Secret Artwork

Secret Artwork, 2018, Ethereum ERC720 Token DApp

In Secret Artwork, an Ethereum contract stores the cryptographic hash (salted sha256) of the content (or subject, or…) of an artwork, a unique but meaningless numeric identifier. This proves that the artwork exists (to the extent it can be cryptographically verified) but offers no clue as to the content.

The artwork is “ownable” as an Ethereum ERC720 token, tying the uniqueness and identifiability of the content to a unique (quasi-)property relationship. But the owner knows no more about the content of the artwork than the general public. They own something unknowable, or that which cannot be fully owned.

As each block in Ethereum’s blockchain is layered on top of the last, the cost of the computing power with which the secret and its almost-ownership is asserted quickly exceeds the price of the world’s most expensive artwork. And the certainty with which these facts are established quickly surpasses that of the most secure physical provenance.

The presentation of the corresponding ERC720 token takes the form of a DApp, which reveals all details that can be fetched from the network about the artwork. Its owner, when it was created, even the hash of the content. It displays each of these pieces of data in many ways – as text, as colors, as shapes, as musical notes. The visual register seeks to distract the viewer from the gap in their purchase on (or of) the artwork by relentlessly presenting these different facts.

But still it remains.