Tokens Equal Text, 2019, Ethereum ERC-998 and ERC-721 tokens
“Tokens Equal Text” consists of an edition of 32 Ethereum ERC-998 composable tokens each of which owns four child ERC-721 non-fungible tokens. The ERC-721 tokens have short descriptive texts encoded as their ID numbers. This makes the ERC-998 tokens compositions of those text fragments. The content of that composition can be recovered if it is known that the token IDs can be misread as text rather than numbers.
The text fragments describe key visual tropes of the Vaporwave movement. Vaporwave is a 2000s Internet-based musical and cultural genre devoted to the ironization of muzak and digital kitsch aesthetics from the long 1980s. The question of whether a given trope fits the aesthetic of Vaporwave is key to the genre’s discourse, with canonical tropes establishing the content of that aesthetic. A composition of references to canonical elements of that aesthetic at least admits of the question “is this aesthetic”?
Using Ethereum Web3 browser app code to displaying the texts of tokens in visual compositions using “aesthetic” (in the Vaporwave sense) typography and colours nudges that answer along. It also prevents the content from becoming a trivial puzzle. The encoded information is placed, not hidden. Its easy recovery foregrounds the presence of compositional and indexical structure that rewards reflection.
The “Rare Art” market demands something aesthetic to own. “Tokens Equal Text” loops this back through a complexly unownable genre of aesthetics to both satisfy and frustrate this demand and to place blockchain (quasi-)property and the history of art into a state of mutually critical interrogation.
Source code and display DApp: https://gitlab.com/robmyers/tokens-equal-text/
Contract on Ethereum blockchain: 0x97cc6bc80FE6C88f054E04593081E9ff9881E364