[NetBehaviour] The Blockchain as a Modulator of Existence

marc.garrett marc.garrett at protonmail.com
Mon Mar 5 12:39:59 CET 2018

Hi Edward,

Fair enough - I wouldn't dare use those words, and i think it makes the subject less interesting. However, if you fancy a bash at this -- Marc Garrett - Unlocking Proprietorial Art Systems.

It's a sketch at the moment, and will be published in an academic book after a rigorous peer to peer, critiquing & editing process. It may even change in front of your very eyes - while reading it ;-)

Unlocking Proprietorial Art Systems.

Marc Garrett - Unlocking Proprietorial Art Systems.

“And assure yourselves, if you pitch not right now upon the right point of freedome in action, as your Covenant hath it in words, you will wrap up your children in greater slavery then ever you were in…”[1] (Winstanley 1649)


The cultural, political and economic systems in place do not work for most people. They support a privileged, international class that grows richer while imposing increasing uncertainty on others, producing endless wars, and enhancing the conditions of inequality, austerity, debt, and climate change, in order to own everything under the rule of neoliberalism. David Harvey argues that the permeation of neoliberalism exists within every aspect of our lives, and it has been masked by a repeated rhetoric around “individual freedom, liberty, personal responsibility and the virtues of privatization, the free market and free trade”[2] (Harvey 2011) Thus, legitimizing “draconian policies designed to restore and consolidate capitalistic class power.”[3] In their essay Manufacturing the Neo-liberal Subject, Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval say, that we have not yet emerged from what they call, “the ‘iron cage’ of the capitalist economy to which Weber referred. Rather, in some respects it would have to be said that everyone is enjoined to construct their own individual little ‘iron cage’.”[4] (Dardot & Laval 2011)

If we are, as Dardot & Laval put it co-designing our own iron cages, how do we find ways to be less dominated by these over powering infrastructures and systems? How do we build fresh, independent places, spaces and identities, in relation to our own peer 2 peer, artistic and cultural practices, individually and collectively – when, our narratives are dominated by elite groups typically biased towards isolating and crushing alternatives? Does this mean that critical thought, artistic and experimental cultural ventures, along with creatively led technological practices, are all doomed to perpetuate a state of submission within a proprietorial absolute?

To unpack these questions we look at different types of proprietorial systems, some locked and unlocked. All examples deal with examining proprietorial conditions, in life, their creative forms of production across the fields of the traditional art world, and media art culture. It looks at how artists are dealing with these issues through their artistic agency, individually, collaborative, or as part of a group or collective. This includes looking at the work's intentions, production and its cultural and societal contexts, where different set of values and new possibilities are emerging, across the practice of art, academia, and technology, and thus, the world. The final part of this text explores how and why my own arts organization Furtherfield, is moving into practices surrounding the blockchain as a space for cultural development, and what this means in relation to critiquing and actively challenging proprietorial domination.

The meanings of the words proprietorial and proprietary are closely linked. Proprietary is defined as meaning that one possesses, owns, or holds the exclusive right to something, specifically an object. For instance, it can be described as something owned by a specific company or individual. In the computing world, proprietary is often used to describe software that is not open source or freely licensed. Examples include operating systems, software programs, and file formats.[5] Many involved in the Free and Open Source Software movement, share a set of values built around its beliefs against proprietary control over our use of technology. Olga Goriunova argues that, software is not only bound to objects but also includes social relations and it’s about breaking away from the fetishism of proprietary software structures, and “commodification of social processes layered into software production and operation.”[6] (Goriunova 2008)

However, if we consider the definition of proprietorial, in the Cambridge Dictionary, it is especially poignant when it says “like an owner: He put a proprietorial arm around her.” This brings us directly to a biopolitical distinction. The term biopolitics was first coined by Rudolf Kjellén, (who also coined the term geopolitics)[7] (Markus 2015) and then later expanded upon by Michel Foucault, arguing that certain styles of government regulate their populations through biopower. Hardt and Negri developed Foucault’s ideas saying “Biopower is a form of power that regulates life from its interior, following it, interpreting it, absorbing it, and rearticulating it.”[8] (Hardt and Negri 2001) But, as we will discover further into this text the term also reinforces a deep a psychological bias that asserts the right of the patriarch to own our personal and social contexts.


[1] Benn, Tony. (2011) A Watch-Word for the City of London. Tony Benn Presents Gerrard Winstanley: A common Treasury. Verso; Reprint edition. P.61.
[2] Harvey, D. 2011, The Enigma of Capital and the Crisis of Capitalism. Profile Books LTD. P.11.
[3] (Ibid)
[4] Dardot, P & Laval, C. 2011, Manufacturing the Neo-liberal Subject. The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society. Verso Books. P.263.
[5] Software Terms: Proprietary Software Definition – https://techterms.com/definition/proprietary_software
[6] Goriunova, Olga. Autocreativity: The Operation of Codes of Freedom in Art and Culture. (2088) FLOSS+Art. de Valk, Marloes and Mansoux Aymeric (Editors). P.92.
[7] Gunneflo, Markus. (2015) “Rudolf Kjellén: Nordic biopolitics before the welfare state”. Retfærd. 35 (3). ISSN 0105-1121.
[8] Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio. (2001) Biopolitical Production. Empire. Harvard University Press. P.23-24
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