[NetBehaviour] comments on blockchain, art, etc., discussion with Ruth

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Wed Nov 1 04:22:25 CET 2017


It's moot perhaps whether information requires a substrate; for me this 
ties into the ontology of mathematical objects. I tend to see such in 
terms of platonism (in the sense I think of Godel's platonism, so that 
axiomatic contradictions exist in processes but not in an any absolute 
sense?). So Riemann's zeta function perhaps lies in that direction as 
well. Such ontology isn't temporally bound one way or another even to the 
heat death etc. - what is bound is the sense of the witness or reflecting 
material substrate. Everything depends in terms of our labor here in 
relation to the discussion of ontology, that is, where does our ontology 
lie and has it any basis anywhere? (Used to argue with David Antin about 
this.)

On Tue, 31 Oct 2017, Rob Myers wrote:

> On which subject this is a very interesting book -
>
> https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/on-the-existence-of-digital-objects
>
> "On the Existence of Digital Objects", 2016 ? Author: Yuk Hui
>
> "How can digital objects be understood according to individualization
> and individuation? Yuk Hui creates a dialogue between Martin Heidegger
> and Gilbert Simondon and contextualizes it within the history of
> computing. Interdisciplinary in philosophical and technical insights,
> Hui?s work develops an original, productive way of thinking about the
> data and metadata that increasingly define our world."
>
> </remark>
> <remark>
>
> MIT has a "Center for Bits and Atoms". Information requires a substrate
> and will not outlive the heat death of the universe. There's a degree of
> "so what?" to this - while there is energy left in the universe we can
> move information to another substrate. Digital information doesn't care
> what its substrate is. Which makes substrates sad. But information does
> care that it has a substrate. There's a degree of nervousness to
> information's nonchalance about this. That's why it has to exist in
> three places at once...
>
> Whenever I hear "Center for Bits and Atoms" I always want to imagine a
> "Center for Bits and Atoms and Pennies", which adds the problem of
> paying for all that substrate to the mix. But that would be even meaner
> than reminding bits that they are tied to atoms (or their components)
> and, well, information just wants to be free*...
>
> On Sun, 29 Oct 2017, at 04:59 AM, Alan Sondheim wrote:
>> 
>> Thanks, and exactly; we've got to consider the ontology of the digital, 
>> an issue which has been a problem for people for decades; it's tied to 
>> issues of reproducibility, originality, equivalence, etc.
>> 
>> - Best, Alan
>> 
>> On Sat, 28 Oct 2017, Pall Thayer via NetBehaviour wrote:
>> 
>> > This is a great read. Now I want someone to explain to me how a non-material
>> > (non-existent) work of art maintains its immateriality (its non-existence)
>> > despite a record in the blockchain. Personally, I think we have to start
>> > admitting to ourselves that digital existence is material. Especially if its
>> > existence is recorded within a distributed network. It exists. We may not be
>> > able to cradle it in our hands but its existence is broadly verifiable.
>> > Doesn't that change things?
>> > 
>> > On Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 10:32 PM Alan Sondheim <sondheim at panix.com> wrote:
>> > 
>> >
>> >       The following (which may be difficult to follow in ascii?) is a
>> >       discussion
>> >       between Ruth and myself; Ruth asked that I send to the list.
>> >       Oddly, given
>> >       ascii, it's not clear that I wrote first (in response in
>> >       response etc.) -
>> >       the
>> >
>> >       "Hi Ruth, I'll intersperse some comments, and thank you so much
>> >       for
>> >       writing back and so much to think about! We're still away,
>> >       staying for an
>> >       extra day (next Sunday) and trying to decompress..."
>> >
>> >       is mine -
>> >
>> >       On Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 10:32 AM, ruth catlow
>> >       <ruth.catlow at furtherfield.org> wrote:
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Dear Alan,
>> > 
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Ihesitate to bring up issues here which themselves are
>> >       problematic,
>> >       but here goes.
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Ifor one am very appreciative of your thoughts here. I am
>> >       preparing
>> >       for our first DAOWO workshop on Thursday and this is very very
>> >       helpful.
>> >       http://www.daowo.org/#reinventing-the-art-lab-on-the-blockchain
>> > 
>> >
>> >       This is really fascinating! I do find a problem with "Does Art
>> >       need its
>> >       own blockchain?" - "art" needs nothing (can't get rid of the
>> >       italics,
>> >       apologies); perhaps people do, but then which people? and what
>> >       arts?
