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“It’s a question of permanence. What will last the longest? What will give me the strongest sense of comfort that a work will exist well beyond my lifetime?”
– Software artist Sarah Ridgley, musing about how the code for her generative piece Nymph, in Thy Orisons (2023) is hosted on the decentralized Arweave protocol for posterity. In a Twitter Space with curator Aleksandra Artamonovskaja, and “Code Chronicles” artists including Maya Man and Lia Something, Ridgley and company delve into the details of their ongoing show at Bitforms.

“Value Flows,” a pop-up show curated by the decentralized JPG community opens as part of NFT Paris. Artists including Kim Asendorf, Dmitri Cherniak, Deafbeef, Simon Denny & Guile Twardowski, and Sarah Friend contribute works revealing the “on-chain transactions and mechanisms, or off-chain interactions between humans, that live at the core of every blockchain system.” Rippling with DIY energy, it juxtaposes ad-hoc pyramids of analogue displays (image) with the backdrop of a bustling trade show.

Rhea Myers’ solo exhibition “The Ego, and It’s 0wned” opens at Nagel Draxler’s Crypto Kiosk in Berlin, offering blockchain-based “symbolic forms” that ponder property, representation, identity, and secrecy. In the titular piece (2023), for example, the British artist and hacker tokenizes her brain wave recordings while Type Opposite Images (2023, image) reverses colourful Vaporwave tropes. Also on view: new NFT editions of iconic Ethereum works that Myers created in 2014.

“No currency, no collectors, no cashing out. Just having fun swapping and chatting about work that we made and loved.”
Kyle McDonald, on the joys of trading digital art before the NFT boom. In 2019, McDonald and a few dozen peers joined a2p, a speculative blockchain-based exchange run by artists Casey Reas, Addie Wagenknecht, Rick Silva, and exonemo. “It’s an artist-to-artist system to build and curate a collection,” Reas wrote in the platform’s brief. “It’s a performance, but also a way to think about what happens to the work after it’s made.”

Silvio Lorusso and Sebastian Schmieg’s “A Slice of the Pie” platform launches as part of “DYOR,” a crypto art exhibition at Kunsthalle Zürich curated by Nina Röhrs. For its duration, artists can purchase pie segments on a 16 m2 LED wall to show their work, effectively becoming part of the exhibition. The hustle is broadcast 24/7, inviting remote competition and/or collaboration. Once a day, the pie’s state is frozen and minted as an NFT, starting the cycle anew.

“The line between utility, saving one’s market, and wash trading seems to be blurred.”
– Blockchain researcher HENFT_Reporter, sharing a tabulation of artists buying their own NFTs across all major Tezos platforms from winter 2021 to fall 2022. Whether this data reveals abject market manipulation, necessary customer service, or requires more granularity is the subject of subsequent debate.

Sarah Friend’s solo exhibition “Terraforming” opens at Nagel Draxler’s Crypto Kiosk, Berlin, with a series of new works that “turn to the protocol layer of blockchains and the physical reality of the internet as subject matter.” Using text, video, code, and waste from a local data center, the Canadian software artist foregrounds “internet infrastructure, its stories, shape, materials” and the false “dichotomy between competition and cooperation.”

“The Byzantine Generals Problem,” a group show seeking consensus on crypto, opens at distant.gallery. Curated by Domenico Quaranta, the online exhibition features Sterling Crispin, Sarah Friend, Ben Grosser, Anna Ridler, and 10 others. Interrogative in tone, included works span Rhea Myers’ blockchain visualizations (2014-5), Kyle McDonald’s Ethereum carbon footprint calculations (2021), through a Web3 Dot Com Séance (2022, image) by Simon Denny and collaborators.

