Slides From My “Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain” Talk at DCTRL
On 6th December 2017 I spoke about the “Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain” book at DCTRL in Vancouver. I was up after the Cryptokitties team, so there was no pressure… I’m grateful to the audience for their insightful questions and discussion, unfortunately the event wasn’t recorded.
Here are the slides for the talk, I’ll be expanding on their themes here soon:
Artists Re-thinking the Blockchain
Beg, Steal & Borrow
DEMODAY, 2017, CounterParty Tokens.
DEMODAY is the first art show-specific crypto token.
It has been created for the show “Demo Day” at Kunstraum LLC, Brooklyn, from September 24 – October 28 2017. See here for details
Artists Re:Thinking The Blockchain
“Beg, Steal & Borrow – Artists Against Originality”, Robert Shore, 2017, ISBN 9781780679464
Buy here –
Robert Shore’s excellent new book about artistic originality and appropriation art contains an installation image of my “Shareable Readymades” (models by Chris Webber & Bassam Kurdali, title by Charlotte Frost) at the 2016 show “Jerwood Encounters: Common Property”.
My lasting interest in art comes in no small part from endlessly re-reading a large Andy Warhol catalogue in art class at school. When I went to art school the indebtedness of art to its past and the creative potential of appropriation art and sampling made perfect sense to me. So “Beg, Steal & Borrow”‘s canon of art that follows Steve Job’s maxim about great artists is one I love and that I’m very pleased to see the Shareable Readymades in.
“Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain” Edited by Ruth Catlow, Marc Garret, Nathan Jones & Sam Skinner, 2017, ISBN 9780993248757.
Furtherfield and Torque have compiled an excellent range of writing and imagery about blockchain network technology’s role in the arts and vice versa. You can buy it here:
If you are in North America, Amazon UK will be cheaper for postage until the North American edition is out in February 2018 here:
I have two pieces in the book.
“Bad Shibe” is the story of a young person in a post-fiat-currency utopia suffering from their first pangs of doubt that they, and more generally the society that they live in, may not be as wonderful as they previously thought. It is accompanied by Lina Theodorou’s wonderful illustrations of a story that the narrator makes very difficult to illustrate.
“Blockchain Poetics” is an essay about what proponents and critics of cryptocurrency think it is about, the historical context of these views, and how they are expressed culturally and rhetorically. It discusses trust, hodling, anti-politics, the nature of truth, and the “doge” subculture that is a major feature of “Bad Shibe.
The book is a wonderful physical artefact and the writing presents a wide range of voices, see the LUP page for details.
Art Is 2.0
“Lottery Symbol”,2017, DApp.
A graphical symbol on the blockchain, chosen via a simple lottery (using the blockchain itself as a source of entropy).
This is a piece in a series of works that pair methods of allocation with aesthetic properties. It follows on from Democratic Palette.
You can access it via an Ethereum-enabled browser here and the source code is available in a git repository here.
About “Is Art”
“Art Is”, 2014/2017, DApp.
People have argued about the definition of art for millennia.
We finally have the techonomic means to settle this argument.
In “Art Is”, people can use the Ethereum network to pay to define art at a price equal to the strength of their certainty in the correctness of their definition. The results are an economically rational definition of art, far stronger than discourse paid for by third party cultural institutions.
The original “Art Is” from 2014 suffered from bitrot so I re-implemented it.
As ever, you can access it via an Ethereum-enabled browser here and the source code is available in a git repository here.
“Bad Shibe” at New World Order
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.
“Is Art” at Ethereal
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
New World Order
“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
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.