>> > 
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?First, to the extent that art is a Foucauldian discursive
>> >       formation
>> >       (at least as I taught it at RISD in the 70s), labor, in the form
>> >       of
>> >       reading/ writing/conversation/declamation/discourse is involved.
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?With blockchain art the financial formulation of the work - its
>> >       price,
>> >       its relationship to, and operation within the markets over time
>> >       - becomes
>> >       another element of its expressive form/ part of the discourse.
>> >
>> >       I think this held with a lot of conceptual art as well, what
>> >       artists were
>> >       on about around the time of Piper/Siegelaub texts.
>> > 
>> > 
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Second, at least again at that point, there was a tendency to
>> >       associate the value of a work in relation to the labor necessary
>> >       to
>> >       produce it; in other words, an artist would be paid according to
>> >       the labor
>> >       she put into the creation of a work, real or invisible,
>> >       substantial or
>> >       insubstantial.
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?(I remember Adrian Piper talking with us about this, but I may be
>> >       mistaken; this was early in her career.)
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Artistic labour is still discussed in this way by public funders,
>> >       and
>> >       publicly funded arts organisations in the UK
>> > 
>> >
>> >       I think there might be a difference, not sure. In the States, it
>> >       was a
>> >       form of identification with manual labor, that one should be
>> >       paid for what
>> >       one does. This attempted even then to break the inflationary
>> >       spiral which
>> >       is now of course out of control.
>> > 
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Other than that I dont see how this can possibly still hold true
>> >       (if
>> >       it ever did). The financial value of an artwork by an art star
>> >       hardly
>> >       correlates to either the effort or time invested in its
>> >       production. Unless
>> >       we are talking about more craft-oriented work.
>> >
>> >       The idea was a form of levelling in relation to art-stardom.
>> >       Anyone who
>> >       was on the way to success, I think, ran from the idea.
>> > 
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Im not sure at exactly what point in history this occurred or
>> >       whether
>> >       it was always thus. Or whether being (barely) remunerated for
>> >       'labour' has
>> >       just become a way to keep all artworkers on the bread line.
>> >
>> >       In the States, artists are always statistically on the
>> >       breadline; maybe 1%
>> >       can support themselves by their work. Paying for labour means
>> >       payment for
>> >       all cultural workers. It never took hold of course. -
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?And third, there was within conceptual a discourse of the
>> >       invisible or
>> >       non-existent work, vide for example Lucy Lippard's The
>> >       Dematerialization
>> >       book.
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?There was of course a heavy critique from Haacke and others of
>> >       the
>> >       commercialization of art (also of course in music, tv (Radical
>> >       Software)
>> >       etc.).
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Ilove a lot of Haackes work and also of the Radical Software
>> >       group.
>> >       But they were successful in generating cultural capital for
>> >       themselves -
>> >       through their expressive disdain for the commercialization of
>> >       art.
>> > 
>> >
>> >       For me that doesn't invalidate the work at all; I never expect
>> >       purity of
>> >       intent and production from anyone to be honest. I think even
>> >       Barbara
>> >       Kruger (who I really loved) made some money from her work. And
>> >       with all of
>> >       these people, there were long periods at the beginning when they
>> >       made
>> >       little or nothing. For that matter the Guerilla Girls aren't
>> >       wealthy after
>> >       all these years (I know one of them) . -
>> > 
>> > 
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Ikeep thinking about the hundreds of young artists and art
>> >       students
>> >       that I meet in London who are attempting to make meaningful work
>> >       and to
>> >       pull themselves up into a decent world (and artworld) by their
>> >       bootstraps.
>> >       Should they work, as Annie suggested, from their sense of
>> >       personal quest -
>> >       perhaps it's none of my business, but I have been questioning my
>> >       own sense
>> >       of how we can proceed in relation to THESE QUOTES HERE
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Like Western civilisation, autonomous art? an art that is not a
>> >       means
>> >       to an end, not instrumental - would be a really nice idea If art
>> >       is an
>> >       alternative currency, its circulation also outlines an
>> >       operational
>> >       infrastructure. Could these structures be repossessed to work
>> >       differently?