“Public blockchains, through making visible latent forces such as financing, unequal returns, or scarce and valuable ownership, are bringing long existing dynamics to the surface to be scrutinized. These forces are not new, they are nude.”
– Technologist Mat Dryhurst, on “the shock of the nude:” the realization that financialization and inequity have been part of our digital lives all along. Web3 introduces “feasible abundance,” Dryhurst argues: free media that sustains the people creating it.
Domenico Quaranta
Surfing with Satoshi
Putting the NFT boom in a historical context, Quaranta investigates blockchain technologies, the role of certificates and contracts in contemporary art, and the evolution of the media art market
“It seems possible that too much globality in terms of trust leads to loss of granularity and silencing of difference, and too much locality leads to a disturbing filter-bubble effect.”
Sarah Friend, on turning trust into data. In her essay, published as part of Process and Protocol festival, the Canadian software artist digs into trust network taxonomies and reveals how Circles UBI, a community-based currency that Friend co-founded, applies “trust networks and decentralization to a social problem.”

“A Sea of Data,” German media artist Hito Steyerl’s first solo show in Asia, opens at Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA). Named after an e-flux essay by the artist, the exhibition includes 23 works, spanning 1990-2000s video art through her more recent (often iconic) installations. It also premieres a new commission: Animal Spirits (2022, image) is a sensor-driven animation of post-pandemic (human) conditions—from remote culture to decentralization.

“The dish’s colonial origins not only placed an elided aspect of European history in the spotlight, but also sought to explore the quasi-colonial relations that are built into the Internet’s infrastructure, a mentality we wanted to confront and oppose.”
– Blockchain-based Left Gallery, reflecting on artist and co-founder Harm van den Dorpel serving gado gado—“Indonesian specialties that became familiar to Europeans as the advance of Dutch colonialism subsumed the territory”—at the gallery’s 2016 launch event

Software artists and project co-founders Paloma Rodríguez Carrington and Harm van den Dorpel announce the discontinuation of Left Gallery. Active since 2015, the blockchain-based space for the display and dissemination of downloadable objects pioneered crypto art with a curated marketplace and exhibitions. Launched at Spike Art’s Berlin project space, Left Gallery fittingly concludes with NFT auctions of the magazine’s covers throughout the years.

After ‘squatting’ the Ethereum domain of Germany’s Bundeskunsthalle in July 2021, provoking questions about ownership of public art institutions, German artist and filmmaker Hito Steyerl and the Berlin-based Department of Decentralization launch Strike DAO, an “experiment in participatory governance of blockchain art institutions.” Three models are put up for a vote, and visualized through a vote-based re-edit of Steyerl’s eponymous 2010 video piece.

“I think the obsession with immutability and stable identity, which is being imposed on commercial blockchain projects, is very un-cyberfeminist and it’s very un-Satoshi Nakamoto. So that’s definitely a site of a struggle.”
– Blockchain artist Rhea Myers, on tensions between ‘forever’ ledgers and fluid trans identities, during a conversation with McKenzie Wark
“You are meant to be a good little Homo economicus and behave in accordance with profit maximization.”
– Blockchain artist Rhea Myers, on the idealized behaviour of decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) members. Speaking at the Haus Der Kunst Radical Friends summit, she notes things don’t always go according to plan: “humans don’t always have the best information to make decisions with.”

What comes after platform capitalism? An assemblage called ‘hyperstructures,’ according to Jacob Horne. In an essay published on his website, the co-founder of the NFT marketplace aggregator Zora outlines the frameworks he sees emerging around crypto protocols. Inspired by the utopian architecture of Paolo Soleri, Horne argues the permissionless nature of hyperstructures generates low-friction exchange, yielding more equitable outcomes for participants (versus web 2.0 platforms where the user is the product). Is this the frothy rhetoric we’ll hear as money flows into web3? Yes, but Zora’s manifesto claim that “platforms hold our audiences and content hostage” is not wrong.

“Conceptually, working with NFTs has inspired me to continue evolving my hypothesis that poetry is a technology, a durable, adaptive data storage system for preserving humanity’s most valuable information—poetry as the original blockchain.”
– Poet, artist, and AI researcher Sasha Stiles, on embracing Web3 with her own work and the crypto poetry gallery theVERSEverse she co-founded with Ana Maria Caballero and Kalen Iwamoto in late 2021
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