Drawing on Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree, writer Claire L. Evans makes a case for reimagining the web’s central metaphor as a forest. Teasing out the famed Canadian ecologist’s findings gleaned from a life in forestry, Evans uses the symbiotic tendencies of ‘Mother’ trees, mycorrhizal fungi, and birch trees, to map alternate readings of the web. Big Tech has “privileged high-value crops—viral content, controversy, and clickbait—over a healthier ecosystem of people, opinions, and perspectives,” she writes, likening platform capitalism to clear cutting—short term profit at the ecosystem’s expense. While the diagnosis is grim, Evans ends optimistically, calling for “Mother nodes,” resilient sites of nurturing and collective memory.
“I wanted to see what human-generated randomness looks like,” writes Jonathan Chomko of his NFT project Proof of Work. Extending out his previous prompt-driven choreography, the Montréal artist created software for collecting random values from “small-scale“ gestures: typing random characters on a keyboard. Experiments with scale and colour yielded a pixellated visual language and, post-NFT drop, he notes the labourious process “records a minimum viable artwork, the hand of the artist visible in the digital image.”
DEL Reflection: the Offer/Need Machine
“Our hope for the Offer/Need Machine was that the values that exist within the culture of generosity amongst creators could be more widespread, better leveraged, and become their own knowledge system. We were drawing inspiration from solidarity economy principles and gift economy practices to think about exchange where it’s not quid pro quo or transactional, and more of a kinship structure where others support you and have your back.”
“This project is also a reflection of the changing definition and reality of what it is to be a professional artist. It is near impossible to make a living solely from one’s individual artistic production, and so almost all artists are many things. This project will leverage the multiplicity that exists within individuals and create a larger more resilient network of cultural producers.”
Spanning four conversations with Artengine’s Ryan Stec, DEL residents Macy Siu, Julie Gendron, Kofi Oduro, and Kalli Retzepi outline the thinking behind Offer/Need Machine (ONM), a decentralized network of reciprocity where artists, designers, and art organizations exchange “one-hour gifts” of knowledge and expertise to support each other outside of traditional commerce.
Nurtured within the Digital Economies Lab, in spring 2021 the ONM team secured funding to develop a prototype through a Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund grant, which the team will work on through fall 2022.
In these interviews, we hear varying notions of care from across the team—and how ONM could remedy the pervasive problem where artists of limited means are stifled because of a lack of crucially needed expertise.
These quotes, notes, and references are highlights from conversations that took place between the ONM team and Ryan Stec in Spring 2021. Click through below and watch the interviews in their entirety.
01 & 02 – Mycellium as Muse
“Initially the project stemmed from an obsession with mushrooms and mycelium networks and how natural systems are able to detect and transfer resources,” notes Siu in her interview. From day one, the ONM team was looking to how nonhuman species communicate, sense, and share for inspiration. This thread continues to the present day, as evidenced by the distinctly mycelial ONM frontispiece image by Oduro, the team’s Creative Director.
03 – Knowing the Field
ONM may be rooted in theoretical models of collectivity informed by biological systems, but the team did their homework in positioning their project. As part of their grant application, they conducted thorough market research, studying resource sharing spanning a Blockchain care protocol, to an item swap platform, to a European collective focused on agricultural resource sharing (Image: Inland, organizational diagram).
“Time Holds All the Answers,” a survey of Postcommodity’s work opens at Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Canada. Duo Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist have long “injected Indigenous knowledge systems into the museum,” challenging its hermeticism and, here, Let Us Pray For the Water Between Us (2020, image) transforms an 8,300 L hazmat storage container into a drum with a motorized mallet sounding interior rhythms, reverberating calls for “respect, accountability, and transparency” in water stewardship.
Curated by Daniel Cardoso Llach & Theodora Vardouli, “Vers un imaginaire numérique” opens at UQAM’s Centre de design. Building on Cardoso Llach’s previously exhibited archive of early computer art and design, the Montréal show widens in scope, presenting Canadian innovators (Phillip Beesley, Joanna Berzowska, Jer & Diane Thorp) alongside computational art pioneers (Frieder Nake, George Stiny) and ambitious 1960-70s software reconstructions including Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad and Christos I. Yessio’s CISP.