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

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Wed Nov 1 04:32:07 CET 2017

On Tue, 31 Oct 2017, Rob Myers wrote:

> On Fri, 27 Oct 2017, at 08:13 PM, 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.
> Immateriality and inexistence are different matters. :-)
> Registering something in the blockchain doesn't anchor its being or cause it
> to come into existence unless we agree it does or we have some way of
> evaluating that existence -
> http://robmyers.org/proof-of-existence/
Does being need anchoring, or substantiation? Here we're running into the 
ontology of language, if I say "blue book" does that mean it exists? What 
if I say "Here is a blue book." and so forth. Mikel Dufrenne wrote about 
the world of the book (he was a phenomenology, a teacher of Kristeva 
etc.), what the reader takes for granted, in other words the diegesis of 
the novel perhaps. And the discussion should move to diegesis as well as 
Coleridge's willing suspension of disbelief...

> For entities we are claiming exist outside of the blockchain, the data that
> claims to register that existence is a proxy for them. We cannot validate
> the correctness of that claim using the blockchain's consensus rules in the
> same way we can for a simple value transaction if we wish to validate the
> fact of the registered object's existence outside of the blockchain.
> Something about being outside the text. We can only validate that person X
> placed a record on the blockchain, and possibly that later they sent it to
> person Y.

This does seem to relate to the ontology of capital itself.
> We use such proxies when buying and selling physical property such as cars
> or houses, or more pertinently when buying and selling conceptual art.
> Certificates of authenticity for conceptual art are even more material than
> blockchain records. But I feel they are still proxies for the work rather
> than being the work, although this may just be the conceptual art fan in me
> speaking.

What I wonder about is in a sense the derailing of conceptual art, which 
was a reaction at the time, at least among many artists, against the 
materialism and mercantilism of the gallery/promotion structure. Given 
that a conceptual work can be incorporated into blockchain, which itself 
is an abstracting, is it necessary then to go into a discussion of 'buying 
and selling conceptual art'? Isn't this a leap which many artists, at 
least at the time, wouldn't make; doesn't it reduce conceptualism to the 
usual marketplace phenomenology, instead of the radical gesture that, at 
least for some, it embodied? For some reason Beuys comes to mind - he 
wasn't a conceptualist, but his teaching and art occupied such a radical 
position - as does the work of the Guerrilla Girls etc. ..

- Alan

> - Rob.

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