>> >       - Hito Steyerl talking about Duty Free Art
>> >       https://tankmagazine.com/issue-72/talk/hito-steyerl/
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?"Noble people don't do things for the money they simply have
>> >       money and
>> >       that's what allows them to be noble. They sprout benevolent acts
>> >       like they
>> >       sprout trees" - from Hagseed by Margaret Atwood
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?"It was hard to identify with the characters. They live in an
>> >       economic
>> >       vacuum. They make decisions cos they are in love, or they are
>> >       angry or
>> >       they want adventure. You don't know how they afford their
>> >       houses, they
>> >       never decide not to do something because it costs too much. You
>> >       never find
>> >       out how much these characters pay in taxes." Willing, on
>> >       literature
>> >       pre-financial-crash in The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by
>> >       Lionel
>> >       Shriver
>> > 
>> >
>> >       The artworld now is very very different from Atwood, traditional
>> >       artschools, etc.; everything was changed of course by the
>> >       digital
>> >       'revolution' which we hardly understand. What bothers me about
>> >       the quotes
>> >       is all of them are based in economics; where would for example
>> >       Carolee
>> >       Schneeman fit into this? Where is a resistance to capital? With
>> >       blockchain
>> >       it has to be capital resisting capital which for a lot of people
>> >       is
>> >       already tarnishing, a capitulation. I've been thinking about
>> >       Kathy Acker
>> >       recently because of the biography which came out and the video
>> >       we did
>> >       together; it's becoming an underground 'hit' and I think two
>> >       interconnected reasons are that it's based on the body and the
>> >       confrontation with the body, which isn't prettified, and also
>> >       because it's
>> >       fundamentally feminist thanks to Kathy (in a documentary made
>> >       about her,
>> >       young girls even now talk about their identification with her).
>> >       I think
>> >       work liked this would either have to be economically "valued" or
>> >       locked
>> >       out of blockchain... I may be way mistaken about all of this,
>> >       but it seems
>> >       to me this is why a critique of blockchain within blockchain - a
>> >       fundamental critique - is so necessary. I think of comfortable
>> >       Marx in the
>> >       British Library, writing from within, muddying the capitalist
>> >       waters,
>> >       producing brilliant analysis at the time (although even he
>> >       couldn't see
>> >       the coming digital revolution of course).
>> > 
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?So the value of the non-existent work here might well be based on
>> >       the
>> >       discourse; one can imagine a work which is not being discussed
>> >       to
>> >       blockchained, which no one knows about, possessing a labor value
>> >       close to
>> >       the null set itself.
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Iwasnt going to tell you but I have made a trillion of these
>> >       artworks
>> >       ;)
>> > 
>> >
>> >       That's interesting! That's also critique right there, that
>> >       reproducibility
>> >       of certain kinds of works, conceptualized works, can
>> >       self-deflate
>> >       economically! I love this; on the other hand I also love the
>> >       Isenheim
>> >       Altarpiece, no matter what it's economic value is; it disturbs
>> >       me in a way
>> >       that invades me, maybe the difference between Godel's work and
>> >       his
>> >       platonism which still found substance outside the matrix of his
>> >       analysis.
>> > 
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?For me, what's new in the work being discussed here is its
>> >       relation to
>> >       blockchain, and this places it within economic strata and
>> >       habitus that
>> >       makes me uncomfortable. Not that that matters at all, but the
>> >       point is the
>> >       embracing of invisibility and non-existence in relation to
>> >       blockchain and
>> >       (economic) value, doesn't this also relate problematically to
>> >       neoliberalism? If one is going to work in this direction, is it
>> >       worthwhile
>> >       to consider breaking the chains of blockchain (in a way somewhat
>> >       related
>> >       to breaking the chains of the male domination of the artworld,
>> >       vide
>> >       Guerilla Girls etc.)?
>> >
>> >       ? ? ? I think we are now in a very different moment. I am currently
>> >       entertaining the idea that the tactics and techniques for
>> >       breaking chains
>> >       may need evolve to incorporate more critical finance-play and
>> >       experimentation.
>> > 
>> >
>> >       Yes!
>> > 
>> >
>> >       ? ? ?Iparticularly like the invisibility form, less because of its
>> >       eschewal of value associated with art objects, but more because
>> >       it rhymes
>> >       with the invisibility of the electromagnetic waves, currents and
>> >       fields
>> >       through which our digital exchanges are taking place.
>> > 
>> >
>> >       Then you have to look at Barry, who did precisely that, I think.
>> >       But of
>> >       course waves/current/fields are also commensurate, not only with
>> >       particles, but also with the constituents, 'things,' of the
>> >       universe. I've
>> >       worked a lot with VLF radio, very low frequency radio, and those
>> >       things
>> >       are out there!
>> >
>> >       _______________________________________________
>> >       NetBehaviour mailing list
>> >       NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org
>> >       https://lists.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour
>> > 
>> > --
>> > P Thayer, Artist
>> > http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>> > 
>> >
>> 
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>
> * - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_wants_to_be_free#History
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