Pay Previous Path

“Pay Previous Path”, the penultimate piece in the series of artworks pairing aesthetic objects with economic allocation methods, is now live after some Ethereum transaction wrangling due to unexpectedly high execution costs on the network.

You can find out more here: https://robmyers.org/pay-previous-path/

The final piece will be “Staking Ratio”.

Upload Update

Like the narrator of William Gibson’s short story “The Winter Market”, I don’t think that mind uploads are the person whose brain they destroy. I’m not even sure that a living brain is the same person each day, or from moment to moment, but reassembling a similar pattern on the same substrate at least looks like continuity. Whether the Ship Of Theseus is the ship that Theseus’s sailed or not, a copy built next to it all in one go probably isn’t. But if the Ship Of Theseus burns, that copy is more like it than anything else that exists. Where the resemblance is many billions of bits strong, and there is no stronger resemblance extant, that’s a form of continuity of identity. Hopefully that of a portrait that captures the sitter’s personality rather than a vampire child.

The only fully uploaded neural connectome is that of the tiny C. elegans nematode worm. Not any particular worm, the worm as an organism. So there is no single identity for the upload to continue or to not continue. The connectome been downloaded into wheeled robots, where it bumbles around in a wormy manner. I’m working on using it to control the pen in a version of draw-something. It’s a different kind of neural art. Nematodes probably don’t have subjectivity, so hopefully this isn’t cruel. I don’t want to be the worm-torturing version of Roko’s Basilisk.

What if we are the worms in someone else’s art project, though? If the universe isn’t a simulation but rather an artwork this would render conceptual art nomination a priori correct and give human suffering the moral quality of crimes committed in the name of making art that do not pay for themselves with the resultant aesthetic achievement.

Neal Stephenson’s mind uploading novel “Fall, Or Dodge In Hell” deals in the ethics and aesthetics of mind uploading and its worlds. Less simulation, more simulacra. Reading it and encountering an uptick in transhumanist themes online and in meatspace has encouraged me to revisit my low-resolution “Uploads” project to make it very slightly higher resolution. I’m porting it to Kinect 2, improving its performance, and looking at better EEG options.

Following the themes of “Fall”, the uploads need a world to live in. At present they implicitly live through, but not on, Twitter. Maybe they can inhabit a simple VR environment. They also need to communicate with each other. Sad and other predetermined emotional reacts only, though. As local disk-based blobs of data they are in danger of being ephemeral. Content-addressable storage (IPFS) can help with that.

Blockchain security and permanence can evocatively address all of this as well – there are blockchain VR environments, communication systems, and data storage systems. There’s a fear of loss behind both mind uploading and blockchain systems. Finn Brunton’s excellent book “Digital Cash” draws out some more direct historical connections between the two.

But that’s another story.

Hack Line Properties

Hack Line Properties, 2019, Ethereum DApp.

“Hack Line Properties” is a supposedly secure blockchain smart contract designed to allow only its owner to update the vector line stroke properties that it stores.

But a common Ethereum code bug allows anyone who finds it to “hack” the contract and set the line properties themselves.

If Lawrence Lessig’s descriptive statement that, on the Internet, “code is law” is taken normatively then bugs such as this are governance mechanisms and each hack of the contract is an act of governance.

You can view Hack Line Propeties in an Ethereum-enabled browser here:

https://show.robmyers.org/artworld-ethereum/dapps/proof-of-work-bitmap/app/index.html

The source code for the series is available here:

https://gitlab.com/robmyers/artworld-ethereum/

Proof of Work Bitmap

“Proof of Work Bitmap” (2019) shows a 16×16 pixel monochrome bitmap that lives on the Ethereum blockchain.

 

Clicking on that bitmap shows an editor.

 

Submitting any changes made using the editor starts a (simple) proof-of-work calculation.

 

When that calculation is complete the results can be sent along with the bitmap to update it on the blockchain. Doing so costs some “gas” Ether to pay Ethereum for the transactions.

 

You can see it (in an Ethereum-enabled browser) here:

https://show.robmyers.org/artworld-ethereum/dapps/proof-of-work-bitmap/app/

The source code for the series is here:

https://gitlab.com/robmyers/artworld-ethereum/

And the project page is here:

https://robmyers.org/proof-of-work-bitmap

Proof of Work Bitmap is the latest in a series of pieces that pair aesthetic properties with methods of economic allocation or social governance. In computer art and digital culture a monochrome bitmap is the simplest representation of a discrete image. In blockchain-based systems a “proof of work” is a time-consuming computational puzzle that is impossible to cheat on but simple to check the result of. The result of solving that puzzle in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Proof of Work Bitmap, is a 256-bit number with a specific number of zeros at the end. This is the same size as a 16×16 bitmap and as a memory cell in Ethereum. There’s a resonance here, as there is in each piece in the series.

On a technical basis this is the first piece in the series made with the Web3.js 1.0, Bulma CSS, and raw JavaScript DOM access rather than Truffle-Contract, Bootstrap and JQuery. It’s a much more lightweight approach, which is good for maintainability.

The next and final pieces in this series are “Hacked Line Properties”, “Staking Ratio”, and “Pay Previous Path”.

Galerie Default

I created a building in CryptoVoxels using one of their default build templates and filled it with a show of Tokens Equal Text:

https://www.cryptovoxels.com/parcels/2000

I’ve named it Galerie Default after how it was made. You can take a look in your web browser via the link above (and if you have a fancy VR headset you’ll soon be able to wander around it immersively). There are much more advanced uses of the CryptoVoxels system to show NFT art within it, but this was a fun experiment.

Crypto Valley 2019: Blockchain Aesthetics

“Blockchain Aesthetics” was in a selection of art being shown by the awesome Kate Vass Galerie at Crypto Valley 2019 in Zug, Switzerland.

Here’s a quick video from the gallery:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BzG7CFWjhyr/

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.

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.

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

New Art: 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.