Art Crypto Projects

Token Grid

Token Grid, 2019, Ethereum DApp.

The grid is a Modernist icon and the underlying organizational form of many aspects of our daily lives.

This one exists on the Ethereum blockchain. Anyone can change it but only if they are willing to burn one of the grid contract’s ERC-20 digital tokens to do so.

View and alter the grid here with an Ethereum-enabled browser:

https://show.robmyers.org/artworld-ethereum/dapps/token-grid/app/index.html

See the source code here:

https://gitlab.com/robmyers/artworld-ethereum/tree/master/dapps/token-grid

Categories
Art Art Computing Artificial Intelligence Generative Art Shows

Hacking Creative Composition at CADAF

I’ve a couple of pieces at CADAF in New York with Kate Vass Gallerie (above is one of the giclées, “Local Maxima: SFLT2, Square” (2019)):

https://cadaf.art/artist-rob-myers

Creative Crypto have a profile of me ahead of the event, from which I’ve stolen the title of this post:

https://thecreativecrypto.com/rob-myers-hacking-creative-composition/

Categories
Art Crypto Ethereum Projects

Tokens Equal Text

Tokens Equal Text” (2019) is a Rare Art edition with a twist.

In Tokens Equal Text the demands of Rare Art are simultaneously met and frustrated by constructing evocations of the imagery of Vaporwave. This appropriates the aesthetics of a genre of appropriation art in order to create a critical circuit between blockchain technology and art theory.

Rare Art consists of blockchain tokens representing limited edition ownership certificates for digital art files. It is an example of the kind of blockchain quasi-property ownership that I described in “Blockchain Poetics” (2017) and wrote about in more depth in “Tokenization And Its Discontents” (also 2017). Despite having written about Rare Art in depth, my own work with blockchain tokens as art has not previously engaged with it. “Art Coins” (2015) for example does use the text field of CounterParty tokens to contain “the work” but as a written description of an imagined artistic genre rather than the URL of a digital image file.

In contrast to the strongly held but under-examined idea of ownership via cryptographic artificial scarcity that underlies Rare Art, Vaporwave art has a more ambiguous relationship to concepts of ownership and authorship. As appropriation-based art, Vaporwave is not amenable to claiming original authorship or ownership as intellectual property. Its subjects are those of past promises of the satisfactions of ownership and consumption of commodities which are then ironized by an economically precarious later generation. Despite this, some of Vaporwave’s audience places value on possession of extensive digital media collections or limited edition releases of obsolete physical recording media.

Describing rather than depicting the appropriated visual elements of Vaporwave sidesteps the problem of their ownership and authorship. Depicting those descriptions in a visually appealing way then re-aestheticises them and makes them available and desirable for ownership as Rare Art. Tokens Equal Text does this by creatively misusing the Ethereum standards that are used to create Rare Art, in order to create conceptual tension between its resources. Its ERC-721 tokens have no metadata but do contain content, (mis-)encoded as their ID numbers. The ERC-998 tokens that contain them do provide images in their metadata for platforms to display but these are just previews of their content as rendered by Tokens Equal Text’s display interface.

These layers both exceed and disappoint the technical and aesthetic requirements of Rare Art in order to capture, exceed and disappoint the limits of ownership in Vaporwave. And vice versa. This folds two different forms of belonging – ownership and the aesthetics of genre – back onto each other in a mutually intensifying circuit which critically reflects them and the worlds in which they are embedded.

You can view and purchase works from the series on OpenSea:

https://opensea.io/assets/tokensequaltext

or contact me for physical versions.

Categories
Crypto

Do You Need “Do You Need A Blockchain”?

Satoshi Nakamoto announced Bitcoin in the “Bitcoin Whitepaper” in 2008.

The Bitcoin Whitepaper describes how to create peer-to-peer electronic money.

All of the design decisions discussed in the whitepaper reflect this objective.

The Bitcoin Whitepaper does not mention “blockchain”.

The Bitcoin Whitepaper mentions a “timestamp server” based on validating blocks of transactions that the software it describes uses to establish the order of transactions over time.

Bitcoin does this in order to solve the “double-spend problem” without resort to “trusted third parties”.

Bitcoin must do this in order to function as peer-to-peer electronic money.

The construction of a public ledger of transactions gathered into blocks and validated using a proof-of-work algorithm in return for economic incentives paid in the currency that the system exists to create is a contingent technical element of doing so.

Blockchains and proof of work are not original to Bitcoin, there were more interesting hashing or signature schemes available in 2008, and Nakamoto Consensus does not represent the first solution to the Byzantine Generals problem in computer science.

This use of economic incentives to construct a data structure in an adversarial environment is Bitcoin’s only technical innovation.

We can exploit the contingent technical elements of Bitcoin’s design for peer-to-peer money as primary technical elements if they are appropriate responses to design challenges that we face elsewhere.

They are appropriate responses if they support the instantiation of the project’s stated goal with the same degree of utility that they support Bitcoin’s stated objective of producing peer-to-peer electronic money, or at least to a high degree.

Such instantiations stand a better chance of not being solutions-in-search-of-a-problem or having broken economic incentive structures.

The building blocks of the Bitcoin whitepaper can also be exploited as primary concepts if they represent appropriate responses to the conceptual challenges of a project.

We must be careful not to fetishize or miscast them.

For example “trust” in the Bitcoin Whitepaper appears only in the phrase “trusted third parties”, taken from the writing of Nick Szabo, and refers to the unjust and unavoidable intervention into social relationships of potential opponents that might better be described as “treacherous third parties” in the style of Richard Stallman.

In both the technical and conceptual cases, varying emphasis or adding or removing elements from those present in Bitcoin without sufficiently addressing the impact of doing so or the ideological and economic balance of the resulting system can negatively affect its appropriateness and viability.

It is therefore vital to understanding how each element of Bitcoin contributes to doing the one thing that Bitcoin is actually meant to do and be, and being very careful when seeking to produce systems that exploit elements of it of it for purposes other than that.

All of this means that a better question than “does this project need a blockchain?” would be “what is the conceptual equivalent of peer-to-peer digital money in this domain and if this is an idea worth pursuing how would we go about constructing it?”.

That is a more difficult question though.

Categories
Crypto

Genesis

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Categories
Art Crypto Projects

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