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.

Next: Tokens Equal Text
CryptoPuppers

https://twitter.com/IsDecal/status/1044900069693108229

CryptoPuppers (2018), blockchain-registered gold plated metal cast from 3D printed model, inkjet prints.

This new incarnation of Rob Myers’ classic work “Balloon Dog, Shareable Readymade”, originally commissioned by Furtherfield, comprises an edition of 1000 miniature gold balloon dog sculptures linked to the blockchain. Each handmade version of the 3D printed original is unique in its own way and functions as a non-fungible token.

“Balloon Dog” was originally created as an ephemeral digital file for 3D printing that anyone could use to re-democratise an icon of blue chip contemporary art. It was a post-scarcity commons approach to art that everyone and therefore no-one can own.

In contrast, this is a limited edition of luxurious physical instantiations of the artwork (each with its own own “certificate of inauthenticity” signed by the artist) anchored to the art historical world of provenance and ownership as well as blockchain verifiable value via Arteïa’s collection management system.

From post-scarcity abundance to artificial scarcity and provably rare digital ownership as a way to establish and protect the unique value of artworks. This is a provocation for artists and collectors to engage with new digital critical and financial value in contemporary artworks.

More details from DECAL.

Massive thanks to Dr. Charlotte Frost and Ruth Catlow of Furtherfield for making this happen.

Art On The Blockchain Episode 20

https://soundcloud.com/artontheblockchain/episode-20-a-conversation-wrob-myers

Just before Gray Area I was interviewed by the awesome Cynthia Gayton & J Scrilla for the “Art On The Blockchain” podcast.

AOTB has been a big influence on me, my understanding of “rare art” and how tokenization relates to music production both come from the show. So I was a little nervous but Gayton & Scrilla immediately put me at my ease and we had a great conversation.

You can subscribe to Art On The Blockchain through your favourite podcast medium, and I highly recommend doing so.

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

Secrets of the Shibes


YS and Teacher, Lina Theodorou.

“Bad Shibe” was a response to the question of what an anarcho-capitalist cryptocurrency-based society might look like, a world with the Internet but no government, with money and property but no robber-barons. Its immediate literary forebears are “Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom”, which is also about an economic utopia, and Michael Moorcock’s foreword to one of their “Jerry Cornelius” collections, which talks about those stories’ impressionistic technique. YS, the protagonist, is a naive tween because there are only so many times your viewpoint character’s need to have their world explained to them can be stolen from “Day of The Triffids”. They are bad at providing details about their world because they are oblivious, and to avoid getting bogged down in details of how the world works rather than the impression that it works. The other characters are essentially expositional – a parent to provide a longer historical view, an older sibling to provide information about the current society, a teacher to defend some of the wider trends, and a shopkeeper to provide swords and potions props for discussion.

I wrote Bad Shibe at the end of 2014 while I was walking around a gentrifying area of Vancouver and listening to Bitcoin true believers in a basement. It was revised for publication with support from Furtherfield and Torque in 2016, then published in 2017 first as a stand-alone zine and later in the book “Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain”. During the editorial process I was surprised to discover that the story has a plot. Originally it was over 7,000 words, it was cut to 4,000 for publication. YS lost interactions with their schoolmates and a possible romantic interest (to which they are utterly oblivious) all of which brought their character into sharper relief and made the world richer but hid the off-screen action even more.

In addition to the leaner version of the story I produced a document called “The Ruinously over-explained Bad Shibe”, which is an almost line-by-line commentary. Here’s a sample:

* YS goes to school despite working during the day. The system works!!1
* The historical figure in question is the Doge of Venice. When I wrote this, doge was pronounced “dohgg”. It’s now pronounced the same as the Doge.
Teacher has much to say. They plot a U-shaped graph of occurrences of the word “shibe” over time. Then they show us a clip from a pre film about two bros in a time-travelling phone box. Next teacher explains what a phone box is. Then they talk about an old cereal that was designed for TV. Then they talk about what TV was. Much history.
* The film is “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, which features two Californian teenagers who speak a curiously retro dialect of English that becomes the basis for a future civilization… This and the “U-shaped graph” are an excuse for a culture in the future talking vaguely like an Internet subculture in 2014.
* The cereal is “Cap’n Crunch”, a product that was created to be sold by television advertising. YS knows what cereal is. I’m not sure why.
Another new poster says “Tip your teacher!” and we do because we’re shibes. I remember teacher’s tippage and my earlier slippage (which rhymes) so I tip some more. Teachers gotta eat. Which reminds me, I’m hungry. As I leave class my phone pings above the hubbub of detarping shibes. Tipped for good homework. Wow.
* At this point, what YS is doing does look like straightforward tipping.
Back on the street, night is ramping up. Eggers are packing up for the evening leaving the sidewalk greasy. The swapmeet is starting under glaring LEDs. Such service to the community. Zero walking from school. Many shibes. Such goods to browse.
* Eggers fry eggs with sheets of metal in the anthropocene sun.
My fellow schoolshibes are gathered around cartwheel vendors mobbing for apples and wraps. Wow. Much noms. Is “noms” kitteh? I look around. Nobody heard me say it. I get thrown a maximally amaze apple and tip large for it when it also tastes good. What was that story with a big red apple in it? And a snake? I’m thrown a wrap. I kerbnom. Wrap is meh. I show its corpse to my schoolshibe sat next to me.
* YS is confusing Snow White and the Book of Genesis.
* Also YS is now buying fruit after spending the day picking it…
“Do I tip for this?” I ask them.
* Tipping starts to look like payment. 🙁

The story is stuffed with references like these, all of which are part of its meditation on its theme.

As the notes say, in the story “doge” is pronounced with a hard rather than a soft “g” – like “goat” rather than “wage”. Likewise, most people now pronounce “shibe” as if it begins with “she” rather than “shy” This means that Post society is not called Shiberia. YS’s name is pronounced “why is” and was chosen after @coin_artist’s Snow Crash-derived handle at the time. The language of the story was an exercise in instant obsolescence that was less instant than I expected – you can still find Doge memes online and Dogecoin recently touched a market cap of a billion dollars – it is a combination of Doge and Reddit argot. If it works it’s like Nadsat (thank you to Juliet Evans-Lee for that observation), if it fails it’s like the language in a youth culture exploitation movie of the 1960s. Writing it is exhausting.

Bad Shibe was written before “The DAO Hack”, but the big off-screen threat in it is quite similar to it. If we assume that what YS is doing with “tipping” is actually transferring Dogecoin, we can date the hard fork that is intended to address the threat fairly accurately. A prize awaits the first person to do so (probably a copy of the zine).

There are two follow up stories to Bad Shibe which I doubt I will have the time to write. “Rise of the Shitlords” follows on immediately from the end of Bad Shibe and looks at the important question of who cleans the sewers (it is about economic failure in the same way that Bad Shibe is about technological failure). “To the Moon” is about what happens when the clocks stop and features the largest tip the world has ever seen (it is about social failure). At the end of it all someone sits at a table in the sun, waiting expectantly.

DEMODAY

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

https://www.kunstraumllc.com/single-post/2017/09/13/DEMO-DAY

Lottery Symbol

“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.

Art Is 2.0


“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.